Your Wedding Day Timeline and Checklist

Your wedding day is very busy and will fly by! You need to make sure you plan out enough time to get yourself ready and make sure all your bridesmaids and everyone else in the wedding are ready on time as well.

You also want to make sure you fit in all the important things you need to do before you say, “I do!” We have put together this wedding day timeline that will help you figure out how much time you truly need.

Here is our wedding day timeline and checklist to make sure your special day is planned out perfectly, so there is not any stress or rushing around. There is a timeline for a bride who wants to have a traditional wedding day, where she and her groom do not see each other before the ceremony, and there is a timeline for the couple who does want to have first look photos done, and spend a little quality time with one another right before the ceremony.

If you are uncertain whether you want to have a first look, remember that the difference from a traditional wedding day timeline is that there is less pressure after the ceremony to get all the wedding photography squeezed in of you and your new husband.  This allows you and your family to enjoy your own cocktail hour if you would like. Also, that moment when you have the first look is a great “alone time moment” to spend some quality one-on-one time together… especially if you don’t like the pressure of everyone looking at you the first time you see each other at the ceremony.

Still unsure? Take a look at these beautiful first look photos taken of Cory and McCall before their stylish wedding in Utah.


Here are some tips and other things to consider while planning out your wedding day timeline.


Make Sure To Eat Breakfast

After getting a good night’s sleep, wake up and eat a healthy breakfast. You need to make sure you get your energy for the long, but wonderful day ahead!

Hair and Makeup

Make sure that you and all of your bridesmaids wear a button down shirt that morning. You do not want to get your hair done and then realize that you are in a t-shirt and can not get it off over your hair… we do not want you to mess it up!

The bride should get her hair done last. Letting the bridesmaids go first allows the bride a little downtime to relax and chat with her bridesmaids, or simply reflect on the day ahead. Having the bride go last is also good because the photographer will hopefully be there in time to catch her and get some amazing moments of her getting ready!

Plan for about 30 minutes per bridesmaid for each to get their hair done. If each of you is also having your makeup done professionally, plan at least 45 minutes extra for that.

Plan for at least 2 hours total for the bride to get her hair and makeup done. Depending on the hairstyle and the type of makeup the bride wants, that time may increase or decrease. If you have done a run through with your hairstylist prior to your wedding day, use that time and add a little extra to it just for a buffer. You do not want to be rushed on your wedding day!

Keep in mind that if you are planning to go to a salon to get your hair and makeup done that morning, you need to plan extra time for travel as well.

Photographer’s Arrival

The photographer should arrive around the time that the bride is getting ready. The final stages of the hair and makeup always make for the best photos.

This is the time that the photographer can also photograph the dress hanging up, the shoes, bouquet, and all those other details from the bridal party that you want to be captured.

Getting Dressed

Do not get into your wedding gown until your hair and makeup are totally done. And make sure to put on your veil last. You may even have your stylist help you to make sure the veil falls nicely around your updo, and you want to be sure not to mess up your hair when you are securing the veil to your head.

Pre-Ceremony Bridal Party Photos

It is always a great idea to get the photos out of the way of you with your bridesmaids, as well as the groom with his groomsmen. That way, you do not have as many photos to take between the ceremony and reception. (You want to get the party started ASAP, right?!?)

Both the bride and groom want to make sure to knock out some of the photos before the ceremony. A few to make sure you get are ones with your parents, grandparents, and siblings, the bride with her bridesmaids, and the groom with his groomsmen. All the join photos can be done in between the ceremony and reception.

Plan out about 2–3 minutes per photo that will be taken. It is also helpful anytime you have a group of people taking photos to factor in some extra time for random delays, outfit mishaps, time to plan out posing, etc.

These can also be done at the location of the ceremony (if you are not there already while getting ready).

First Look Photos

Do you want to get a little time together with your groom, so he can see you in your wedding gown before everyone else? They make for amazing photos, and it is such a great idea to help relieve your stress and have a little time together before the craziness of your wedding.

The first look photos should be one of the last things you do before your ceremony begins. Plan for at least 15–30 minutes for these.


An hour and a half before – the groom and groomsmen arrive. They can help with any last minute items that need to be done or set up.

An hour before – the bride and bridesmaids arrive. (Note, if you are not taking your pre-ceremony photos at the ceremony location, you can arrive closer to the ceremony start time).

Once the ceremony begins, it typically lasts about 30 minutes.

If your reception is at a different location, having a one hour gap in between for guests to travel is about the maximum amount of time you should have. Having many of those pre-ceremony photos done is helpful to keep your wedding photography time shorter than if you had to take every single photo in between. You do not want to keep your guests waiting too long for your introduction into the reception as the married couple!

Bride and Groom, and Wedding Party Photos

For the bridal party group shots, plan for about 3 minutes per shot. That gives you time to set up poses, find that missing groomsmen who went to find a beer that you need to add to your group shot or any other delays that may come up.

Even if you had first look photos, you will want to get some photos of yourself and your new spouse together (and married!!!) for the first time. Plan for at least 20 minutes to get all the shots you want.

If there are any large group photos you want to get, plan to take those during the reception. It is always helpful to have a DJ or band make the announcement to gather everyone up to say cheese!

Because your wedding photography is so important but also takes precious time away from your guests, it is very, very important to plan ahead a list of all the photos you want to make sure your photographer captures for you.


A great reception can be 4–6 hours long. This can include a cocktail hour while you are getting all your photos done at the ceremony location and allows enough time for great conversation, dinner, and dancing!

Here is a list of activities that need to happen during your reception. The order of everything really depends on you and what you want your reception to be like – and you do not have to do all of these things if you do not want to. Remember, your wedding day is all about you! Activities include:

  • An introduction of the bride and groom
  • A welcome toast (possibly from the bride’s father or whoever else you choose)
  • The newlywed’s first dance
  • Father/daughter dance
  • Mother/son dance
  • Meal served
  • Toasts from maid-of-honor and best man
  • Dancing and fun!
  • Cake cutting
  • Bouquet and garter toss
  • Farewell exit for the couple

We hope this timeline has been helpful for you! No matter what, remember that your wedding day is yours, and you can truly customize it in any way that works best for you and your fiancé!

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