Wedding Day Timeline: A Step by Step Guide for a Perfect Day

Your marriage celebration is one of the most important days of your life. Therefore, it is essential that you carefully plan your wedding day timeline so that everything runs smoothly, and you are able to enjoy it stress-free from start to finish.

Planning your wedding day schedule allows you to allocate enough time for each event and savor your special day without feeling rushed. It also ensures that your guests are where they need to be at the correct time. To avoid any disasters, make sure you plan your wedding day in advance!

Bridesmaids dressed in light green holding pink flowers and bride posing at the ocean front gazebo
Get ready to plan the perfect wedding day! Photo: PIXAN Photography

Here are a few tips for creating a wedding day timeline that will keep your wedding right on track:

  • Start with the big picture. What time do you want your ceremony to start? When do you want the cocktail hour to begin? When will the dancing start? Once you have an idea of the basic flow of your wedding day, you can start filling in the details.
  • Build in buffer time. Things always take longer than you think they will, so it’s important to consider some buffer time in your timeline. This way, if something does run over, it won’t totally throw off the rest of your schedule.
  • Communicate with everyone involved. Once you’ve finalized your wedding day timeline, be sure to inform everyone, so they are ready too!

Here’s an example of how the wedding day would flow if your ceremony is at 5 pm. Of course, this is 100% customizable to your needs and likes. Use it as a template and add or remove as much as you need.

wedding day timeline schedule

Before you walk down the aisle, enjoy cocktails, and let loose during the reception, learn everything that goes into each event at a destination wedding. The following information is provided by professionals who know what makes weddings work exactly right. So better to take notes!

Getting Ready

Good morning sunshine, it’s your wedding day! Waking up early after a well-rested night gives you the chance to start the day with a relaxed state of mind. Make sure you have a light breakfast so you’re not feeling sluggish, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and keep your skin glowing. Then it’s time to get your hair and makeup done at the salon.

If you choose to rent the bridal suite at the spa, you will have 3 – 4 hours to use the space. Some bridal suites are spacious enough to accommodate all your bridesmaids, make-up artists, and photographers plus, they will offer some light appetizers, drinks, and mimosas to celebrate. Again, drink lots of water throughout the day!

Related: 11 do’s and don’ts for a perfect wedding day.

bridesmaids in pink robes posing for a pic
A special moment with your besties! Photo: 50mm Art Studio

PRO TIP: Ask your photographer to arrive around 30 minutes before you are completely glammed for some getting-ready shots.

Wedding Ceremony

While the traditional wedding ceremony lasts around 30 minutes, destination weddings tend to be a little longer. This allows guests to enjoy the surroundings and take in the beauty of the location. It also gives the couple more time to take part in a family traditional ritual, the wedding processional, to say their vows and exchange rings.

If your goal is to say ”I do” during the golden hour, take note sunset times change according to seasons and locations. For example, sunsets in Cancun and Riviera Maya during summer can go as late as 7:30 pm, so you would want your ceremony to start around 6 pm. On the contrary, sunsets during wintertime will be around 6:15 pm, so you need to start your wedding no later than 5:30 pm!

Jewish beach wedding ceremony
Some traditions may require more or less time, plan accordingly. Photo: Take it Photo

PRO TIP: If you want to synchronize your wedding ceremony, monitor sunset times at any destination, year-round by visiting:


Once the ceremony finishes and you have sealed the deal with a kiss, all your family and friends will want to congratulate you and take lots of pics with you and your partner. Allow a full 30 minutes for this as you will also want to get them all together for a family shot, it can be a little challenging, especially if you have numerous guests and children.

Related: Pro tips from a destination wedding photographer.

Beach destination wedding family pic
Everybody say cheese!

PRO TIP: A first look session is a perfect opportunity to spend an intimate moment just the two of you. You will look your best as you will be freshly groomed, and you will have more time to enjoy after the ceremony with your guests.

Cocktail Hour

The cocktail hour is one of the most important parts of a wedding day timeline. Not only does it give guests a chance to mingle and enjoy some refreshing drinks, but it also gives the wedding couple a chance to take some stunning photos.

The cocktail hour typically lasts one hour and takes place after the ceremony and before the reception, giving everyone a chance to relax and celebrate the new couple. While cocktail hours are not required, they are highly recommended as they add an extra element of fun and excitement to the wedding day.

wedding cocktail hour in a terrace with ocean view during sunset
Refreshing cocktails during a romantic sunset, love it!

PRO TIP: Select a venue close to the ceremony location so the cocktail hour can start right away after the ceremony.


The wedding reception is the perfect time to include your special people in the celebration and to have some fun. Start the festivities with a delicious meal and sweet treats, then move on to some heartfelt speeches, to the cake cutting, and the first dance. Finally, hit the dance floor and strut your stuff!

Usually, wedding packages for destination weddings include 3 hours of reception. Time starts counting from the moment your guests walk into the venue. Think very carefully about the activities you want to include, as they will reduce your party time.

Some resorts will let you book and pay for an extra hour before the event. Do it if you can! This will ensure your party lasts longer, the resort will have enough time to plan the internal operation, and there will be enough staff to cater to your guests.

just married couple first dance with guests around with sparklers
What a significant moment! Photo: Ana Acosta, Palladium

PRO TIP: If you have a large group, choose a buffet-style dinner. Food service will be more dynamic and you will have more time to showcase your best moves on the dance floor!

After Party

The wedding day can be a bit hectic, what with all the photos, speeches, and first dances. But once the wedding is done, it’s time to let loose and celebrate at the after-party!

This is the opportunity to get all your guests together in one place and have a ball! So if you’re looking for a fun and relaxing way to end your wedding day, an after-party is a perfect choice.

If you book that extra hour, that is the time you can include some other special snacks, a churro station, a taco bar, or to close the festivities with a special performance.

wedding after party with colored smoke
Life’s a party and you are invited!

PRO TIP: Save a few hundred by choosing a resort with a nightclub, and finish the night dancing until the wee hours at no extra cost! Find more ways to cut down destination wedding costs.


When it comes to wedding planning, there are a million and one things to think about. But one of the most important things to get right is your wedding day timeline. Why? Because if your wedding day timeline is a mess, your whole wedding day will be a mess.

Wedding day timelines can be tricky to nail down, but with a little careful planning, you can make sure your wedding day runs like clockwork. Contact us today to start organizing your big day!

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