Perhaps you’ll agree with me when I say that on your wedding day, there are certain things we cannot control. Therefore, one of the key things we can do to prepare for a seamless wedding day is to create a VERY detailed wedding day timeline! IMHO planning ahead is key, and the more details you include the better for everyone involved.
The best place to start working on your wedding day timeline is to create an initial draft of when important events throughout the day should flow. For example, I recommend starting the wedding ceremony approximately 60-90 minutes before sunset. In doing so, our Bride and Groom can enjoy some cocktails, and still have time to capture an amazing sunset photo shoot.
Here’s an outlay of a first draft timeline for a Los Cabos June wedding. A Summer-time sunset in the Baja is around 8:00 pm, so we can plan our ceremony for 6:30 pm, knowing that it lasts around 30 minutes. Most Los Cabos wedding venues have a curfew of 11:00 pm, with some 12am venue exceptions and others will allow you to party into the wee hours of the morning. These types of time constraints will also guide you throughout your timeline formulation.
Shown below is an example of a detailed agenda:
Timeline (Draft #1)
11:00 AM First Things First – Time To Get Ready!
Getting ready for the main event is oftentimes the most fun part of the day. To be able to enjoy the company of your bridesmaids, groomsmen and family is a blessing and a chance to enjoy each and every moment
Hair & Makeup Tip: Liaise with your hair & bridal make-up team to share any particular styling requests with them and get a good gauge on how much time will be needed to complete each person’s look.
Create a schedule that you can share with bridesmaids, Mother of the bride and groom, and anyone else who needs to know when and where they need to be to get their hair and make-up done.
Be sure to stress the importance of people showing up on time for their appointment to avoid chaos or upset! Be clear with your instructions and ensure you’re including the instructions on how to get to the physical location of their appointments.
12:00 PM BRUNCH / SNACKS
Delegation on a wedding day is key! Assign a bridesmaid or the Maid of Honor (MOH) to be in charge of organizing the food portions or you can choose to collaborate with the hotel ahead of time so food can be served effortlessly while you are getting ready. (Don’t forget to eat something while you get ready!)
An essential tip for your big day: the MOH should be in charge of taking care of the rings before the ceremony. The reason for this is because commonly the photographer will want to include them in the pre-ceremony photo shoot. The MOH can pass the rings on to the best man prior to the ceremony starting.
4:00 – 4:15 PM PHOTOSHOOT OF BRIDAL PARTY HAIR & MAKE UP COMPLETE
This is an incredibly special moment on a wedding day. Adorned with matching robes, pajamas, or sundresses, the bridal party can toast to the fun day ahead, which the photographer takes a few photos. These photographs can turn out to be some of the best of the entire day!!
5:00 PM PHOTOGRAPHY TIMELINE & FIRST LOOK
Creating a good photography timeline is essential to the wedding day flowing effortlessly. Many brides and grooms will decide to have a private ‘first look’ photography session.
A first look is that magical moment where you see your significant other before the wedding ceremony begins. The greatest perk of doing this is that the time post-ceremony can be spent taking photos of both families together, some sunset shots, enjoying mariachi music and cocktail hour.
Photography Timeline Example
3:00 pm Photographers arrive at Bride’s room as they are finishing hair & make-up. Pictures taken of details (rings, invitations, dress, jewelry, and other special details) along with Bride & Bridesmaids in robes.
3:30 pm Bride into the dress (a great photo opportunity – so consider this when purchasing your undergarments!).
3:50 pm Second Photographer goes to Groom’s room for pictures with him and groomsmen.
Pro-Tip: Give the names of the people the photographer will be taking photos of. The photographer can call them by name allowing them to quickly “strike a pose.”
Cliffnotes for Photographer Example:
- Groom’s Photos Before the Ceremony:
- Groom + Groomsman (Individuals as well)
- Andy + Groom
- Cliff + Groom, Andy, Seth
- Family Photo (Mother, Father, Brothers, and Sisters)
- Bridal Photos Before the Ceremony
- Bride + Bridesmaids (Individuals as well)
- Erik + Bride
- Bride + Ashley, Carole, Mollie (Individuals)
- Family (Mother, Father, Brothers, and Sisters)
5:00 pm First Look – Bride & Groom Portraits
6:00 pm Details of the ceremony setup
6:30 pm Ceremony
7:00 pm 1 Group Photo after the ceremony with all guests (Optional)
7:05 pm Cocktails! Group/Individual Family Photos (Include names here too!) followed by Sunset Shoot for Bride and Groom
7:40 pm Reception! Décor pictures before guests take their seats
8:00 pm -11:00 pm Grand entrance, dances, speeches, cake cutting, and party
12:00 am Photographers and Videographers depart
6:30 PM CEREMONY & PROCESSIONAL
Note all set-up details in the timeline: including, flowers, chairs, etc. It’s also imperative to note how the processional will flow, especially for reserved seating. This type of detail is incredibly helpful for the musicians. If they are aware of how many bridesmaids and groomsmen are included in the Bridal Party, they can easily identify when their queue for their next song is coming.
Prelude – Songs: (Insert Song Choices)
(Parents/Bridesmaids/Groomsmen) Song: (Insert Song Choice)
- Parents of the Groom:
- Mother of the Bride:
- Groomsman 2:
- Groomsman 1:
- Bridesmaid 2:
- Bridesmaid 1:
- Best Man:
- Maid of Honor:
- Flower Girl or Ring Bearer:
Bridal Walk Song: (Insert Song Choice)
- Bride & Father:
- Bride & Groom: (Insert Song Choice)
Laying things out like this means that everyone will clearly understand the flow of the ceremony. This written plan also reduces the chance of mistakes (or excuses LOL!) happening.
7:00 – 8:00 PM COCKTAILS
Signature cocktails and delicious appetizers are being served, with your preferred music of choice playing in the background! Guests are unwinding while the Bride and Groom take photos.
8:00 PM BRIDE AND GROOM ENTRANCE
Typically, the Bride and Groom’s Grand Entrance is high energy and fun for everyone to witness. While not mandatory, the entire Bridal Party can be included in the reception entrance. But be warned – trying to corral your bridal party for a grand entrance at this time of the evening can be cumbersome if they have already partaken in a couple of your fabulous signature cocktails.
The Bride and Groom might consider enjoying their first dance immediately after their entrance. This gets two big moments of the day out of the way, so all the newlyweds have left to do is enjoy each other, their fabulous friends, and getting their collective groove on the dance floor.
8:05 PM RECEPTION AND SPEECHES
This part of the evening deserves the same level of written detail as the ceremony. It’s vital to note all details such as the dinner menu, bar, design, and set-up elements in the timeline.
Did you know that the number one cause of delay in a wedding is when time hasn’t been planned for speeches? This can be one of the last details shared with the planners, yet it’s vital for us to know the specifics as it really can alter the flow of the evening.
My favorite way to tailor the speeches is by planning for a welcome speech first, followed by toasts between courses. Ideally, toasts last between 3 – 5 minutes. Deciding on a plated dinner or family-style dining will impact how much time you have in between courses. Lengthy, unplanned speeches can take away from the overall celebrations and worst-case scenario, can make guests a little antsy, so please let your wonderful speakers know to keep it short and sweet.
The only exception to this rule is reserved for the father of the bride. His speech can run for 5- 10 minutes tops.
Pro-tip: Plan to do the bulk of the speeches at the Rehearsal Dinner, so the focus of the wedding night is the celebration.
9:30 PM DANCING
We can sneak the cake-cutting, bouquet, and garter toss into the dancing portion of the reception. These all these are optional, but oh-so-fun!
These are those ‘all bets are off’ elements of the evening when your wedding photographer breaks out the camera and catches all the unplanned action on the dance floor. 😉
12:00 AM EXIT
Many newlyweds opt for a breath-taking exit in addition to their Grand Entrance! Memorable exit ideas can include sparklers, cold fireworks, or fireworks! (budget and venue permitting)
REVIEW & ADJUST WEDDING DAY TIMELINE ACCORDINGLY
Refine and adjust your wedding day timeline after you’ve pieced together the ‘must-have’ moments with the help of your wedding planner. Remember that your planner will have detailed knowledge of your wedding venue and will be able to easily adjust timing and suggest workable modifications depending on where your wedding is going to take place.
After you’ve organized all the moments and details together in one document, you’ve got yourself one amazingly organized Wedding Day Timeline! Don’t forget to hand out copies of it to those who need it. Consider adding relevant portions of the wedding timeline to your invitations and itineraries.
Final Tip: When your big day comes, enjoy, then savor each moment. You’ve put in the planning effort and you deserve this wonderful moment in your life.
PS. Planning a Los Cabos 2021 wedding? Check out our 2021 trends and inspirations here.