How to Create your Wedding Day Timeline

Wedding Day Timeline Example

Wedding Day Timeline Example

It’s hard to make an informed decision about a service provider without the information you need to help you determine how to move forward. You’re going to be inquiring into many service providers and they’ll have many questions. Time is money so having your timeline locked and loaded early on in the process will guide you along your journey with little overwhelm to avoid hundreds of unnecessary emails and inaccurate proposals and quotes.

“Your wedding should be uniquely you and not what Pinterest says it should be” - Michelle, CEO of Michelle Isabel & Co

In today’s post I’m going to provide you with a wedding day timeline example. If you want to get into the nitty gritty of your timeline you can start reading “Wedding Timeline Planning”. However, if you’re only in the beginning stages of your planning journey, you’ll want to start here because you won’t have all the information you need to be able to go through the series.

Let’s start by breaking down your day into 5 parts:

  1. Set up

  2. Ceremony

  3. Cocktail Hour

  4. Reception

  5. Breakdown


Set up is all about listing out the times that your vendors will be arriving. This will also include very fool proof instructions for executing whatever service they are providing.

For example: If you hired a alcohol delivery service, you’ll want to input their delivery and pick time on the timeline. Under the delivery time you’ll need to input what they are supposed to be providing so you can go down the list to make sure they brought what was contracted for. I can’t tell you how many times the rental order arrived with missing chairs, the cake was the wrong color, the ceremony petals were not set up, the draping was all wrong etc. Having these very detailed and documented notes is imperative to you not arriving and pointing out all that was incorrect.

Here is a screenshot from one of my timelines outlining the photos list on the timeline. Our timeline is SO limited during cocktail hour the photographer and I sat there just calling out names and wrangling family members.

Wedding Day Schedule

Wedding Day Schedule



The ceremony is all about making sure that everything is set and ready for when your guests begin to arrive. Chairs, reserved signs, officiant, music, ushers etc should be cued up and ready to go one hour before your ceremony start time. This gives your photographer time to document every detail because it’s unlikely that you’ll get to see your details as you’ll be busy walking down the aisle locking eyes with your bestie waiting for you at the end!

Pro Tip: Your early birds will arrive 45 mins before the ceremony start time and the remainder will arrive 30 minutes to 10 minutes before. I usually close the ceremony 10 minutes before so people aren’t interrupting the service or walking across the aisle right before you’re supposed to walk down the aisle.

Pro Tip: Your ceremony music should not be starting right on time but rather at least 30 minutes before your ceremony start time as guests begin to arrive. If it’s silent upon their arrival it’s like riding a crowded elevator without elevator music.


The cocktail hour is all about managing and welcoming the big crowd of guests charging at the bar to quench their thirst while hounding down the servers for the tasty coconut shrimp. Or is that just me?! This is also the limited opportunity we have to wrangle all the family and the wedding party to do your formal photos.

Pro tip: If you decided on a First Look than this time will mostly be photos of you two and then you can join the cocktail hour.


The reception is the most complicated part of the whole production process. Guests need to be sat at the right time, the chefs need to be cued, the servers need to be ready, the bar needs to shut down so people stop lining up, the wedding party needs to be wrangled, the bride and groom need to “powder their noses,” and the DJ needs to be ready with names and music to introduce you. It’s a whole organized but chaotic fiasco.


Lastly is the breakdown which is all about making sure that you leave the property or venue the way you found it. My team and I normally start this 1.5 hours before the end of your event. Otherwise we wouldn’t be off of the property on time and overtime fees ensue. To make sure this part runs as smoothly as possibly, the rule of thumb for breakdown is if you brought it in, you take it back with you. If the ceremony arch was assembled by the floral designer, it’s the floral designers responsibility to break it down and return the area to how they found it. The caterers need to break down their kitchen prep area and leave it spotless. The DJ needs to breakdown his station and then we, the planners, normally do a final walkthrough with the venue to make sure we get the final sign off. We’re normally the first on site to make sure that set up is flawless and stay for breakdown to make sure you don’t forget anything or lose your venue deposit.

Here is what the above translates into:

Hair and Makeup [duration: 2.5 hours (bride only)]

Transportation arrives for pick up

Groom departs for ceremony

Bride departs for ceremony

Planner arrives for setup / Vendor team checks in [duration: 2 - 15 hours]

Ceremony begins [duration: 45 mins]

Processional [duration: 10 mins]

Recessional [duration: 5 mins]

Bride/Groom Photos, Wedding Party Photos and Family Photos

Cocktail Hour [duration: 45 mins]

Reception [duration: 4 hours]

Dinner, Dessert [duration: 1.5 hours]

Dancing [duration: 1 - 2 hours]

Final venue walkthrough [duration: 25 mins]

If you’d like to know how to flesh this out a little more with the nitty gritty details, you can check out “Wedding Timeline Planning.

There you have it. Now you’re ready to go forth and conquer your wedding day timeline. You now have a guide that will help you inquire into services, answer questions about the services needed and the hours vendors are required to perform, and you’ll be able to gather accurate quotes to avoid pay overtime fees in the future.

Do you feel that you need help to flesh this out a little more for your big day? Do you feel a little lost or that you wouldn’t be able to execute this timeline properly? We know the whole process is overwhelming and complicated. I built this business to serve and guide you along the way so if you’d like to work with us you can click the “Let’s Chat” button below. If you’re ready for more planning tips and advice, you’ll want to subscribe to our newsletter below.

Happy Planning.

Wedding Day Schedule

Wedding Day Schedule