Whether you are having a morning or afternoon wedding it is best to work with a timeline so you can ensure you have enough time to get everything done. It’s worth noting that the wedding timeline is a rough indication and should only be used as a guideline, it can be adjusted according to the bride & grooms requirements.
Keep in mind that it is impractical to try and keep to the timeline precisely; as in life, your wedding day may not go exactly like you want it to or planed it to - the ceremony may be delayed because your hair took longer than anticipated or the photographer has to leave earlier so you have to move up the cake cutting. Thing like this are to be expected, so just stick to the timeline as closely as you can - improvising here and there - and everything will be fine.
Below I have put together a day-off timeline for you to work from. Please feel welcome to adjust, remove or add any aspect you want.
5 to 6 hours before the ceremony
- Hairdresser and make-up artist arrives to start getting the bridal party ready.
- The bride should start with her makeup (with proper application, her look will last), she can then relax and enjoy the day. The stylist can go on with the rest of the bridal party and then use the last two hours of time for the bride’s hair and final styling - this way when the photographer arrives, he/she can catch those last-minute 'getting ready' shots.
- For larger wedding parties you might have to arrange with the hairdresser and make-up artist to bring assistants.
- If you are travelling to a salon or getting ready at a different location remember to take the travelling time into account when you make your plans.
- Ask the stylist if he/she can wait until it’s time to go so they can make sure your veil is secure. Otherwise they can show the maid of honour how to properly secure it.
- Remember to work in a healthy, balanced breakfast and lunch. Something not to heavy (as this will make you drowsy) but that gives you plenty of energy to get through the day.
2 to 4 hours before the ceremony
- The suppliers (flowers, décor, etc) arrive.
- Some venues will do the décor of the reception hall and ceremony venue for you from top to bottom.
- Other venues may only supply the basics - tables, chairs, linen, cutlery and crockery - the rest you would have had to arrange with a different supplier. In this case the supplier can come out and do the décor themselves or if you went the DIY route you can entrust the task to someone who is not part of the wedding party. Perhaps the mother of the groom (because the mother of the bride will naturally be with the bride) or a good friend who would like to be part of the wedding. Just be sure to discuss exactly what you want with them beforehand and remember to thank them in the speeches.
1 hour before the ceremony
- Photographer arrives in time to capture the bridal party ‘getting ready’ shots.
- This also gives your photographer plenty of time to capture the details - gown, shoes, jewellery, etc. - in addition to the hustle and bustle of the room and the often-emotional interactions between the bride, her bridesmaids and relatives.
- This is also the time (should the bride want) for the photographer to take some sexy (for grooms eyes only) shots of the bride in her lingerie and then of her putting on her dress.
- About 15 minutes before the party needs to move to the ceremony venue the photographer can take some shots of the bridal party dressed and ready as a group as well as individuals.
- Groom and party arrives at the ceremony venue.
- Groomsmen can welcome and assist the guests as they start arriving.
30 minutes before the ceremony
- The guests start to arrive.
- They can be greeted and shown to their seats by the groomsmen and or ushers.
- To try and avoid any guests coming late indicate the time on the invite as 30 minutes early. E.g. 15:30 for 16:00.
- The ideal length of a wedding ceremony is 30 minutes.
- Shorter that this it might feel rushed, longer and your guests might get restless and lose concentration. But the length of the ceremony is completely up to the you as a couple.
- After the ceremony the guests will be shown to an area where they can socialize with the other guests and enjoy some champagne and hors d’oeuvres while the newlyweds and wedding party run off for a photo shoot.
- This time can also be used to take photos of the couple with family and friends before everyone goes into the reception.
- The welcome hour (as the name indicates) should not be longer than an hour, any longer and the guests may get bored and impatient.
The average length of a wedding reception is 6 hours. This allows half an hour for speeches, 2 hours for dinner and 3 and a half hours for the party.
The order of events during the reception are usually as follow:
- Arrival of bride & groom and they take their seats at the main table.
- The master of ceremony will welcome the guests, explain the program and any arrangements the guests should be aware of.
30 minutes in…
- The starter is served.
- During the starter the speeches/toasts can commence.
1 hour in…
- The buffet opens or the main course is served.
- It is often custom for each table to dish up separately; this is a good opportunity for the photographer to get a picture of each table - while the guests are sitting at the table waiting for their turn.
- Depending on the number of guests it should take half an hour to an hour for all the guests to eat.
1.5 to 2 hours in…
- The first dance; followed by the father/daughter dance and then the mother/son dance.
- Some couples prefer to have the first dance after dessert - it is a personal preference.
- You can also arrange to have the father/daughter dance and mother/son dance on the same song.
- Dance floor opens.
2.5 to 3 hours in…
- Cutting the cake.
- This can be served with the dessert buffet.
- After a few more dances the “garter ceremony” can take place and after that the traditional garter and bouquet throwing.
3.5 to 5 hours in….
- Dance, Party, and Celebrate!!!
- At this point the bride and groom have eaten and most of their duties are done; so they now have some time to go around to all the guests to thank them for coming and check that they are having a good time.
5 to 6 hours in…
- 5 hours in the MC will announce the last call.
- 5.5 hours in the MC will announce that the venue will be closing in half an hour and kindly request that the guests need to leave by then.
- 6 hours in the venue closes.
- Most venues will give you the option to stay longer but this will be at an extra cost.
- Another option you have here if some of your guests are still in the party mood to move it to an after party at a nearby bar.