How To Organise A Timeline For Your Wedding Day

Want to oganise a timeline for a wedding day?

Most of us aren’t event planners by trade! So it’s understandable that trying to organise every aspect of your wedding day to make sure that it goes down without a hitch can feel overwhelming. Flesh out a solid run-sheet for your wedding day ahead of time so that you can keep the creeping anxiety of “Holy hell, I have no idea what is going on…” well and truly at bay.

A timeline for a wedding day is not only helpful for you, it’s also really helpful for any staff or vendors that are working together. Having everyone on the same page can be a lifesaver (and a timesaver!).

In my experience, the more planning a couple does before the big day, the more their wedding runs like clockwork. The best part of doing some major planning ahead of time? Your only job during the ceremony and reception will be to enjoy yourself and revel in every moment.

One tip: Try to be realistic when allotting time to each specific section. You don’t want to feel rushed in completing any step. It’s much better to have a little bit of extra time than stressing over a task not being completed. As an overview, your timeline should include:

  • Bride prep photos
  • Groom prep photos
  • Guest arrival at ceremony
  • Bride arrival at ceremony
  • Ceremony commences
  • Ceremony concludes
  • Group photos
  • Family photos
  • Bridal party photos
  • Couple portraits
  • Guests to be seated at reception
  • Bride and groom to enter reception
  • Cutting the cake
  • The first dance
  • Speeches
  • Father/daughter dance
  • Sunset portraits
  • Meals
  • Dancing
  • Exit

Rupert on Rupert wedding Collingwood

Melbourne destination photographer

Additional things to consider when creating your run-sheet, include…

Getting Ready

This step can sometimes be a longer process if you have a larger bridal party where everyone is getting their makeup and hair done. Consider hiring more than one makeup artist and hairdresser. This can make the process more streamlined and save you spending all morning getting ready. And it’s best to get your makeup and hair done last so that you’ll still look fresh when it’s time for the ceremony.

Make sure to coordinate a time with your photographer so they can also capture the groomsmen getting ready. When planning out your timeline for a wedding day, communicate with your makeup and hair artists and work out an estimate of how much time they’ll need to complete their work on your whole wedding party. Then add in a little padded time so that getting ready can be stress-free.

Getting ready photos at a wedding

During The Ceremony

When thinking through the run-sheet for your ceremony, it’s important for you to consider what time of year you’re getting married. For a summer wedding, I recommend having your ceremony later in the afternoon (especially for outdoor ceremonies), as this will give you the best lighting opportunities for your photos. Plus, you won’t want your guests to be uncomfortable in the hot sun, which can happen if your ceremony is booked for midday.

Getting married in winter? I think it’s best to have the ceremony much earlier in the day than you would for a summer wedding so that you don’t lose all the light for your photos. If all of your wedding events are happening indoors or at night, you don’t need to be concerned about when the sun sets.

Also, when planning your wedding schedule, it’s a good idea to leave about one and a half to two hours in between your ceremony and the reception. You don’t want to leave your guests hanging for too long before the party actually starts. If you’re not sure of how much time to allow for the ceremony itself, talk to your wedding planner or whoever is in charge of events at the venue. They can help give you an idea of how much time your ceremony will take so that you can be prepared.

Timeline For a Wedding Day

Taking Portraits

Don’t forget to include portrait-taking time in your wedding timeline. I like to allot 10-15 minutes for a group photo (more if you have a large bridal party), 10-15 minutes for any family photos, and 45 minutes for portraits of the bride and groom. Some photographers can get photos done quicker than 45 minutes, but I’d say this is a good general estimate to ensure you have plenty of time.

melbourne city wedding

If you want your photos taken outside, the later in the day the better. I have to point out that it’s crucial for you to plan travel time on your run-sheet too. Try to think through the little details of what your day will be like – for example, you’re not going to want to take portraits after you’ve been stuck in traffic for hours.

Also, I recommend planning ahead and Googling any special events that might be on your route to the venue. You definitely don’t want to run into any pesky construction or roadblocks on your way! Trust me with this tip! I’ve been caught in heavy traffic due to crazy events like a football game, a marathon, and a protest on my way to venues. Plus, if you’re getting married in the city, you should add an extra 15 minutes to your drive to account for traffic.

If you’re interested in taking portraits at an offsite location, you should factor in driving time, time to park, and the time it might take to find an uncrowded spot to shoot.

During The Reception

To make sure everyone is on the same page, include as many details for your reception on your run-sheet as possible. One thing I love to do is have my bride and groom take 10 minutes out of their reception to snap a few sunset portraits. If you’d like sunset photos, find out exactly when the sun will set on your big day and schedule the time in.

None of my clients have ever regretted taking those 10 minutes for an amazing portrait framed by the sunset. Consider having the photographer capture the formalities at the start of the night so they are free for the sunset!

This can be a great option if you paid for a smaller package or if you don’t need the photographer to stick around all night. I love doing ‘sparkler exits’ or ‘confetti exits’ before the night is over. Adding it to your timeline means your photographer will know exactly when they can leave without missing any important moments.

Timeline For a Wedding Day
rock pool dining
wedding run-sheet

Don’t freak out if everything doesn’t go exactly plan on your wedding day (you can’t control the weather, right?). It’s totally okay to be flexible. In fact, sometimes those improvised moments can turn into the best parts of your celebration.

We can always make things work in the end. Just be sure to keep talking with your photographer and the rest of the staff so everyone can make changes if required. Just leave yourself plenty of buffer space throughout your wedding schedule. That way you have time to sip Champagne and have cuddles with your family. With your wedding timeline in hand, you’ll be able to sit back, relax, and get the very most out of your special day!

Do you have any extra tips? Leave them in the comments below!

Want to know how to get the most of our your wedding prep photos? Good, jump over to this BLOG post here:

How To Get The Most From Your Wedding Prep Photos

Featured in this blog: Rupert on Rupert, Heartbreak Hotel

Leave a comment

  1. Kevin says:

    some great tips here! Thanks for the inspiration

  2. Lei Lei Clavey says:

    Great tips Jai!! I know as a past bride that the timeline can be super daunting so this advice is really helpful.

    Lei x


  3. Jasmine Anderson says:

    Super helpful! Love your work!

  4. Tanya Velazquez says:

    Great tips, Jai! I like the idea of having a cocktail hour for the guest between the ceremony and actual reception. It gives the couple time for portraits and entertains the guest. Even with Coivd I’m sure a small cocktail hour with awesome drinks would do the trick!

  5. Bec says:

    Great tips. It feels like you have so much time but time can go so quickly too.

  6. Isaac says:

    The reminder for the sun setting is such so helpful for good lighting especially during the different seasons! Thanks for the useful tip!

  7. Sally says:

    AWESOME tips Jai & very helpful for all the brides & grooms out there!

  8. Loop Studios says:

    This post should be a must for any DIY wedding, I mean, for most of them is the first time they’re gonna get married and it’s so easy to tend to underestimate timings.

  9. Rachel Gutierrez says:

    Great tips! I also suggest couples pop on their invites a fake 15-20 minute earlier start time to allow for guests parking, traffic and latecomers. That way we tend to stay on schedule much easier. 🙂

  10. Kyle Ingram says:

    Love it Jai! Super helpful and informative!