Wedding Day Timelines - How It All Comes Together!

Wedding Vows - Weddings Downtown Greenville SC

Don’t forget to create your wedding day schedule!

One of the most common mistakes I've seen with couples in their planning process is not giving enough attention to their wedding day timeline. Having a solid and well thought out schedule helps in two BIG ways! 

  1. It helps everyone involved in the day (wedding party, vendors, guests, and family) know exactly what's going on and when. It really cuts down on the number of questions and confusion you will have and will ensure everyone can do their part well!

  2. A well thought out schedule will also avoid common pitfalls. If you're not careful to purposefully develop your schedule, you may find yourself missing out on some important opportunities on your big day!

Fear not! Putting together an intentional schedule is what your vendors are here for! I know that for most couples, this is the first wedding they've ever planned - and I'm always happy to bring my experience of what works to the table. 

But before I dig into a sample schedule, it's so important for you to know:

There is no right or wrong schedule or wedding timeline - we're here to make it what you want it to be!

Never be afraid to change a few things around. Sometimes doing things a little different is refreshing for your friends and family and makes your wedding even more unique!

Here are 4 different timeline templates you can check out. See which one fits you best and modify it to be the wedding of your dreams!


WITH A 4PM START TIME...

Because of the 4 p.m. ceremony time, 10 p.m. reception end (with both ceremony and reception in the same venue), with secular ceremony and photos beforehand is a pretty common format, let’s start with that.

10:00 a.m.—Hair and makeup / Getting ready
12:00–2:00 p.m.—Most vendors arrive for setup
2:00 p.m.—Wedding party and family photos start
3:30 p.m.—Doors open / Room ready for guests / Pre-ceremony music starts
4:00 p.m.—Invite time
4:15 p.m.—Ceremony starts
4:35 p.m.—Ceremony ends
4:40 p.m.—Cocktail hour starts
5:45 p.m.—Move guests into dinner
6:00 p.m.—Buffet opens / Dinner served
6:20 p.m.—All guests have food
6:30 p.m.—Toasts
7:30 p.m.—First dance
7:35 p.m.—General dancing music starts
8:00 p.m.—Second set of pre-sunset portraits
8:26 p.m.—Sunset
8:30 p.m.—Dessert
9:45 p.m.—Last call
9:55 p.m.—Music off
10:00 p.m.—Guests depart
11:00 p.m.—Breakdown done / All staff departs


WITH A MORNING WEDDING...

Morning weddings are lovely, and until recently were actually pretty much the norm. Also—who doesn’t love brunch food? Or an excuse to drink champagne before noon? Here’s a sample morning wedding timeline:

7:00 a.m.—Hair and makeup / Getting ready

8:30 a.m.—Vendors arrive / Setup starts

9:00 a.m.—First look and couple’s portraits

9:30 a.m.—Family pictures

9:30 a.m.—Doors open / Room ready for guests / Pre-ceremony music starts

10:00 a.m.—Invite time

10:15 a.m.—Ceremony starts

10:45 a.m.—Ceremony concludes

10:45 a.m.—Cocktail “hour” starts / Additional family photos

11:30 a.m.—Brunch starts

12:15 p.m.—Toasts

1:00 p.m.—First dance

1:30 p.m.—Cake cutting / Dessert

2:45 p.m.—Couple departs

3:00 p.m.—Guests depart

3:00 p.m.—Breakdown commences

4:00 p.m.—All vendors out


WITH AN EARLY AFTERNOON WEDDING...

Afternoon weddings are a happy medium, and they can work especially well for all-outdoor events. Not only do you not have to get up super early, but afternoon weddings still leave enough time for just the two of you to go out for dinner. (Seriously, if your reception is a meal other than dinner, and you’re not planning on hanging out with your guests later, please build room in your budget to take yourselves out to a lovely meal somewhere.) This is also a very kid-friendly timeline, which may be important to you if there are lots of small people in your life:

9:00 a.m.—Hair and makeup / Getting ready

9:30 a.m.—Vendors arrive / Setup starts

10:30 a.m.—Getting ready photos start

11:00 a.m.—First look and couple’s portraits

11:45 a.m.—Family pictures

12:30 p.m.—Doors open / Room ready for guests / Pre-ceremony music starts

1:00 p.m.—Invite time

1:15 p.m.—Ceremony starts

1:35 p.m.—Ceremony concludes

1:40 p.m.—Cocktail “hour” starts / Additional family photos

2:30 p.m.—Lunch starts

3:00 p.m.—Toasts

3:30 p.m.—First dance

5:00 p.m.—Cake cutting / Dessert

6:15 p.m.—Couple departs

6:30 p.m.—Guests depart

6:30 p.m.—Breakdown commences

7:30 p.m.—All vendors out


WITH A COCKTAIL PARTY TIMELINE...

The key is continuous rounds of food, with some heavier things around “dinner” time, and a menu that consists of food that can be eaten standing up (so, no knives, but forks are fine!) and served on smaller plates (because big plates are awkward when you have to hold them standing up). For a cocktail style reception, you don’t need tables or seating for everyone, although you should have some scattered throughout, particularly if you’re going to have older guests. A cocktail style reception might look something like the following:

3:00 p.m.—Vendors arrive for setup
4:30 p.m.—Doors open / Room ready for guests / Pre-ceremony music starts
5:00 p.m.—Invite time
5:15 p.m.—Ceremony starts
5:30 p.m.—Ceremony ends
5:30 p.m.—First round of food comes out / Bar opens
5:30 p.m.—Music starts inside
6:30 p.m.—Pre-sunset portraits
6:45 p.m.—“Dinner” rounds of food come out
7:07 p.m.—Sunset
7:15 p.m.—Toasts
7:30 p.m.—First dance
8:00 p.m.—Couple’s “Thank You” toast followed by cake cutting
9:00 p.m.—Couple and guests depart
10:00 p.m.—Breakdown done / Vendors out


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