Your Wedding Timeline: How to Schedule your Big Day

guide for how to schedule your wedding timeline

Knowing how to schedule your wedding timeline can sometimes feel like doing a 1000-piece puzzle. You have a vague idea of what the end product should look like, but it takes hours of formulating to get all the correct pieces in order.

When you are investing a large amount of money on one big day, it is well within your interests to make sure it’s all going to run smoothly. But you’ll soon come to realise that there is a plethora of conflicting advice from your venue, your wedding photographer and your mum’s best friend.

I’m going to show you how to put together a run sheet that flows well, doesn’t leave your guests with too much spare time and allows breathing room in case of any delays.

1: Work backwards from sunset

I generally recommend working backwards from sunset as a starting point to work out the ideal timing of your day. Keep this in mind when choosing a date for your wedding.

To find out the time of sunset, simply search “sunset” plus the date and location of the wedding. For example, if you type “sunset 21st october 2022, sydney” into Google you will see the sun is scheduled to go down at 7:13 PM.

One of the most important factors in “pretty” photos is working with the best light available. That means that if you are wanting to take your portrait photos outdoors, the “golden hour” leading up to sunset is the best time of day.

I recommend crafting a wedding timeline so that your portraits photos are happening as close to sunset as possible. For a more exact way of finding your sense time, try the Sun Surveyor app, which gives accurate sun movements using augmented reality so you can where the sun will be through your camera lens on any given day/time.

Note: if your sunset is late at night, say after 7:30 PM, then you may like to schedule your portraits earlier in the afternoon and simply set aside 10 minutes at sunset for you and your new spouse to run outside and take a few more photos in that glorious golden light.

2: Ceremony length and scheduling

The length of your ceremony will naturally affect the time you (and your guests) will arrive. Most Australian wedding ceremonies go for 15-30 minutes, however, if you are getting married in a church, or having extra readings or songs featured during the ceremony then the formalities may take a little longer.

Don’t forget that after the ceremony, your guests will want to come up and give you hugs and kisses and take some photos with you. Try to account for this time by giving yourselves a 15-20 minute buffer as to not rush to the next thing.

3: Wedding locations and travel time

If possible, try to choose a location that allows you to do as much as possible on-site. Consider also getting ready on-site, or close to where the wedding will be held. This will save you time on the day, and reduce any stress associated with potential traffic. Having your partner stay nearby can make things easier if people need to travel between the two. Airbnb always has great options!

4: Chat to your photographer about your wedding schedule

Your photographer is the most knowledgeable person to speak to about this topic, as they will be able to give you advice based on the hundreds of weddings they’ve been to. Every wedding timeline is going to be different, accounting for whether the sun is setting at 8:30PM or at 4:30PM. Working with a professional photographer to make the most of your time will save you from stressing out in the lead-up, or even worse, on the day itself.

Let’s look at an example wedding schedule:

  • Sunset: In this hypothetical example of a wedding time, we’ll plan for sunset to be at 6:30pm. In this case, we ideally want to schedule the portrait photos sometime between 5:40pm and 6:40pm.
  • Family photos: Working backwards, it would make sense to schedule some family photos at 5pm, allowing plenty of time for hugs and kisses.
  • Ceremony: Assuming the length is an average 20 minute ceremony, let’s schedule it to begin at 4:30pm, giving us some breathing room if things run a tad late.
  • Arrival: Guests should be encouraged to arrive between 4pm and 4:15pm.

Jumping forward:

In this example, you may then consider starting your wedding reception at 6:30pm for the happy couple to join at 6:45 with a big entrance. Try to intertwine your meals with speeches, cake cutting and any other formalities you are planning.

Dancing: It’s best to have all of your formalities finished before you begin the dancing to not interrupt the flow of the night too much. In this example, I think you’ll be ready to hit the dancefloor at 9:30pm.

Let’s summarise this timeline:

4:00PM | Guest Arrival
4:30PM | Ceremony
5:00PM | Hugs, Kisses & Family Photos
5:30PM | Canapes/Cocktail Hour
5:40PM | Portrait Photos
6:30PM | Reception
6:45PM | Couple’s Entrance
7-9PM | Dinner and speeches
9:10PM | Cake Cutting
9:15PM | First Dance
And onwards | Dancefloor

To summarise this article, here are the key points:

  • Knowing how to schedule your wedding timeline can be tricky without the right information to guide you
  • Sunset is the first piece of information you need to start your timeline planning.
  • The second thing you need to know is how long your ceremony will go for.
  • Finally, you will need to account for any travel time required between locations on the wedding day.

wedding timeline sunset golden hourPhotos featured are Abby & Amit, Sophie & Calum, and Liv & Jess.

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Henry Paul Photography is a place where all couples are affirmed and celebrated, regardless of their age, gender identity, sexuality, race, religion or disability.

Henry Paul Photography acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. I pay my respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, and to Elders both past and present. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website may contain images or names of people who have since passed away.


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