Tips for the Perfect Wedding Timeline - Sherry Berona

Believe it or not, a wedding timeline can make or break your day. Not planning out the proper amount of time for getting ready, first look photos, cocktail hour, or dinner toasts, for example, can create big issues! But who should you trust to create a smooth wedding day timeline? A Wedding Coordinator! Hiring a professional Day-Of Coordinator ensures you have someone to create a plan that has been tried and proven successful. They know what works best, and how much time to allot for certain elements of the day.

What else does a Day-Of Coordinator do besides create your day-of timeline? On your wedding day, the main role of a Coordinator is to ensure that your plans are carried out smoothly and to discretely handle any problems that may arise. They are the liaison with all of your vendors – the venue, catering manager, decorators, florist, entertainment, photographer and parents. They pull the pieces of the puzzle together. With a capable Coordinator watching over the details of the day, you can enjoy all the special moments with your family and friends without stressing. Not only should you want to relax on your wedding day, those closest to you should as well! Entrust your special day to a wedding professional with the experience and flexibility to handle any last-minute changes that may come up, so you can enjoy your celebration!

Here are some tips to help you get started with you timeline:


1. Getting Ready

Plan on at least 3 hours for brides, and at least 1 hour for grooms. 

Whether you decide to get ready together or separately, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to eat something, get hair/makeup done, get dressed, and enjoy the company of those you are spending time with. A lot of couples choose to have their photographer get pictures of them getting ready. If you are getting ready separately from your spouse, ask your photographer to bring a second shooter so you can have pictures of the both of you getting ready in your wedding album.


2. First Look

Plan on 1-2 hours.

A first look is when the wedding couple sees each other all dressed before the ceremony. Typically couples use this time to have a private moment together before the craziness of the day really begins. Your photographer will get beautiful pictures of you two seeing each other for the first time on your wedding day, and typically they will offer to do the majority, if not all, of your formal portraits during this time. Some couples even choose to have their bridesmaids and groomsmen at the first look, and they can finish formal wedding party portraits before the ceremony even begins.


3. Ceremony

Approximately 5-60 minutes.

Don't forget about the time it takes to drive to the ceremony site. Ceremonies typically last anywhere from 5-60 minutes. Your wedding planner will time your wedding rehearsal so they can plan for the after-ceremony events accurately.   


4. Cocktail Hour, Family/ Wedding Party/ Bride & Groom Photos

Plan on 60-90 minutes.

Immediately after the ceremony, your officiant should ask your immediate family and wedding party to hang back and excuse the rest of your guests to go attend cocktail hour. Many couples do not attend their own cocktail hours, as it is intended to give the guests something to do while the couple takes care of pictures. If you desire to attend your cocktail hour, it may be a good idea for you to have a first look and finish formal photos before the ceremony begins.

If you have specific photo combinations you don't want to forget, make a list ahead of time and email it to your photographer. 

After formal family and wedding party portraits are finished, your photographer will take romantic pictures of you and your spouse and get you back to the reception in time for your grand entrance.


5. Grand Entrance

5 minutes.

The grand entrance brings marks the beginning is the reception. Pick your favorite song and dance into the room to welcome your guests!


6. First Dance

Unless you have something extra special planned, it should take about 5 minutes. 

Jumping right from the grand entrance into the first dance is a good way to keep your guests' attention. Keep it traditional with a 3-5 minute song, or do something different that's sure to go viral the next day!


7. Welcome/Blessing, Dinner, & Speeches

Plan on 60 minutes.

The welcome/blessing usually takes less than 5 minutes, dinner is about 30 minutes, and the speeches/toasts will take 15-30 minutes, depending on how many people are scheduled to speak. It's nice to time the toasts after everyone has their food, but you don't have to wait until everyone is finished eating. 


8. Father/Daughter & Mother/Son Dances

Plan for about 10 minutes.



9. Cake Cutting/Bride & Groom Thank You Speech

Plan on 5-10 minutes.

If you have a traditional cake, someone should cut it up for guests right after you and your spouse cut your piece. Some couples do a small cake for cutting, and the have cupcakes for their guests. Looking for cake ideas? Check out Sherry Berona Photography's Wedding Cakes board on pinterest HERE.  


10. Bouquet/Garter Toss/Special Dances

Plan on 10 minutes for the bouquet toss and garter toss. Special dances could be 3-5 minutes per dance. The money/honeymoon dance is usually around 30 minutes long.


11. Open Dancing

This will last till the end of the night. 

A fun way to get people on the dance floor is to tell your DJ and your photographer that you want to take a group photo on the dance floor. The DJ will make an announcement and get your guests on the dance floor for the group photo and immediately start playing upbeat dancing music once the photo is taken. 

If you want a romantic moonlit night shot, consider sneaking away from dancing for about 5-10 minutes with your photographer for your last formal pictures.


Planning enough time for everything you want to do on your wedding day is so important. It lets you know how long you will need your photographer & videographer, when the cake and flowers should arrive and when you should be done getting ready. Following the guidelines above will definitely help you get started, but a wedding coordinator will be with you from start to finish, ensuring your day goes as planned.


Looking for a wedding coordinator? Check out Haley Simon Events!

Download a sample wedding timeline HERE

or a blank wedding timeline HERE


Written by Sherry Berona & Haley Simon

Photos by Sherry Berona Photography