This Wedding Planning guide will take you through a Wedding Day Timeline (aka Schedule), typical timings and what you need to think about in terms of music for each part of your wedding day.
You’re getting married. You’re excited about celebrating your love, surrounded by family and friends — with music, dancing, food and wine. But you’re not quite so excited by the work you’ll need to put in to plan your wedding day. And you’re a little confused about what a wedding schedule should look like.
Wedding planning is much easier when you’ve got the basics down to a tee — so we’ve written this guide to give you a clear idea of what your wedding might involve, both behind the scenes and on the frontline.
This article is part of our Wedding Advice series. For more advice, take a look at our comprehensive guide: Ultimate Guide to Hiring Wedding Musicians: Everything You Need to Know and FAQs
Behind The Scenes: Preparing To Walk Down The Aisle
Your wedding will make lots of people happy. But don’t forget those special, private moments that are just for you — and harness the power of music to make those moments even more meaningful. We bet you’ll never forget the song that was playing while you put on your wedding suit jacket or fitted your veil!
Aim to have some time on the morning of your wedding to relax, reflect, and prepare yourself for the joy of promising your love to your partner while happy tears glisten on the cheeks of your loved ones. And to get dressed, of course…
Include your pre-wedding hours in your planning phase. Consider these questions:
Where will you be?
Depending on the location of your wedding venue, you could get ready at home, in a hotel, or at the venue itself.
Who will be with you?
The lead-up to your wedding can be even more special when you’re surrounded by close relatives and friends. Choose your bridesmaids and groomsmen carefully — you’ll want to be with people who will soothe your nerves and share your excitement.
Who will do hair and make up?
Whether you want to hire a professional or do hair and make up with the help of your friends, make sure you know who’s going to do it and when it will be done.
What will you eat and drink?
Chances are, nerves — along with the prospect of your wedding dinner later on — will mean that you’re not very hungry before your ceremony. But it’s a good idea to have snacks on hand while you and your bridal party or groom’s party prepare. And a sip of champagne will get you in the mood for festivities.
The Pre-Wedding Music:
For a romantic touch, make a pre-wedding playlist for your soon-to-be husband or wife, and ask them to make one for you. They’ll remember tunes that you’ve forgotten about. And you’ll feel more in love than ever when you realise you’re listening to a song that takes you back to your first date!
What Time? How long do you need for Hair and Makeup?
Your ‘getting ready time’ will depend on the schedule of your wedding ceremony and reception. The following examples are guidelines only, and can be adjusted depending on how long you need to prepare, and any other tasks that are left for you to complete on the day:
- 10:00 AM ceremony, with reception ending at 4:00 PM? Arrange hair and make up for 7:00 AM.
- 1:00 PM ceremony, with reception ending at 7:00 PM? Arrange hair and make up for 9:00 AM.
- 4:00 PM ceremony, with reception ending at 10:00 PM? Arrange hair and make up for 10:00 AM.
Get Your Crew In The Mood, Too
Ask one of your bridesmaids or groomsmen to put together a pre-wedding playlist. Whether it’s to de-stress or get pumped, you’ll be thankful
And do you want your catering team and wedding musicians to be feeling the vibe of your wedding too? Get them in the mood — so that they can get your guests in the mood — by arranging a soundtrack for the set-up time before your wedding begins.
You could enlist the help of a bridesmaid or the best man to put together a playlist of tunes that can be played on a portable speaker, or on the venue’s sound system, while everyone’s setting up. The tracks included might be chilled and reflective, or more uplifting with an Ibiza party feel, depending on the atmosphere you want to create for your wedding day.
This playlist (or playlists, if set-up is taking place in multiple rooms) might accompany:
- Catering team set-up
- Last minute venue preparation; i.e. arranging chairs and hanging decorations for your ceremony
- Pre and post-soundcheck time for your band or DJ. The musicians will arrive early, and will probably spend some time hanging around before and after setting up their equipment and performing their soundcheck. Music will help them to enjoy the behind-the-scenes vibes!
- Couple’s photographs with photographer before guests arrive
Don’t underestimate the benefits of including the crew’s experience in your wedding plans. If they’re happy, they’ll be better able to make your guests happy.
- 10:00 AM ceremony, with reception ending at 4:00 PM? Ask vendors to arrive by 8:30 AM.
- 1:00 PM ceremony, with reception ending at 7:00 PM? Ask vendors to arrive by 10:00 AM.
- 4:00 PM ceremony, with reception ending at 10:00 PM? Ask vendors to arrive by 2:00 PM.
When It All Begins: The Timeline Of A Wedding
Let’s use a 4:00 PM ceremony as a baseline to look at the schedule of the wedding itself. What happens between guests arriving and carriages (AKA kicking out time)?
You and your wedding party are ready; the caterers are primed, musicians have done their setting up and completed a soundcheck; your photographer is on site, camera in hand, flowers are in place and tables are set. What next?
- 2:00 PM: Pre-Wedding Bride and Groom getting-ready photos / video.
- 3:15 PM: Doors open and guests begin to arrive.
Pre-ceremony music starts; you might use a playlist or ask your DJ to provide the sounds. Or go for live music — such as a trio of string players or an acoustic duo.
- 3:45 PM: Your Celebrant or Master Of Ceremonies invites guests to take their seats.
Often this is the Best Man or one of the Ushers if you’re not hiring a Master of Ceremonies.
- 4:00 PM: Your ceremony begins.
You could have an instrumental ensemble accompany as you tie the knot; or a wedding singer to sing a song of sentimental value as the bride walks down the aisle. If you’ve opted for a band for the main dancing, ask them what they suggest for the ceremony. It’s not unusual for 2-3 members of the band to provide music here – perhaps acoustically – if it’s in the same venue.
- 4:20 PM: Your ceremony ends.
Tears, laughter, cheering, confetti, perhaps some spontaneous dancing around the married couple! The hard bit is done and you’re married!
- 4:25 PM: Drinks reception (and Photos if you’ve opted to have it now).
It’s common to take advantage of your guests being preoccupied with cocktails and canapes to have another photo session with your new spouse, extended family and best mates.Once that’s done (although be warned, this almost never goes to schedule but don’t worry, your guests are happy), you can hopefully mingle and enjoy the just-married glow with your wedding guests – and of course your background music will help shape the atmosphere.This might be a wedding band playing easy-listening tunes or classical pieces; a DJ who can ‘feel the room’ and select tracks appropriately; or a DJ and live musician combination.
- 5:40 PM: Dinner. You might have a buffet or a meal with table service — either way, think about music that will make the meal feel extra special. If you decide to book a live band for the whole day they’ll need a break (and some food!); so you could create a dinner playlist to fill the gaps.
- 6:25 PM: Toasts & Speeches.
- 7:30 PM: Your first dance.
This is one of those never-to-be-forgotten moments, so take time choosing the right piece of music. If you have a favourite ‘couple song’, a cover band could play it for you — but if you can’t bear the thought of the band’s version being different to the studio version that you know so well, get a DJ to play it instead.
- 7:35 PM: The dance floor opens for all.
This is where your wedding music goes all in. A DJ could play hits to get every generation shimmying with champagne in hand. Or a live funk band could get a timeless groove going. The key for choosing music for dancing is to think about your guests as well as yourselves; you may love Drum and Bass, but a night of only D&B will leave your Grandparents cold.
- 8:00 PM: For a summer wedding, this is a great time to sneak away for sunset photographs!
- 10:00 PM: Carriages.
Your guests depart, and your vendors and helpers break down and pack up, although you’ll have disappeared long ago hopefully.
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