Whether doing schedules is your secret superpower, or you’re more of a freestyling spirit, the only thing that will save your big day from chaos is preparing wedding day timings in advance. It’s the only way to make it flow at exactly the right pace. And if you don’t prepare, you could be weeping into your white hankie as soon as you get out of bed.
We’ve gone and made it simple for you! Here are suggested wedding day timings with your mum and two bridesmaids in attendance. And below, you’ll find a sample timeline for a 1pm ceremony. Of course, all this can be tweaked and adjusted according to your own schedule for the day, and how many maids you have. Let’s go!
45 minutes – nice and easy, breakfast and shower. Yes, many brides say ‘I’ll be too nervous to eat anything!’, but not eating is simply not an option. Realistically, you could end up having no food at all until you sit down at the reception. No bride has ever regretted eating breakfast – but many have regretted not eating it.
15 minutes – allow this window for bridesmaids and mum to arrive, if they’re not staying with you overnight.
45-60 minutes – allow this for bridal makeup. Your makeup artist will tell you exactly how long this will take.
Photo from Rana & Andrew’s real wedding by The Fennells
60 minutes – bridesmaid and mum makeup and hair, at least, per person. These usually don’t take as long as the bridal look to complete. Remember: if you’re having a hairstylist and makeup artist, they will work at the same time, so it should take around an hour and a half to prepare three people.
45-60 minutes – bridal hair. Again, the hairstylist will be able to advise, especially if she was the one doing the trial.
Top tip: is there an assistant coming to help with the hair and makeup? If so, everything will be done much more quickly. Ask about this when you’re booking a trial and getting a quote for the service.
20 minutes – allow this extra time for prep and after-prep photo time.
30 minutes for a complicated gown – corseted, lots of buttons, multi-piece underwear. When you go to the bridal shop for the final fitting, clock the time it takes them to get you into the gown, then add at least 15 more minutes as doing it at home will take a bit longer.
20 minutes for a simpler gown – like a zipped one, with simpler undergarments.
Photo from Miriam & Robert’s real wedding by Eric Molimard Photography
15 minutes – have a breather, make sure you have everything you need (like emergency kit, brollies, wellies if needed for outdoor photos, your phone, etc)
Top tip: schedule double travel time. If the church is 15 minutes’ drive away, book the limo driver 30 minutes in advance. It’ll help in case of any unexpected delays. Or if you end up running perfectly on schedule, you’ll have this little window of time to relax.
5-10 minutes – before ceremony starts. Get out of the car without rushing, double-check hair on a windy day, hold dad’s hand, get bridesmaids in order. But allow…
… 30 minutes – if you’re having ‘first look’ photos with your other half.
60 minutes – full mass in church, or…
… 40 minutes – ceremony at the registrar’s office – they’ll be able to tell you in advance how much time the proceedings take, or…
… 30 minutes – humanist/celebrant ceremony of your choice. As this is the most flexible of all marriage options and entirely planned by you, the timings are all yours to decide.
Click here to read our complete guide to arranging all three types of ceremonies
Photo from Oriel & Niall’s real wedding by Emma Russell Photography
45 minutes – for after-ceremony photos. Ask the photographer what they recommend, this can vary depending on where your shots are being taken and if you’ve had a first look. And you must take into consideration the extra time it’ll take to walk around the venue, if you’re having the romantic ‘walk in the woods’ images taken as well.
Top tip: if your photographer has already worked at, or visited, your ceremony and reception venue, they’ll already know the best spots for photos. Appoint one bridesmaid and one usher to help find the right members of your family for the photographer.
30 minutes – travel from ceremony to reception venue.
60 minutes – allow this much time for all the guests to arrive, park, settle in, find their seats. And here’s where you serve canapés, nibbles and drinks. The guests are probably getting peckish now.
Top tip: consider hiring a bus to transport everyone together between the venues. No latecomers!
30-45 minutes – speeches. Of course this can vary greatly (some go on for an hour, some less), but inevitably, they always run over.
Photo from Aising & Michael’s real wedding by Aindreas Lynch, ATL Photography
120 minutes – dinner is served, mingling with guests.
When finished – it’s party time!
Sample wedding day timings for 1pm ceremony
To arrange wedding day timings for your particular schedule, start from ceremony time and work backwards to figure out the morning, then work forwards to arrange the rest of the day.
7.30am – 8am – bride gets up and has brekkie. Mum and two bridesmaids arrive
8.15am – start mum and bridesmaid hair and makeup. The hair stylist may prefer to start working on bride’s hair in between helping mum and bridesmaids, just to make sure it’s perfect.
9-9.30am – photographer arrives
9.45am – start bride makeup
11.15am – bride gets into gown
11.45am – ready to leave. Limo/car arrives
12pm – leave home
12.30 – arrive at ceremony venue. First look photos
1pm – ceremony
2pm – ceremony finish. This will be quicker if it’s not a full mass in church
3pm – photos finish. Leave for reception venue
3.30pm – arrive at reception venue for drinks reception
4pm – 5pm – guests continue arriving, drinks, canapés, nibbles, photos
5pm – speeches
5.50pm – dinner
When finished – it’s party time!
Photo from Kelly & Gavin’s real wedding by Owen Farrell Photography
Main photo from Ashley & Michael’s real wedding by Peter & Aurelia – Fleeting Moments Photography
The following two tabs change content below.
If you think the bride should always have the last word, then Rachel is on your side! A devoted fan of everything quirky, unusual, colourful or crafty, she loves scouting WOL's real weddings for unique and fun touches. When not gazing at pictures, she's dispensing no-nonsense advice on everything from reception entrance songs to bridesmaid problems.