Your Wedding Day Timeline

by | Dec 1, 2020 | News


Want to know the secret to a smooth-flowing wedding? You need to get the timing right! Working out who needs to be where and at what time can be a daunting task. But never fear, we’re here to help. We’ve put together a wedding day timeline to assist you in scheduling enough time for all the elements of your big day.

The following gives time estimates based on the experiences and recommendations from wedding professionals. Clearly every wedding is unique and couples will have varied inclusions. Therefore, we highly recommend you speak with your own venue coordinator and wedding suppliers to customise the timing to suit your personal arrangements.

Wedding Preparations
  • As a rough guide, you’ll need to allow at least two hours for a bride’s hair and makeup. Bridesmaids generally take a little less time, approximately 5 hours. Consider the number of people needing hair and makeup (bride, bridesmaids, flower girls, mothers, etc) and the number of hair stylists and makeup artists that will be present.
  • Getting dressed, putting on shoes, fastening jewellery, and applying perfume all adds up – you won’t want to rush these things. Photographers may be capturing these moments, so expect your usual pace to be slowed down a little to ‘get the shot’.
  • Once ready, you may want to allow time for bridal portraits. Estimate 15 minutes but check with your photographer for specifics.
  • Just like a normal day, add a buffer to get out the door. These 5 minutes can be priceless if there’s been a forgotten clutch or a last-minute dash to the bathroom.
  • Find out how long it will take to travel from where you are getting ready to the ceremony venue. It can be helpful to check this with navigation apps on the same day of the week and at the same time to give a true indication (remember peak time or weekend traffic may drastically change this estimate).

Image: Kate Robinson Photography

  • Before you walk down the aisle, add in the time you wish to be late. Guests typically expect a delay of 10-15 minutes, and this can be helpful especially to cover any late guest arrivals. Your photographer will also want 5-10 minutes to capture your arrival, getting out of the car, and preparing to walk down the aisle.
  • Allow 20-30 minutes for a short-medium length ceremony, or an hour for a full Mass and communion. There are legal requirements for what the officiant/celebrant and couple need to say, along with signing the register. You may also want to allow time for readings, songs, a message, or additional ceremonies (sand, candle, butterfly, dove, handfasting, tea).
  • Allow at least 30 minutes after the ceremony for guest congratulations and family photos. Greeting 20 guests in comparison to 200 guests will obviously change the amount of time needed. This also goes for the size of the extended family and how easily they can follow directions from the photographer.
  • Allow 10 minutes for your bridal party to gather together again, hop into cars, and depart for photos.
  • Add the time it will take to travel to your photo location (for the bridal party) or the reception venue (for guests).

Don’t keep guests waiting too long! Image: Factory51

  • Allow at very minimum an hour for photographs with your bridal party, and/or just the two of you. Whilst some people gawk at the idea of taking photos for an hour or more, it goes quickly! Even with candid snaps, your photographer will still take time in giving you directives.
  • It’s likely you may not have eaten much in the morning, so allow 5 minutes to have a quick snack or drink.
  • If you’re travelling to multiple locations for photographs, factor in the travel time.
  • Add the time it will take to travel to your reception venue.

Image: Kate Robinson Photography

  • Whilst you’ve been having photos taken, your guests will likely have pre-dinner drinks and nibbles. 30-60 minutes is reasonable for a few canapés or platters to be served, along with a glass or two.
  • If you want images of your reception room and styling details then allow your photographer 10 minutes to capture these before guests enter the room.
  • Give guests 10 minutes to enter the room, find their seat, and get settled.
  • Allow 15 minutes for the bridal party entrance and for the MC welcome (includes running through important details such as bathrooms, smoking areas, emergency exits, etc).
  • For a plated wedding, allow 30 minutes for entrées and 45 minutes for mains. This generally covers the amount of time needed to serve guests, have everyone eat (people tend to eat more slowly when they are talking), and to clear plates.
  • For a buffet wedding or a shared feast (like our signature Italian-inspired menu here), allow at least 1 hour.

Let the photographer capture the reception | Image: Factory51

  • When it comes to speeches, don’t underestimate the time! This is the area most likely to blow out at a wedding. Discuss the number of speakers that you’ll have and realistically consider the time limit you’ll give them. You need to allow a minimum of 5 minutes per speaker. If you have big talkers, then adjust their time allocation accordingly. Add a buffer of 5-10 minutes to the overall speech time for speakers changeover or run overtime.
    TIP: If you have a lot of speeches, consider breaking them up rather than having one long block. This can help save time and keep guests’ attention. If you don’t mind staff quietly clearing plates during a speech, then you can start them towards the end of entrées or mains.
  • If you’re wanting to include any cultural or religious traditions, then be sure to include time for them. Whether it’s plate smashing, the money dance, or a devotion, add it to your wedding day timeline!
  • Allow several minutes for cutting the cake. Yes it will only take a few seconds to slice a knife through the cake, however your photographer will want to get a good shot, as may your guests.
  • Allow 30 minutes for dessert. This generally covers the amount of time needed to serve guests, have everyone eat, and to clear plates. Don’t forget that typically dancing follows dessert and so staff are able to clear tables whilst you’re on the dance floor.
  • Dancing time is all determined by you! Traditionally you can allow 5 minutes for the first dance, and 5 minutes for the father-daughter dance (if you’re having one). If you are involved in a choreographed dance with the bridal party, or just the two of you in a medley of songs, you may want to allow more time.
  • If you’re planning to toss the bouquet or throw the garter then allow 10 minutes to gather everyone together.
  • When it comes to goodbyes, start well before you plan to leave. Similarly to post-ceremony congratulations, this process can take 20+ minutes. If farewell circles are not your thing, consider leaving via a tunnel of hands where everyone feels involved.

Keep guests’ attention with short and sweet speeches | Image: Factory51

Your wedding day timeline is the most important go-to document you’ll need. From the photographer to the MC to the venue, it’ll help everyone be on the same page and know what to anticipate. Whilst important, variations to the timeline should be expected… but don’t stress! Have faith in your wedding professionals who know how to adjust on the fly and manage work arounds to ensure it runs smoothly.

If you’re having your ceremony and/or reception at Factory51, our Functions Manager Ellie will help you prepare your wedding day timeline.



07 33240844
51 Holdsworth St Coorparoo QLD