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How To Create A Wedding Day Timeline (W/ Examples)

Let’s talk about timelines. Argh. The dreaded timeline. As a current bride myself, trust me, I get it. I feel the same way! This is probably the least appealing part of the wedding. It’s the part that everything else relies on. Where do you begin? What do you include? And who needs what?

© Susannah Lynn Photography |


I put off the idea of a timeline because it stressed me out. But when my venue and my photographer reached out to give me a sample timeline, I knew it was time to start considering it. My photographer asked when my HMUA would show up and my venue asked when we would arrive for photos. Everything kind of flows off of each other so even starting was difficult. I gave my start time to my photographer and worked off of her recommendations. I knew what I wanted captured so that was the easy part. As a wedding photographer myself, I can give a good idea of a basic timeline but when it’s your own timeline, it’s a bit different. 


© Susannah Lynn Photography |


On Facebook I always see brides asking for sample timelines but I find that hard to go off of when most people’s wedding days start and end at different times. Below I have included our timeline just in case you’re someone who is interested in taking a look. But first, let’s look at a general timeline. Whether you’re doing a first look or not, only a few things will change but timing will be relatively similar in the grand scheme of things. I’ve put a general amount of time for each “activity” so that no matter when things take place, you can easily adjust these timelines to suit you. 

Getting ready (before photographer arrives):

Photographer arrives: about 30 minutes before you’re done with HMU – this is when the photographer captures your detail shots and then a handful of staged images of you getting your HMU done. 

Getting ready images: 30-40 minutes

Leave time to drive to venue: depends of course but we did 20 minutes (should have left a little extra room)

First look and a handful of couple photos: 15 minutes

Family/wedding party photos: 1 hour and 15 minutes

Bride and groom images: 30 minutes

Rest/refresh before ceremony: 30 minutes

Ceremony: 30 minutes

Couple photos/extra photos: 30-45 mins

Reception (time varies)

If you’re not doing a first look, just move the photo time to after the ceremony. Still arrive at your venue 30 minutes prior to your ceremony if you need to “hide away” before guests arrive. 

Order of reception events (sample):

Grand entrance

First dance

Cake cutting (I highly recommend cutting your cake before dinner is served! Trust me on this one!!)



Cake served during speeches

Dances (father/daughter, mother/son, etc)

Garter/bouquet toss, games, etc. 

© Susannah Lynn Photography |


Our timeline – like I said at the start this was my biggest worry! I even worried all night the night before our wedding thinking about how I didn’t want it to run late. I was told so many times that Weddings always run late and I didn’t want that to be ours. And to my surprise (and our coordinators and photographers), our timeline was so well planned out that we actually had extra time before the ceremony so we could get some of our couple photos done (and that was even with the guys arriving 20+ minutes late)!

10am: Guys and girls arrive at getting ready locations

10:30am: HMUA arrives (she did my mom and my hair and make up) – finished by 1pm

12:30-1pm: Photographer arrives and photographs details

1pm-1:40pm: Hair/makeup images, getting ready outfits/images, getting into dress, putting on jewelry

1:40-1:50pm: First look with my dad

2-2:20pm: Drive to ceremony location

2:30pm: First look

2:45 pm – 4:00 pm : Group photos 

4:00 – 4:30 pm: Bride & groom images

4:30 pm: Done with photographs and go to rest at the reception location

4:30 – 5:00 pm: Guests are arriving

4:50 pm: Wedding party will head down to ceremony location

5:00 pm – 5:30pm: Ceremony

5:30pm-6:15pm: Group photos/sunset photos

5:30 pm – 6:30 pm: Cocktail hour

6:30pm: Grand entrance and right into our first dance

6:40pm: Welcome speech & prayer

6:45pm: Dinner service begins (plated meal)

7:15-7:30pm: Speeches (ours ran WAY over so I suggest putting in more time for each person to speak)

7:30pm: Cake cutting and served

7:40-7:50pm: Dances

10:30pm: Reception ends


If this blog helped you to plan your timeline or gave you any new ideas, let me know in the comments on Facebook and don’t forget to share this blog on Facebook and tag your friends <3 You can also join myself and other brides in our group Mary Taylor’s Wedding Deals & Finds and like us on Facebook at Mary Taylor Weddings

Signing off,

Mary Taylor <3


Why & When to Send Save the Dates

When planning a wedding, timing becomes one of the most important factors. Getting your save the dates out (if you’re choosing to send them) should go out between 8 and 10 months before your wedding. Factors that can change if or when you send them out include if you’re having a destination wedding, you have guests coming in from out of town, it’s a holiday weekend, it’s on a weekday, or it’s during a busy time of the year for other weddings.

Shutterfly did a post about called 11 Reasons to Send Save the Dates.

Here are a few of their points:

  1. Save the dates are not for you. (What they mean is it’s not to get you excited for your wedding but to get your guests excited as well!)
  2. Share your engagement photography (What a beautiful way to show off those gorgeous professional photographs you have!)
  3. Introduce your wedding theme (Another way to get your guests excited and prepared for what’s to come! Also, a way to secure your ideas on theme and style) – On this note, for myself, I didn’t quite make my save the dates the way I wish I had. I loved the idea but in the end feel they didn’t completely match our theme. Check ours out below!
  4. Let guests make arrangements. (This is the most important part! Especially if you’re having guests from out of town and you really want them to attend)
  5. Gather addresses (Yay! This is a great excuse to gather addresses so that when it’s time to send out your invites, you’re all set to go)


Some ways to save money on save the dates:

  1. Email your guests the save the dates (obviously not ideal but if you cannot afford to ship them, it’s better than nothing)
  2. Just send them to people who are from out of town/will have to travel in order to attend your wedding
  3. Look for coupons through online printers such as shutterfly. Use these links for discounts. 10 FREE cards click here. 40% Tiny Prints click here.
  4. Make sure you’re printing cards that are easy and inexpensive to ship (check with your post office before spending hundreds of dollars on cards that will cost a ton to ship)! Especially if you’re going to send something heavy (a magnet, etc)