Hour by hour: Your wedding day schedule

Get your timings sorted now so you can sit back, relax and have a totally stress-free wedding day

Syrencot Wiltshire wedding fairs
© Anna Morgan Photography

On the big day, no one wants to be a timekeeping bridezilla, but with this wedding day schedule planned out in advance, you won’t need to be. Planning ahead is the key to making sure everything runs smoothly, so we’ve broken down the average wedding day into handy time slots.

Ceremonies typically last 30 minutes to an hour, with receptions lasting five to eight hours. Most couples get married between 12pm and 5pm, so our timeline is based on a 2pm ceremony (adjust the timings as necessary). We’ve assumed your ceremony and reception are in the same place. If not, you need to add in travel time.

This will give you a rough timeline to follow – of course you can adapt it to suit your exact plans. Share it with your planner and a few keys guests and they can ensure things run to time and leave you to enjoy your amazing day.

Your wedding day schedule

10am: Bridal party hair & make-up
Start everyone as early as possible – while you have a good breakfast.

11am: Photographer arrives/bride’s hair & make-up
Your photographer should arrive roughly 30 minutes before you’re ready, in time to get shots of the dress, rings, invitations, etc. Bridesmaids/mother of the bride should be ready for photographs when your hair and makeup is done. If you’d like photos of you all in matching robes, make sure you plan them for once you’ve had hair and makeup done, but before you get dressed.

12pm: Bride gets dressed
Meanwhile, the photographer takes shots of your maids and your mum helping you with zips, shoes, etc. 

12.30pm: Bridal portraits and bridesmaids’ photos
Once you’re fully dressed and ready, the photographer can capture portrait and detail shots of you at pre-scouted locations around your venue, as well as fun ones with your maids. If you want special shots – toasting with Champagne, holding balloons, etc – make sure you’ve got the props ready.

1pm: You’re nearly there…
Pop back to your room, freshen up a little and have a glass of Champagne or a cuppa. Try and eat a little something so you don’t feel faint at the alter.

1.15pm: Groom/best man/ushers arrive at the ceremony
They should be there before the guests start arriving so they can do the meet and greets.

1.30pm: Guests start arriving at the ceremony
This is where they will have chance to enjoy your welcome music and settle in for the big moment.

2pm: Ceremony
The most important part of your wedding day schedule – the ‘I do’s! Most weddings don’t start at the time on the invite, so don’t worry if the ceremony begins a bit later than planned. This gives guests extra time if they’re running late. The amount of time you allow really depends on the type of ceremony you’re having. Usually, non-religious ceremonies last for around 20-30 minutes; religious ones can last up to an hour.

3pm: Drinks reception and photos
Now the emotional bit is done, you can truly celebrate. Invite guests to enjoy cocktails or bubbly while the two of you escape for some photos with the photographer, as well as family portraits and shots of the bridal party. Depending on how many photos you want, you can join the reception halfway through, or spend a little time together having a private drink and taking it all in.

Wedding schedule meal

4.30pmDinner is announced
Allow your guests roughly 30 minutes to finish their drinks and find their seats.

5pm: Dinner service starts
This is the time to make your grand entrance and for the master of ceremonies/best man to announce you for the first time as ‘Mr and Mrs’. 

6.30pm: Speeches
As dinner is wrapping up, the father of the bride, the groom, the best man and the maid of honour can make their speeches. Set a time limit of an absolute maximum of 10 minutes for each speech (5 minutes if there are you have a lot of speakers).

7pm-7.30pm: Cake cutting
First up is cutting the cake, followed by the bouquet toss (if those are traditions that you’re keeping).

7.30-8pm: Turn around/down time
Your venue may need to turn your room around at this stage, which also gives guests a chance to relax before the full-on partying begins. If you want to freshen up or change into a second dress, now’s the time. It’s also the ideal moment to take 10 minutes to catch up with your new husband!

8pm-8.30pm: Evening guests arrive/Disco starts/First dance
It’s time to crank up the tunes and hit that dance floor!

9pm-10pm: Evening food is served
Everyone will need a little pick-me-up by now to keep the party going. So this is the perfect time to bring out the evening buffet, bacon butties or street-food van.

11pm-12pm: The big finish
The part of your wedding day schedule that you won’t want to come, but all good things must come to an end. Arrange what your final song with be with your DJ or band ahead of time, and ask them to let you know when it’s coming up. When that time comes, say your final goodbyes and hug everyone you need to. If you’re having fireworks or making an exit with sparklers, designate a member of your bridal party to organise the guests and hand out everything.

12pm onwards
Live happily ever after!

Wedding day schedule dancing

Your Wedding Day Schedule: 6 Essential Timing Tips

Girl squad
The time needed for girly prep will depend on the size of your bridal party, the complexity of the look and whether you want photos before the ceremony. Take advice from your hair and makeup artist on this. 

The direct approach
Designate at least a couple of your bridesmaids or ushers to direct guests, help find specific people for photos and speed up any loitering guests throughout the day.

Well received
If you’re planning a receiving line, allow an extra 40 minutes before dinner.

Ask the experts
Your caterers can advise you as to how long service will take, based on the number of guests, choice of food, number of courses, number of catering staff and type of venue. As a general guide, allow up to two hours for a three-course meal.

Speak quickly
Allow a maximum of 30-40 minutes for speeches, with each speaker allocated a maximum of 10 minutes. And make sure you stick to it! If your speeches take longer, guests could get fidgety and your do may lose momentum.

Time flies
Try to factor in the first dance, cutting the cake and throwing the bouquet no later than 45 minutes to an hour after the end of your wedding breakfast. This will ensure the photographer manages to capture everything before he/she has to leave.