Crafting Your Perfect Wedding Day Timeline

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Planning a wedding is a thrilling experience and, sometimes, stressful. To avoid unnecessary mishaps, you should have a clear idea of how the wedding day goes and what things should be provided. Here’s where a wedding day timeline comes into place. Depending on when the ceremony is held, the timeline will be different.

2 P.M. Ceremony Timeline

The most common time for the ceremony in the UK is between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. When creating a timeline, it is important to note how much preparation you need for the ceremony. Therefore, it is essential to know what time to wake up and what tasks each person should have. After the ceremony, the reception starts, and for that section, you have a much freer hand. As a starting point, here is what usually happens in this timeline. 

9 a.m. – Getting Ready

In the beginning, the bride and bridesmaids will start to get ready. The hair and makeup artists will also arrive, starting the work on bridesmaids and then the bride. If your bridal party is big and you think you will need more time for preparation, then ask the makeup artist to arrive even earlier. The wedding planner will also arrive.

10 a.m. – Hair and Makeup

hair and makeup - wedding day timeline
*Image by Freepik 

Ask your makeup artist how long the process will take. You might be planning some trials and experiments with different looks. In that case, it is better to start even earlier. 

11 a.m. – Bouquet and Suppliers’ Arrival

Decor companies and suppliers will arrive to set up their gigs. The photographing team will also start preparations based on the to-do list you have given them. The bouquet has to arrive beforehand, as it is the focal point of wedding photography.

12 p.m. – Getting Dressed

getting dressed - Minstrel Court
*Image by Freepik

Give ample time to getting dressed, especially if you are going to wear the traditional wedding costume. The groom should also start to wear his suit. 

12:30 p.m. – ‘First Look’ and Family Photos

first look - Minstrel Court
*Image by cookie_studio on Freepik

The first look tradition is when the bride and groom meet in their wedding clothes for the first time before the ceremony. The moment makes for a lot of creative photo opportunities, and that is something most couples look forward to. The photographer can then go ahead and capture moments of the couple seeing their parents and some close friends.

1:30 p.m. – Guests’ Arrival

Generally, guests should arrive around 30 minutes before the ceremony starts. The groom and the best men, however, should be there 15 minutes before the guests. The bride and groom’s parents can then join some time after the guests.

2 p.m. – The Ceremony Starts

wedding day timeline - Ceremony - Minstrel Court
*Image by v.ivash on Freepik 

The length of the ceremony will depend on the type of ceremony you go with. For instance, a civil ceremony will be quite short and last about 20 minutes. A religious one, however, could be a bit longer. For instance, the Church of England service will last around 45 minutes, and a Catholic service could be even a bit longer.

2:45 p.m. – The Ceremony Ends

After the ceremony ends, some families and couples choose to go for a group photoshoot. This may involve going to another location and then coming back or going straight to the reception site.

3:30 p.m. – Leaving the Ceremony Site

Allow some time for the guests to leave the ceremony, enter the reception site, and find their seats. The bridesmaids and groomsmen could take on the responsibility of guiding the guests and assisting them to find their seats. While they are busy, the bride and groom could take advantage of the moment and go for a further photoshoot or have some alone time together.

5 p.m. – Reception Begins – Wedding Breakfast

reception - Wedding Day Timeline - Minstrel Court
*Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

The reception starts with reception drinks, or cocktail hour. It prepares the guests to freshen up and prepare for the actual meal. Breakfast will typically last for about 45 minutes. You may offer it in buffet or traditional style.

6 p.m. – Time for Toasts and Dessert

Here, the bride and groom will get a chance to give a welcome toast and thank everyone for attending their celebration. Some members of the family may also offer a toast and provide a short speech. The speeches are not recommended to last long, as they may bore the guests. So, perhaps, allocating 10 minutes per speech is more than enough.

7 p.m. – Cutting Cakes

cutting cakes - Mintrel Court
*Image by teksomolika on Freepik

Cake-cutting should not be scheduled too early, as it might signal to guests that it is time to wrap things up. It is usually held before the evening guests arrive. Here, the staff will prepare the dessert tables. The couple could also share a few words before cutting the cake. The lead-up preparation will take around 30 minutes, but the cake-cutting itself will last only 5 minutes or so.

8 p.m. – Arrival of Evening Guests

The evening guests should arrive more or less 30 minutes after the wedding breakfast. It is important to make sure they don’t turn up while your other guests are having their meals.

8:30 p.m. – First Dance

first dance - Minstrel Court
*Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

First dance is when the couple takes centre stage and dances to their selected song. Apart from the first dance, the party could also have father-daughter and mother-son dances.

8:45 p.m. – Guests Entering the Dance Floor

After the first dance is over, the DJ or band will play an upbeat song to get the guests off their seats. The guests will enter the dance floor, immersing themselves in the joyful atmosphere. Plan plenty of songs in your playlist so that all the hours of the day are covered. You don’t want to suddenly run out of music.

10:30 p.m. – Serving Evening Food

It is time to serve dinner to the guests. Guests are directed to the dining area, where tables are arranged with place settings, cutlery, and glassware. If dinner is served buffet style, they can go and pick up their favourite dishes as they choose.

11:30 p.m. – Bride and Groom Depart

It is time for the grand exit. The groom and bride depart, and it is the guests’ choice to stay or leave. You can arrange for a fireworks display as a way of saying goodbye. The DJ or band will also play the exit song, which is scheduled to be right before the reception ends. 

Other Wedding Day Timelines

Morning Wedding

Some couples decide to have the ceremony in the morning. This opens up ample time for other entertaining activities in the evening. Moreover, lunch could be more affordable than dinner for the reception. The downside is that you have to get up early, and sometimes getting ready might become hectic. Nonetheless, here is a sample timeline for a morning ceremony.

  • 7 a.m. – hair and makeup artists arrive.
  • 8 a.m. – hair and makeup on the bride.
  • 9 a.m. – the bride gets dressed.
  • 10 a.m. – bridal party photoshoot.
  • 10:30 a.m. – guests arrive.
  • 11 a.m. – ceremony starts.
  • 11:30 a.m. – ceremony ends.
  • 12 p.m. – reception begins.
  • 1 p.m. – lunch is served.
  • 2 p.m. – time for toasts.
  • 2:30 p.m. – first dance and guests’ dance.
  • 3 p.m. – cake-cutting and dessert.
  • 4 p.m. – guests depart.

Cocktail Reception

The cocktail reception timeline puts greater emphasis on the cocktail hour, so it becomes the main event. Here, there will be no traditional meals or dinner. The menu will contain small bites and hors d’oeuvres, and most guests will be eating while standing. Here is a sample timeline:

  • 10 a.m. – getting ready.
  • 11 a.m. – bride’s hair and makeup.
  • 12 p.m. – photographers arrive – wedding preparation photoshoot.
  • 1 p.m. – bride gets dressed.
  • 2 p.m. – the wedding party arrives.
  • 3 p.m. – first look photos.
  • 4 p.m. – wedding party and family photos.
  • 5 p.m. – ceremony starts.
  • 5:30 p.m. – ceremony ends.
  • 5:45 p.m. – the cocktail party reception begins.
  • 7 p.m. – first dance and guests entering the dance floor.
  • 9 p.m. – cake cutting and dessert.
  • 10 p.m. – guests depart.

Evening Ceremony

Sometimes, couples go for an evening ceremony, which is usually held between 5 and 7 p.m. They might feel it is easier to party in the evening and enjoy the entertainment through the night. Another reason for an evening ceremony is the cheaper deal some venues offer. Here is an example of an evening ceremony timeline.

  • 2 p.m. – photographers and hair and makeup artists arrive.
  • 3 p.m. – hair and makeup on the bride.
  • 4 p.m. – bride gets dressed.
  • 5 p.m. – First look photos.
  • 6 p.m. – ceremony starts.
  • 6:30 p.m. – ceremony ends and reception starts.
  • 7 p.m. – evening photoshoot.
  • 8 p.m. – cake cutting and first dance.
  • 9 p.m. – dinner is served.
  • 11 p.m. – guests depart.

With this guide, we want to ensure that you have all the weddings planned out. Keep in mind that your timeline does not have to adhere exactly to the ones described above. It is, indeed, the result of your own preferences, culture, background, and other practical considerations.

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