It's my BIG day!!! How do I know when to schedule what when?!?!?!?!

Ok, everyone.. I'm trying to sneak this list one in with Joe in town and hopefully I won't get attacked with duct tape!!  Are you ready??  Because this one is a long one!!!!! And it's FULL of USEFUL information!!! 

Joe and I get asked all the time when we are at weddings, "When should we do the first dance?". Or Even when a bride comes and books a wedding they ask "When should you come to start shooting?" Well, hopefully I can shed some light to some with this blog. MOST IMPORTANT thing to remember about timelines on your wedding day is it's a GUIDELINE!! It is NOT the END of the world if something goes awry and gets off schedule!! Second important thing to do is ALWAYS ADD wiggle room one way or the other for special circumstances so you don't have to worry about the small stuff that pops up! It's going to happen.. and its your day.. you don't need to worry about it. That's the job of your Wedding Planner or your Bridesmaids. I will say this... some reason I have yet to figure out, the majority of weddings tend to have a natural six hour cycle for wedding to the end of reception. So for the timeline, we will use that six hour figure. Now on to the timeline... YAY!!! 

  • 4:00 Ceremony
  • 4:30 – 5:30 Cocktail Hour
  • 5:30 Grand Entrance to First Dance
  • 5:45 Toasts
  • 6:00 – 7:30 Dinner
  • 7:30 First Dance, followed by Father/Daughter Dance
  • 7:45 Open Dancing begins
  • 8:30 Cake Cutting
  • 9:30 Bouquet Toss
  • 9:55 Last Song
  • 10:00 End

Soooo, you're looking at that thinking, "umm, what about all the other stuff?!" or "Cocktail hour???" Ok, let me answer the Cocktail hour thing.. That's code for the time that Joe and I steal you and the rest of the bridal party for photos after the ceremony for photos. HAHAHA! And yes, it usually takes about an hour. And if you are going to have a church wedding, the chances are the ceremony will take longer than 30 minutes, so be sure to talk to your Priest or Minister to find out a time frame from them. 

On to the "Other Important stuff " on your wedding day!!! Ready?? Here we go!!! 

  • 1:00 Bridal Party Arrive + Hair and Make-Up begin
  • 1:30 Photographers arrive
  • 1:45 Get the younger boys and girls dressed
  • 2:00 Groom & his side arrives
  • 3:15 Bride gets dressed and touch up make up             
  • 3:30 Prelude music begins
  • 3:45 First look if Bride and Groom want to have one. 
  • 3:30 Guests start to arrive
  • 3:45 Bridal Party lines up for processional
  • 3:45 Special guest are seated
  • 3:50 Processional Starts
  • 3:55 Bride walks down
  • 4:00 Ceremony Begins
  • 4:30 Cocktail hour begins
  • 4:30 Pictures w/ Bridal Party
  • 5:30 Bridal Party entrance
  • 5:45 Grand Entrance Bride & Groom
  • 5:50 First Dance
  • 5:55 Groom and Bride are seated
  • 6:00 Dinner is Served
  • 6:30 Best Man Toast
  • 6:40 Maid of Honor Toast
  • 7:00 Dancing/Garter/Bouquet toss
  • 8:00 Cake Cutting
  • 8:10 Groom and Bride speech
  • 10:00 End of the reception????? oooooorrr is it??!?!?!??!! HAHAHAHAHAHA!! 

And now you're looking at this trying to figure out how I came up with these time lines!! Here's how I did it. 

Bride's hair: One hour. This gives enough time to get it right and make any tweaks or changes from the trial run. Did you do a trial run? It's a good idea, that way you know what you're getting and know if you need to do something different or go with someone else entirely. 

Bride's makeup: 45 to an hour, depending on the makeup style you select. And again, trial run on this too, may seem silly to do it. But really, you may not realize how strange it feels to have fake eyelashes on and that is something you may not have planned for on your big day and that's something you need to keep in mind and get used to so you have that extra special look!! 

Bridesmaids' hair: 30 minutes per person. 

Bridesmaids' makeup: 45 minutes per person. Maybe less if it's a little girl. 

Who goes first? What Order? When your hairstylist arrives, have her start on your bridesmaids first. Instead, the bride should start with makeup.  Regardless, with proper makeup application, her look will last.  Personally, I won't start taking photos of a bride that doesn't have make up on. If her hair is still in rollers or not done, SURE!! No make up.. Nope.. not going there!!!  That being said, it's totally the bride's day so if she doesn't want me taking photos with her hair not done, then I'm not doing it then either... hahaha! 

When should the photographer arrive? One to two hours  before the bride is ready to go.  This also gives us plenty of time to capture the details — gown, shoes, jewelry, etc. — in addition to the hustle and bustle of the room and the often emotional interactions between the bride and her bridesmaids and relatives. 

If you have more than yourself plus four getting hair done, ask your stylist to bring an assistant to cut down on time. For makeup, add an assistant after yourself plus two. 

If you're traveling to a salon, double the travel time you anticipate 

Put on your veil after the dress. 

Pre-ceremony photos of the bride with her family and attendants/groom with his family and attendants: Two to three minutes per shot; more if the groups are very large, and less if they are very small. If we can squeeze these in BEFORE the ceremony BONUS!!! It shortens the time that we are doing the photos between the ceremony and reception. 

First look: 15-30 minutes.

Groom and groomsmen arrive: An hour and a half before the ceremony. 

Bride and bridesmaids arrive: An hour before the ceremony. If the you  won't be taking photos at the church prior to the ceremony, then you can arrive a few minutes before and wait in the limo or car. 

Ideal ceremony length: 30 minutes.  It doesn't always happen that way with some church ceremonies. 

Receiving line: For a ceremony with 100 guests or less, this will take 12-15 minutes. With 150 guests, allow 20 minutes. If you're expecting more than 150 guests, consider skipping the receiving line and visiting guests at their tables during dinner instead.

Maximum gap between ceremony and reception: One hour. Any more than that guest lose interest and get bored. 

Family photos: Two to three minutes per shot — if your family is properly organized! And you have someone that is helping keep everyone there. 

Bridal party: Two to three minutes per shot. "I like to keep these simple, as my clients are always eager to make it to their cocktail party," said Clement.

Didn't have a first look? Allow 30 minutes post-ceremony for photos of you and your groom. Even if you did have a first look, Joe and I will still want 15-20 minutes post-ceremony for just the two of you. Trust me, these photos will be special. 

Couple Tips: The best way to save time taking photos is by being prepared. I work with my brides really closely. Joe and I really try to have a pretty good flow when we do the formal photos and still have fun. We will give our brides a list and go over it with them a couple times to make sure we are on the same page.  Save photos of very large groups (like classmates, coworkers, and large extended family groups) for the reception, when your DJ or band leader can make an announcement to gather everyone. You'll be able to take the photos much faster than trying to track down 50 people during the cocktail hour. 

Ideal length: Six hours. "This will allow an hour for cocktails, two hours for dinner, and three hours for dancing," according to Blue Bird Productions.

Order of events:

First dance: The most common timing is immediately after the bride and groom enter the reception, but  you can also do your first dance following the conclusion of dinner or right after dessert.

Father/daughter dance: Immediately following the first dance.

Mother/son dance: Immediately following the father/daughter dance. Or, sometimes, this dance is shared with the father/daughter dance. And some Wedding planners say to save the parent dances for the very end of the dinner hour. It's an awesome way to bring everyone's attention from their plates over to the dance floor.

Welcome toast: Given by the father of the bride or by the bride and groom.

Toasts: Ladies first! Start with the maid of honor, followed by the best man. Often placed just prior to the start of dinner, which is fine if there are two, maybe three speeches. But for more than a few toasters, (BWAHAHAHA! I said toasters!), you may want to consider moving some (or all) of them towards the end of the meal. Guests will be better engaged during the toasts if they have full bellies.

Second course (main course) served

Toasts: The bride and groom can give a toast here, if desired.

Guests invited to dance: Open up the dance floor, and get the party started!

Cake cutting: Two hours before the reception ends. Other couples opt to cut the cake earlier in the night, like following their introduction or the toasts. This allows some of the children and elderly guest to leave and let party goers party on!!! Personally, I like to hold cake cutting until about 45 minutes or so after dinner, especially if you paid good money for some gorgeous confection. Enjoy the display a bit longer! However, it's not a crime to cut and serve your cake right on the heels of dinner if you prefer to have dessert right away. And if someone gets testy because you are holding off because you want to.. TOO BAD!!! It's NOT their wedding day it's YOUR'S and your now HUSBAND'S.. so do it your way!!! 

Bouquet and garter tosses: Right after the cake cutting, or about two hours before the end of the reception.

Farewell: If you're doing a sparkler farewell, for example, have guests start lining up about 10 minutes before you plan to exit. Also be careful and get COOL BURNING SPARKLERS!!!!

Ready for the secret ingredient of timelines?
Two words: Buffer. Time. The key to running a smooth event is to always build in  pockets of buffer time discreetly into to the timeline.

If you look at the example above, there are several areas where I snuck in those little pockets. Most of my clients' ceremonies are only 15-20 minutes long, but I always put 30 minutes for ceremony so that a start time delay doesn't impact the rest of the reception. And like I said before, make sure you talk to your officiant to see just how long their ceremony they have in mind is going to take, because I know for some church weddings it can be much longer.  The grand entrance to first dance will probably take five minutes total, but I definitely rounded up there too.

Something else to think about is you may also find it helpful to create a second, more detailed timeline for your wedding planner or the person coordinating your event. This would include vendor arrival times as well as what time the couple, the bridal party and VIP family members are expected on site, along with some notes about your specific set up instructions.

My final bit of advice is to remember your wedding timeline is a guideline and nothing is set in stone. Short of making sure your food gets served while it's hot and fresh, it's always best to follow the timeline as feels appropriate in the moment. A little flexibility goes a long way and is ultimately the key to enjoying a wedding day that feels natural, comfortable and just plain fun. DO NOT let ANYONE, and I do mean ANYONE... your family.. a vendor.. ANYONE dictate how fast YOUR day goes.. It's about you and your Groom!! Stick your tongue out at them, and go with what you feel is right!!!  Oh!! And as my Pops said when I was growing up.. "Don't sweat the petty stuff." or was it "Don't pet the sweaty stuff."?  HAHAHAHA!! I might have to call him tomorrow to find out for sure... Hmmmmm... 

Love, Light, and Blessings to you and yours, 


JNT Humes Photography, LLC 

As Seen in The Knot Magazine