How To Create Your Wedding Timeline (With Examples)

Planning your wedding timeline is crucial in ensuring a smooth and stress-free celebration. As professional wedding planners, we understand the importance of a well-structured timeline! It’s one of the most important pieces to plan, but also one of the most overwhelming. To make this process easier, today we will walk you through creating your wedding day timeline that will keep everything on track and make your special day unforgettable!

Factors That Go Into a Wedding Timeline

There are a few big factors that you need to know before you make your wedding day timeline: the sunset and whether or not you are doing a first look. These two will be your starting point.

Factor #1: The Sunset

The sunset time is important for two reasons. First, it will determine your ceremony time since you will want plenty of time after for portraits. If you are getting married in the winter, when the sunset might be earlier in the day, you may need to push up your ceremony time to accommodate post-ceremony pictures.

Second, you will want to consider the golden hour. This optimal time at sunset creates gorgeous portraits with a golden glow. Photographers (and couples!) love it! So if sunset is 7:00 PM, you will want to have your portraits taken around 6:15 PM to give you enough time.

Factor #2: First Look or Traditional Ceremony:

Next is to decide whether you will have a First Look, where you see each other before the ceremony, or if you prefer the traditional route of waiting until the ceremony. This decision will significantly influence the timing of your couple’s portraits and other formal photos.

For example, if you decide not to have a first look and have a winter wedding with a 5:00 PM sunset, you will need to have a ceremony closer to 3:00 PM to accommodate for 1 hour of portraits and 1 hour of cocktail hour. Be sure to discuss this with your photographer since they will know how much time to set aside for pictures before and after the ceremony.

Need help planning your ceremony? Get our Ceremony Plan Template! This plug-and-play template includes prompts for music selections, processional order, officiant cues, and who is participating throughout the ceremony. 

Wedding planning timeline examples, featuring a wedding at Sunriver Resort in Oregon

Average Wedding Length

The average wedding is typically 5-6 hours. The ceremony is typically 30 minutes, with a 1-hour cocktail hour and a 4.5 – 5-hour reception. However, your day will start much sooner since some portraits will be done before the ceremony. 

[Learn More About Planning In Our Course: Design Your Wedding Day]

Wedding Timeline Example #1: Summer Wedding With a First Look:

3:00 PM – First Look
3:30 PM – Group Photos
4:30 PM – Ceremony
5:00 PM – Cocktail Hour (Including Family Photos)
6:15 PM – Dinner
7:15 PM – Toasts
7:45 PM – Cake Cutting, Couples’ Portraits during Golden Hour (while guests enjoy dessert)
8:15 PM – First Dance & Dancing
8:45 PM – Sunset
10:00 PM – Wedding Ends

Wedding planning timeline examples, featuring a wedding at Sunriver Resort in Oregon

Wedding Timeline Example #2: Summer Wedding with NO First Look:

3:30 PM – Ceremony
4:00 PM – Cocktail Hour and All Photos (serve snacks and provide games/activities)
5:45 PM – Dinner
6:45 PM – Toasts
7:15 PM – Cake Cutting
7:20 PM – First Dance
7:30 PM – Dancing
7:40 PM – Couples’ Portraits during Golden Hour (while guests dance)
8:45 PM – Sunset
10:00 PM – Wedding Ends

Wedding Timeline Example #3: Spring or Fall Wedding with a First Look:

3:00 PM – First Look
3:30 PM – Group Photos
4:30 PM – Ceremony
5:00 PM – Cocktail Hour (including Family Photos)
6:00 PM – Dinner
6:30 PM – Couples’ Portraits during Golden Hour (while guests finish eating and get drinks for toasts)
7:00 PM – Toasts
7:30 PM – Cake Cutting
7:30 PM – Sunset
7:45 PM – First Dance & Dancing
10:00 PM – Wedding Ends

Plan Your Wedding Timeline

Crafting a well-thought-out wedding reception timeline is a vital step in planning a stress-free and unforgettable celebration.

Whether you work with a professional wedding planner or take on the task yourself, a comprehensive timeline will ensure that your special day unfolds flawlessly. To make this process even easier, we have created a Timeline Worksheet! This worksheet is a complete guide to building the perfect wedding day timeline. It walks you through each component of the day from start to finish and includes two sample timelines for a First Look or No First Look. You can grab yours at our shop!

Alex and Andrew’s Wedding Vendors:

Planning: Ponderosa Planning
Photographer: Ely Roberts Photography
Venue: Sunriver Resort
Floral Design: Wild Poppy Florist
Entertainment: Never 2 Late
Cake: Market of Choice
Rentals: Heirlooms & Co.
Chairs: West Coast Event Productions

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