Crafting the perfect wedding day schedule

The key to a stress-free wedding is planning. Putting together an hour-by-hour guide to your perfect day gets everyone on the same page and helps things run smoothly.

However, unless you’re a practised hand at running large events, planning your wedding day schedule and order of the day can be one of the biggest challenges. How long does each element of a wedding take? What order should they go in?

Read on to see our example dream wedding day schedule. 

Bridge getting ready for a wedding

7:00 - 8:00am: Bridal party prep

Bridal party preparations typically start early. The bride, bridesmaids and mums take a moment to indulge in hair and makeup sessions.

How long this will take depends on the number of people and the complexity of the hair and make-up. Your stylist should be able to give you an idea of the timings for this. Make sure you give yourselves time to relax and enjoy the moment bonding over breakfast and a glass of bubbles.

Groom with buttonhole

12:00pm: Groom and ushers arrive

As midday chimes, the groom and his ushers should be on hand to finalise last-minute preparations and welcome the inevitable early guests. Arriving nice and early gives you time to relax and for everyone to feel ready in their roles for meeting and greeting.

Guests at a wedding

12:30pm: Guests arrive

Ask guests to arrive approximately 30 minutes before the ceremony is due to start. This gives them a quick chance to say hi to one another, choose their seats calmly and enjoy the ambience that you’ve so lovingly created.

Black and white ceremony

1:00pm: Ceremony

Excitement builds as the ceremony begins. The specific timings of your wedding day schedule will ultimately be based on what time your ceremony is due to start, so make this the first element to nail down.

Civil ceremonies are generally around 20 - 45 minutes long, depending on how many readings and music you’d like to include. Religious ceremonies usually last at least an hour.


2:00pm: Photographs and reception drinks

Before the bride and groom let their hair down for the evening, most will capture a few moments of the big day with the photographer. It’s a good idea to have a spot picked out ahead of time - if this is at a different location, make sure you factor in extra travel time.

Ask ushers to help organise people for family photos. Allocate 20-30 mins but discuss your thoughts and preferences with your photographer and they will be able to give you an idea of time.

While you have temporarily stepped away, your catering team should be out in force serving drinks and canapés. Leave one to one and a half hours in your wedding day schedule for reception drinks.

This gives guests time to freshen up, catch up and take some photos before the wedding breakfast.

Wedding table

3:30pm: Wedding breakfast

A traditional wedding breakfast usually takes two and a half hours including speeches but informal styles like buffet or BBQ will take longer. A receiving line will also lengthen things and can’t be decided in the moment.

The traditional order for speeches starts with the father of the bride, groom and finally the best man but bride and maid of honour speeches are gaining in popularity. Ask speakers to limit themselves to under 10 minutes to keep your wedding day schedule on track. Have a think about whether you want the speeches before or after dessert.

Couple cutting a cake

6:00pm: Cutting of the cake

The cake-cutting gives the venue staff some time and space to turn the room around ready for the evening reception.

This is sometimes known as the ‘quiet hour’ between the formal daytime and evening celebrations. Afterwards. your guests may want to freshen up or get a drink in the bar but in either case, having some entertainment in place to keep everyone amused is always a good idea.

Couple's first dance

7:00pm: Evening reception and First Dance

As your evening guests arrive, the party can really get started. Aim to get your DJ or live band ready to go before 7:30pm so that you can officially open the dance floor with the first dance.

Wedding buffet

9:00pm: Evening buffet

To keep everyone going, it’s a good idea to provide a delicious evening buffet in your wedding day schedule. Guests can refuel and continue enjoying the festivities.

Wedding with sparklers

11pm - 1am: Music finishes and carriages await

Guests will likely start heading home around 11pm and usually live bands will want to be wrapping up at this point. To keep the revellers going, getting a DJ to complete the late-night shift is a must.

The bar and DJ will close out the end of your perfect wedding day schedule, marking the end of the celebrations. It’s time for the last guests to bid their farewells and for the couple to bask in all the love and happiness from the day.


Make it a day to remember at Donnington Grove

We might be biased but a country house hotel with 500 acres of gorgeous grounds makes for the perfect luxury wedding venue. An idyllic location for sunny or rainy days, our picturesque countryside landscapes make a perfect wedding backdrop for finer weather.

On duller days, our 18th-century manor house is packed full of warmth and style. Either way, our wedding planner will help make it the fairytale wedding you always dreamed of. So you can just relax and enjoy the day.