Updated: Mar 20
Let's talk about the schedule for your wedding day.
Odds are, in order to function cohesively, you and and your vendors are going to need a somewhat organized schedule for your wedding day. And, unless you have a wedding planner or have been working in the wedding industry, you might be a little lost over where to start. But fret no more! I've filmed countless weddings and even had my own wedding. Thus, I know exactly what a wedding day entails and am going to share with you a typical day-of itinerary.
There is a sort of art to creating a satisfactory wedding day itinerary. A good schedule is helpful, but not too constricting. It plans in enough of a cushion in case anything runs long. And, it helps the day flow like a well-told story. I've nailed all of these things down in the schedule I am about to share with you. Do note that the following schedule isn't going to focus on the arrival times of key vendors - videographer, photographer, officiant, DJ, hair/makeup, flowers, food - but more on the events that you and your guests will be participating in. Okay, let's look at it.
9:00 AM - Start Getting Ready
This starting time will vary greatly depending on what you and your wedding party need. However, 9AM is generally a good start time. I won't go into much detail about this other than plan in enough time for snack breaks and for all your bridesmaids to get their hair & makeup done.
2:00 PM - Bride Puts Dress On
Every other part of getting ready can sort of happen as it needs to. But not the dress. Your videographer and photographer need to be present for this, as well as the mother-of-the-bride and the maid of honor. This is also about the time that the guys will start to get ready.
2:30 PM - Father-of-the-Bride & Bride First Look
You can fit in any combination of first looks - bridal party, dog, mother, father, etc. - that you want. I do recommend not going too crazy with it because it will eat up more time than you think.
2:45 PM - Bride & Groom First Look
I love when the bride & groom do a first look. It makes the first time you guys see each other more intimate, it creates extra space for the two of you to soak the day in together, it allows you to hang out with one another sooner in the day, and it helps your videographer and photographer to get some shots of the two of you ahead of time. A first look is especially important so that bridal party shots can be taken before all of the guests arrive. I know that a first look isn't for everyone, but it's beneficial in a lot of ways if you do end up going that direction.
3:00 PM - Bridal Party Photos
This should only take about 45 minutes if the photographer and bridal party are somewhat organized.
4:00 PM - Chill
This is spare time planned in incase anything runs long. If nothing does though, then it's time for the bride, groom, and their bridal party to catch a breath and get another drink in (or sober up) before the ceremony. This is also a great time to fit in any sort of group prayer!
4:30 PM - Ceremony
An average ceremony lasts around 15 to 20 minutes. If you plan on 30 minutes then that allows room for any late starts or other hiccups.
5:00 PM - Cocktail Hour & Family Photos
While you take family photos (and bridal party photos if you didn't do that before), your guests can enjoy drinks and appetizers. Unless you have twenty people in each of your immediate families, this should only take about 45 minutes. Make sure your photographer has a pre-approved list from you of exact shots to get. If there's extra time at the end, you can go and mingle with your guests before dinner.
6:00 PM - Dinner
An hour is enough time for everyone to be served or go through the buffet line. It also gives most of your vendors a little break before getting back to work. Plan on your vendors getting food after the bridal party but before the guests (if you're doing it buffet style).
7:00 PM - Speeches
For the love of everything, limit the speeches to 3 or 4 people (best man, maid-of-honor, and one parent on each side). Make sure those people are prepared beforehand. Also, limit those speeches to around 3 minutes. I couldn't tell you the number of 15 minute father-of-the bride speeches that I've sat through. Guests don't love it and you won't either.
7:15 PM - Cake Cutting
This is one of those random traditions that doesn't have a lot of purpose but is fun. You and your now spouse will cut the first piece and then feed one another. One of your trusted guests that isn't in the bridal party or immediate family will typically cut the rest of the cake.
7:30 PM - First Dances
A classic order for these dances is bride & groom, bride's father & bride, and then groom's mother & groom.
8:00 PM - Sunset Video & Photos w/ Bride & Groom
This is arguably the most important part of the day (other than the ceremony) for your videographer and photographer. This is where they will get those vital portrait shots at golden hour. Plan to do this at least 30 minutes before sunset - around 45 minutes total. Do not settle for only getting shots in the middle of the day, that lighting is rough. Trust me, you'll want to utilize golden hour. Obviously the sunset time will depend on the day you're getting married so you'll have to do a little research. This is also a great time for you and your spouse to step away from the guests and catch a breath. And, in the mean time, your guests will be eating dessert, drinking, and dancing.
9:00 PM - Dancing
Get loose! Get crazy! Hang out with your guests and have fun!
9:15 PM - Bouquet & Garter Toss
Now these are both somewhat dated, but you can definitely still include them in your day if they're special to you. They each only take a few minutes and then you just pick up dancing right after.
11:00 PM - Sparkeler Exit
A lot of people don't do an actual big exit. If they want the classic sparkler exit footage/photos then they plan in a faux one earlier in the day. This is because your videographer and photographer don't need 2 hours of dancing content and will usually be done about 30 minutes into dancing.
One important point I would like to make is make sure your DJ knows to communicate with your videographer AND your photographer. It is the DJ's job to make sure those two vendors are aware of the next impending activity. If the photographer is on a bathroom break and the DJ starts the first dances, do not blame the photographer for missing the dances.
With all of this in mind, if you want the majority of the important parts of your wedding day filmed and photographed, then you should plan to hire your videographer and photographer for at least 8 hours. If want every important part captured and nothing to be rushed then plan on 10 hours. And, of course, if you just want the bare minimum captured, then 6 hours works great. It all depends on what's important to you!
Lastly, know that this is just a general itinerary. If you want more or less items added into your day then that's completely up to you. Make sure you plan in travel times if the getting ready or any photos/video is being done off location. Happy planning!