Foolproof Wedding Day Timeline for a 5 PM Ceremony

Take the stress out of your wedding planning with a schedule that builds in all the details and leaves you plenty of time to chill too.

Updated June 5, 2023
married couple

An early evening wedding lets you take your time preparing for the big moment, and it's also great for guests, who can transition right from the ceremony to the reception. Planning a wedding for this time of day is actually a little easier than other options, especially if you keep a wedding day timeline in mind.

If you plan for a five o'clock ceremony, it will give you plenty of time to get ready (and lots of time to chill too). You might even be able to sleep in! Start with this basic 5 PM wedding day timeline.

General Wedding Day Timeline for a 5 PM Ceremony

The exact times you need to plan for all the events on your wedding day will vary based on a bunch of considerations, not the least of which is what time your ceremony and reception are actually scheduled. For this example, we'll plan for a 5 PM wedding ceremony and 6:30 PM reception. A wedding day timeline sample like this can be a super useful tool to plan your day, even if you make some changes based on your own needs.

  • 8:00 a.m. - Schedule wake-up calls for the couple. This call might include quick reminders about the first things to accomplish today.
  • 8:15 a.m. - Time for getting cleaned up - a shower, shave, washing hair, and whatever other steps are necessary.
  • 9:00 a.m. - Plan for the bridal party arrival. All the attendants should arrive at their respective meeting places early enough to get ready for the ceremony and help out the happy couple.
  • 9:30 a.m. - Have a light breakfast. Many couples are too nervous to eat much on their wedding day, but a light, healthy breakfast provides the energy you need to accomplish the many tasks to do today.
  • 10:00 a.m. - Facilitate site deliveries. If the couple has the wedding favors, decorations, and other items necessary for the ceremony or reception, they should be delivered early enough in the day to be distributed properly.
  • 11:00 a.m. - Time for hair and makeup appointments for anyone who is getting dolled up. If you're not doing hair and makeup, you could spend this time getting professional shaves or relaxing with other activities. Have a simple and light lunch during this time too.
  • 1:00 p.m. - In the early afternoon, it's a good idea to contact vendors to check on last-minute details or to quickly visit the ceremony and reception sites to ensure all the setup and decoration is going smoothly.
  • 2:00 p.m. - Get dressed. Whether the bridal party will be getting dressed in their wedding finery at home or at the ceremony location, budget enough time for the clothes to look their best. A wedding day survival kit with sewing supplies and safety pins can be useful in case of mishaps.
  • 3:00 p.m. - Schedule individual portrait sessions. Before the ceremony is a great time for individual portraits of the couple, as well as group shots with their attendants.
  • 4:15 p.m. - Plan for first look photos if you're doing them. Couples who choose to get most of their wedding photos taken before the ceremony may want to stage a "first look" experience, followed by additional portraits of the couple.
  • 4:30 p.m. - Guests begin arriving. Ushers should be in place to help them find their seats and to take care of any last-minute details. The couple should be out of sight freshening up.
  • 5:00 p.m. - The wedding ceremony should always start on time. While a delay of a few minutes may not be noticed, a long delay is rude to the guests and may be cause for speculation and rumors about cold feet.
  • 5:30 p.m. - Time for cocktail hour and photos. After the ceremony, the classic portrait photos with the entire bridal party, parents, and selected guests may take up to an hour or longer, depending on the number of poses, who is involved, and whether the couple has done many of these photos before the ceremony.
  • 6:30 p.m. - Reception begins. The exact wedding reception itinerary will vary depending on the events a couple has planned (garter toss, bouquet toss, special dances, speeches, etc.), the type of meal to be served (seated or buffet), the number of guests, and any spontaneous activities. A typical reception lasts between three and five hours for dining, dancing, and general celebration.
Quick Tip

Planning to go for a simple wedding? Ditch the items you don't need and condense the schedule. You just might be able to build in more chill time and even a chance to sleep in!

Factors That Affect Timing of Your 5 PM Wedding

happy couple

Every wedding is different, so it's good to think ahead about any of the factors that can affect the exact progress of a wedding day timeline. These are a few things to consider:

  • Attire style: The type of clothing you're wearing can have kind of a huge impact on the timeline. For instance, a corset wedding dress can take 15-30 minutes just to lace up, while a casual dress is much faster to put on.
  • Number of pictures: A couple with a large bridal party and an extensive list of must-have photos will need to budget additional time to ensure all the shots are captured.
  • Hairstyles: A simple wedding hairstyle can take just a few minutes, especially if you're doing it yourself. On the other hand, an elaborate updo may take an hour or more to prepare.
  • Driving: If the wedding and reception are in different locations, don't forget to plan time for driving, including possible traffic problems.
  • Mishaps: While no couple wants mistakes, accidents, or oversights on their wedding day, it's wise to budget extra time into the schedule just in case.

Tips for Your Wedding Day Timing

Couples who are able to relax and not fret about every minute of their wedding day will enjoy all the day's special moments, even if those moments aren't exactly on time. There are some things you can do to help stay on schedule, though.

  • Practice a few trial runs of dressing, hairstyling, and other time-intensive activities before the big day to get a feel for how much time is needed.
  • Be prepared for delays, if necessary. Give yourself a little extra time for everything.
  • Couples should also rely on vendors' advice about how much time is needed, as well as the advice of site coordinators and experienced friends. For instance, if the photographer wants to plan for an hour of pictures after the ceremony, take their word for it and don't try to rush things.

Flexibility Is Best

A wedding day timeline can be an essential tool for planning a worry-free wedding day, but even the most meticulously planned schedule won't always go off perfectly. You can avoid a ton of stress by expecting things to shift a little bit schedule-wise. Couples who plan the day but are flexible with their timing will still enjoy their celebration and ensure everything happens in good time.

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Foolproof Wedding Day Timeline for a 5 PM Ceremony