Making sure you have plenty of time for everything that needs to get done on the day of your wedding is very important. However, since you’ve probably never gone through the motions, it can seem a little confusing or overwhelming. Sure, you could fork out a bunch of money to have a wedding planner on hand to coach you through the timeline. But, that can eat up a lot of precious wedding budget. Additionally, it can make your wedding less personal and more “run of the mill” feeling. Instead, take a few moments to put together your own timeline for the perfect wedding day. Make is customized for your personal wants and needs. Below you will find a generic timeline for a standard wedding that should help you put together one that is uniquely yours.

Getting Ready for your Perfect Wedding Day

Getting ready for the main event is very important; especially for the bride! Make sure to allot at least one hour for the bride’s hair to allow you to tweak any mistakes as necessary. It should take less time, but it’s better to allot too much time than not enough.

The bride’s make-up will vary in the time it takes to complete. However, a good rule is to allot around 45 minutes. This will ensure plenty of time to get it right without feeling rushed.

For the bridesmaids, you should give them about 30 minutes for their hair and 45 minutes for their makeup. This should be more than enough time since they usually will be doing a lot less than the bride. Plus, the extra time they have can be devoted to helping her out instead. Also, the bridesmaids should start with their hair first while the bride does her makeup. Then switch to make sure there is plenty of time for the bride’s hair.

When Should the Photographer Arrive?

Though there is a little bit of personal preference involved, most brides will want the photographer to show up about an hour before she starts getting ready. That ensures they can have their game plan all figured out in advance. That way, the photographer can focus on capturing her preparation and every other aspect of the big day. Also, this will give the photographer time to capture pictures of things like the shoes, gown, and tiara before they are being put on the bride.

Furthermore, it gives them time to plan out shots. If you’re having a wedding exit, they can check out the area it will happen. Similarly, it will give them a chance to adjust to the lighting in your venue. The more time your photographer has to prepare, the better it will be.

Pre-Ceremony Photos

Pre-ceremony photos usually consist of the bride with her family and bridesmaids as well as the groom with his family and groomsmen. The time you should allot will depend on how many shots for each group you want. But, typically you can expect around 3 minutes per photo. The most important thing is to make sure you have enough time to get the bride to the photo shoot location without the groom seeing her. Keeping the “suspense” is crucial for the perfect wedding day experience.

When Does the Groom Arrive?

Though this is also a matter of personal preference, having the groom and groomsmen arrive around 1 ½ hours before the ceremony is plenty of time in advance. Since guys typically don’t put on makeup, this should be plenty of time to get into their tuxedos looking perfect, style their hair, and take pictures. Then they can go entertain the guests.

When Does the Bride Arrive?

Usually the bride and her bridesmaids will arrive about an hour before the ceremony. Since they are coming straight from getting ready and won’t be seeing any of the guests in advance, it’s essentially just a waiting game. So, the less time between arrival and the ceremony the better; you just don’t want to cut it too close or she may feel rushed.

IMage of a Wedding Invitation with the Timeline of Events Printed on itCeremony and Other Components for a Perfect Wedding Day

Ideally, you don’t want the wedding ceremony to go too long; but also not too short. You should aim for around 30 minutes if at all possible. However, this can vary depending on what the ceremony will include. After the ceremony, there is usually a receiving line where the newly married couple meets and greets their guests. Optionally, some people prefer an activity like a send-off line where your guests hold wedding sparklers up as you head for the reception. You should figure in about 1½ minutes for every ten guests you have at the ceremony, so around 15 minutes if you invited 100 people.

Photo Shoot

After the ceremony, you can take the rest of the wedding photos that include the bride and groom together. You don’t want more than an hour or so in between the ceremony and reception, so try to have all the other photos complete so you can fit them all in this time frame. If you simply must take more time, consider allowing your guests to go back to the reception hall and get started on some mingling and cocktails.


According to most wedding planners, the ideal length of a wedding reception is around six hours total in length. This allows for an hour of socializing with cocktails, two hours for dinner and speeches, and three hours for dancing and cocktails. Also, doing large photo shoots of your guests and classmates is best to do at the reception. After all, everyone will be in the room at the same time so it takes less coordinating for your photographer.

A timeline for a perfect wedding day is not something you can read from a book. Every couple is different, so should your order of events at your wedding. Hopefully, this guide helps you on your planning journey!