The secret to having a smooth wedding day is planning ahead and breaking down your entire wedding day timeline helps you stay on plan, organized and prepared on the busy day. The more detail you provide on the time to your wedding vendors, the better it will be. Wedding ceremonies typically last 30 minutes to an hour (can be more for religious weddings), and most wedding receptions last 4 to 5 hours. Here is a sample wedding timeline, for a modern wedding reception timeline based on a wedding starting at 5:30 p.m.

This timeline has the ceremony and reception at the same venue. If yours is different, make sure that you include travel time. With this sample, as there is no travel, cocktail hour starts off right after the ceremony’s conclusion, followed by the dinner, toasts, dancing, and cake cutting.

Use the following sample wedding day timeline as a guide to create your own!

Wedding Day Timeline and Wedding Reception Timeline

2 p.m. Photographer Arrives

The wedding photographer should plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before the bride is ready. During this time, the photographer can get detail shots of the rings, details, shoes, accessories, invitational suite etc.

2:15 p.m. Bridesmaids and Bridal make-up and hair complete

If you’re doing your girls in matching robes and champagne images, plan on having everyone dressed except the bride.

2:30 p.m. Bride Gets Dressed

Once the bride is dressed, we can have images of the mother of the bride or the maid of honor putting the finishing touches on the dress with the bride.

2:45 p.m. Bridal Portraits

3:10 – 3:30 p.m. Bridesmaids Photos

This is a time for fun girly shots, think matching robes (if not dressed) champagne and glitter! If dressed, think informal twirly shots and much happiness together!

3:30 p.m. First Look

The first look is a special, personal, private moment between the future husband and wife, away from everyone else where they can share an emotional moment before the whirlwind of the day begins.

3:30 – 4:10 p.m. Bride and Groom Formal Portraiture

4:10 – 5:00 p.m. Wedding Party and Family Photos

Have a family member help the photographer with what formal group shots you want of your family members (and who they are) any family dynamics that may need special attention (discretion is the key here) and any other must have shots.

5:30 p.m. Start Time Listed on Wedding Invitation

Most weddings don’t start exactly on time, allow your guests to mingle with family and friends they may not have seen for a long time, or a chance for out of town guests to find the locations. Allow the photographer to get some reception decor shots before the guests enter. The table settings, the cake table and other details are easier and more efficient to take images of when it’s just the photographer and the wedding vendors setting up. Have fun! You’ve worked hard to plan the perfect day! You Did it!

Be sure to check out this amazing tool from the Knot which helps you plan your timeline with an interactive, personalized tool.