How to Plan the Perfect Wedding Timeline

wedding timeline planning

This is something I spend a lot of time going over with my couples.  Even though almost every single one of the nearly 300 weddings I've worked has had the exact same basic timeline, it doesn't seem to be information that a lot of other vendors are trying to get into your hands! They just want to know what time you want dinner to be, what time you want your ceremony to be, but when you express an opinion they gently steer you towards this standard wedding timeline anyway. So, this post is all about how to plan your wedding timeline!

"Hold up!" you say..."I thought you were all about NON-Traditional weddings, Kate!" True. You caught me. Here's the thing, though. Nailing that "Non-Traditional" vibe works really well when you're riffing off the structure of how a "Normal" wedding should go. It gives your guests a sense of comfort that they know what will happen next, but then gives you the chance to knock their socks off with something crazy at the perfect moment. Plus, remember those venue coordinators who want your timeline to go just how they want? That conversation will go oh-so-much better if you can say..."Instead of a cocktail hour, we want to have a pre-dinner rock concert. Don't worry, our photographer said if we do our photos before the ceremony, she doesn't need cocktail hour for photos." Hook. Line. And sinker. 

I think that's enough preamble for now. Here's the standard timeline that every wedding uses so you can plan your wedding on YOUR terms. 

We'll need to start with your ceremony time. From there, the rest of the wedding timeline planning is just working backwards! I'm going to build this timeline based on a ceremony time of 4pm (which is a pretty common time here in Colorado). 

2:00pm  Photography start time

I like having about two hours prior to the ceremony, and arriving just as hair/makeup is finishing up.

2:30PM Separate Wedding Party Photos

If you aren't seeing each other before the ceremony, we'll work with one side of the wedding party first, then the other side. It takes 20-30 minutes for these :)

3:45pm Staging for Ceremony

4:00PM Ceremony

4:45PM Cocktail Hour

Also time for full wedding party photos, family photos, and photos of you guys together.

5:45PM Guests asked to be seated for dinner

6:00PM Announcement (if applicable) and the start of dinner

7:00PM Toasts 

They're usually around 20 minutes unless you have a very verbose family member, haha.

7:20PM Parent Dances (if applicable)

7:30PM Couple's First Dance

7:35PM Cake Cutting

7:45PM Dance floor opens!!

I like staying for about an hour after the dancing starts. After that things tend to be a little repetetive. BUT, if you're having a crazy send-off (sparklers, anyone?) you better keep us around!

11:00PM Grand Exit (if applicable)/The Party Ends

I hope that all helps you guys with how to plan a wedding timeline! I'd love to hear what you think of this post and if it helped you out. 


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