How to Set Up Your Wedding Day Timeline

After months (or years) of planning, putting together a detailed wedding day timeline is an important step for ensuring smooth festivities. The best way to start planning your wedding day timeline is working backwards from the time you will be walking out of your reception with your new spouse. 

Start with your photographer. Will you have unlimited time in your photo package? If not, you will need to ensure you have enough time on your contract to get the photos you want before their time runs out.

Getting Ready/Pre-Ceremony Photos

Before starting your wedding day timeline, decide if you are doing a First Look or waiting until after the ceremony to capture the wedding party and parent photos.

set up wedding day timeline

Meet with your photographer to review any photos you plan to take before the ceremony. You may need a plan for how long it will take to get through your list of must have shots. If you are having a first look and plan to have multiple groups join in for photos, appoint a person to coordinate groups for their photos. Give this person a printed list of each grouping with names, contacts, and the time and location they are meeting you. Based on your must have list, your photographer can let you know what time they need you to be done with hair/makeup and what time you need to be ready to get dressed. 

Typically, the photographer will capture images of the getting ready portion of the day and will want detailed shots of your wedding day attire both before and after you get dressed, so will need to plan your time accordingly.


Tell your beauty team what time everyone needs to be fully done with hair and makeup. Build in a 30-minute buffer (or more if you know your crew runs late) to allow for any last-minute changes/touch ups.  Then, ask your beauty team what time they need to start to ensure everyone is done by that time.   This is your morning start time.

Since you will probably be spending most of the morning in beauty prep, have a plan in place to have ample food and beverage available throughout the day.  The last thing you want to do is not eat and then feel faint on your big day! You may need to plan for both breakfast and lunch.  Include some fruit and plenty of water to keep you hydrated.

Plan for Travel Time to the Ceremony Location

If you are having your ceremony at the same location that you are getting ready, this means planning enough time for the wedding party to be tucked away before guests arrive.  If your ceremony is in another location, you’ll need to coordinate transportation and work out the logistics of who is getting picked up and dropped off when and where. Don’t forget to build in extra time for unexpected traffic.


Speak to your officiant to get an idea of how long the ceremony will be.  For on-site ceremonies, you’ll want to ensure that the bar and cocktail hour are ready to go as soon as you say, “I Do”.  This means communicating the length of your ceremony with your venue coordinator.  For offsite ceremonies, consider travel time from the ceremony location to the reception to set your reception start time.  If you have a time between when the ceremony ends and the reception starts, it is a great time to do wedding party and family photos.  Make sure you communicate to your guests what time they can arrive at your venue and what time the formal reception starts.

Cocktail Hour

Will you be doing photos during cocktail hour, or will you be able to enjoy and mingle with your guests?  If photos are needed during this time, work with your photographer to devise a game plan on how to get all your desired shots and still be ready for your big introduction.

wedding day timeline

If your dress needs to be bustled, build in time to have that done.  Our Tiffany Ballroom wedding coordinators are well versed at many bustle styles, but it’s helpful if a wedding party member attends your final fitting with you to learn the specifics.

As cocktail hour ends, your guests will enter the ballroom to be seated for dinner.  Having place cards displayed during cocktail hour will help eliminate any delay that would be caused by guests not knowing where they are sitting.


Once guests are seated, your DJ/MC will typically welcome guests and go right into the introductions of the wedding party.  You can decide whether you want your wedding party to be introduced as pairs, or as one big group.  This is the time for them to amp up the party and get the crowd excited for your big debut.  

As you and your spouse are introduced to your guests, you will transition right into your 1st Dance.  At the Tiffany Ballroom, your Head Server is there to guide your wedding party into place and to seamlessly take your bouquet as you prepare for your first dance. For your first dance, make sure you talk to your DJ if you want to cut the song a bit short or bow out part way through the song. 

After your first dance will be the perfect time for welcome speeches and toasts.  Keeping these short and sweet will be something your guests appreciate.  Having an idea of how long each speech will be, and what order they will speak is helpful information for your caterer.  

For tips on how to write a great toast, check out our blog How to Write and Deliver a Memorable Wedding Toast

Now is the time to EAT.  Your first and second course are served without interruption allowing you enough time to visit your guests. 

Towards the end of the salad course, we like to bring up the couple for their cake cutting.  This allows the cake to be sent to the kitchen to be cut while your guests enjoy their dinner.  After the cake is cut, we try to get in a short dance set before the main course is served.  

Parent Dances typically take place after guests have finished their entrees and as the cake is served.  These dances are typically the last ‘formal’ part of the evening leaving you to dance the rest of the night away!

If you are planning to do a garter and bouquet toss, they are typically worked into a dance set, once guests have had a chance to loosen up!

After a few hours of dancing, it will be time to do the last dance of the evening.  Think about how you want to end the best night of your life.  Having all your friends and family circle the dancefloor as you dance with your new spouse? Or would you rather have one last giant party song for everyone to hit the dancefloor? 

As our staff begins to pack up your items, you will be busy saying goodbye to your guests. If you are planning to have guests join you after the wedding in our One Bistro bar, have the DJ make an announcement after the last song.

While it seems like a lot of details to put together, having a well thought out wedding day timeline sets you up for a stress-free day!  

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