With Saturday evening wedding dates quickly booking up thanks to the many postponements of 2020, expect to see weekend morning weddings (and weekday events, too!) rise in popularity in 2021 and beyond. While planning a brunch wedding is pretty similar to planning a nighttime event, there are some differences—particularly when it comes to the morning wedding timeline.
Creating a timeline in advance of your big day is an essential task on your wedding planning checklist. It will ensure that your ceremony and reception run smoothly and your vendors and pretty much everyone on your guest list are all on the same page. Of course, this morning wedding timeline template is just an example and not meant to be copied—you'll want to go through your schedule with your wedding planner, venue coordinator, caterer, and other vendors. But if you're looking for a starting point as you plan your morning or early afternoon wedding's schedule, here's a detailed timeline to help you begin the process.
Note: This daytime wedding timeline is based on a ceremony start time of 10 a.m., and the ceremony and reception taking place at the same wedding venue. If you're hosting your ceremony and reception in different locations, you'll need to factor travel time into your wedding-day timeline.
5 a.m.: Wake up!
No, that's not a typo. In order to ensure that you and your wedding party have enough time to get ready, an early wake up call is necessary (you may need to set multiple alarms if you're not an early riser). To ensure you get plenty of rest the night before your big day, skip the post-rehearsal dinner bar hopping (or plan a rehearsal lunch instead!) and try to take care of any must-dos the night before. We also recommend booking wedding eve accommodations that near your venue and hiring mobile hair stylists and makeup artists who can come to your hotel room or wedding venue to prep you, your partner, your immediate family members, and the bridal party. Oh, and don't forget ordering a light breakfast (with an appropriate amount of coffee!).
6 a.m.: Start hair and makeup.
The timing of the pre-wedding prep really depends on how many wedding party and family members need professional hair and makeup, how many hair and makeup pros will be on site, and the intricacy of your crew's desired hairstyles and makeup looks. Hair and makeup can take anywhere from 30 minutes for a bridesmaid to 90 minutes for a bride—so you'll likely want to hire several hair stylists and makeup artists to make the process move at a faster pace.
8:30 a.m. Everyone gets dressed and heads to the wedding venue.
Those who aren't getting hair and makeup professionally done can sleep in—but not by much! They'll need to allow enough time to get dressed and travel to the wedding venue, whether it's by limo, car, or on foot.
9 a.m. First Look and Couple Portraits
If you're planning on having a first look before the ceremony, you'll need to factor that into your morning wedding timeline. We recommend a pre-ceremony first look, as your hair and makeup will be fresh. If you and your photographer are feeling ambitious, you might also do your family portraits at this time—but it will require a lot of wrangling to get everyone to the venue at this early hour!
10 a.m. Wedding ceremony time!
Time to say "I do"! We're assuming that your ceremony will run about 30 minutes for the purpose of this timeline, but your officiant will be able to provide a more exact run time.
10:30 a.m. Cocktail Hour/Family Photos
If you're hosting your ceremony and reception at different locations, you'll need to factor travel time into your morning wedding timeline. But if you just have one wedding venue, cocktail hour can begin immediately after your ceremony. Now, you don't have to have a traditional cocktail hour for your brunch reception, but we think it makes a nice transition between the formality of the ceremony and the celebratory feel of the reception. Instead of the traditional wedding cocktails, serve mimosas, Bloody Marys, and speciality coffees—and don't forget the doughnuts!
The cocktail hour also serves an important function for your morning wedding—it provides an opportunity to take wedding party and family photos (and additional newlywed pics) if you didn't do so before the ceremony. And, if your ceremony and reception are taking place in the same room, cocktail hour gives your venue crew time to restage the space.
11:30 a.m. Wedding reception begins.
After cocktail hour, your guests will be led into the reception room for your celebration. For a brunch reception, you may opt for assigned seating or keep things more casual with a lounge-style setup.
11:40 a.m. Newlyweds make their grand entrance.
Traditionally, after guests take their seats, the DJ or band leader present the wedding party, immediate family, and, finally, the newlyweds as upbeat music is played. You don't have to go this route if you'd prefer a more casual reception, but it can be a fun and celebratory moment.
11:45 a.m. First Dance
After the grand entrance, the newlyweds take their place on the dance floor for their first dance as a married couple.
12 p.m. Brunch and Toasts
Time to eat! At a brunch reception, you can serve the reception meal in a variety of ways. Interactive food stations, such as a waffle bar or omelet station, are particularly popular at brunch receptions—they're a more casual serving style and allow guests to mingle and sample different food options. If you're interested in a more formal experience, a plated meal is totally doable, and family-style service (where each table is given a large platter of food to share) is a nice middle ground between super-formal and totally casual.
As your guests are enjoying their meal, your nearest and dearest can give their speeches and toasts. Traditionally, the best man, maid of honor, and parents of either or both spouses give toasts at this time, but you should select your speakers based on your relationships, not dated etiquette rules. The newlyweds may also choose to give a speech thanking their guests for attending.
12:30 p.m. Dancing and/or Entertainment
After the speeches and toasts, the couple may choose to perform special dances with family members or open the dance floor for their guests. At brunch receptions, guests may be less inclined to dance than at a nighttime party, so additional entertainment such as a photo booth, lawn games, tarot card reader, or other activities may be a good idea. But in general, if the couple and the wedding party hit the dance floor, guests will follow.
If you'd like to include a cake cutting, bouquet and/or garter toss, shoe game, or other special tradition into your reception, be sure to factor that into your timeline.
1:30 p.m. Send-Off
When creating your morning wedding timeline, remember that brunch receptions tend to be shorter than evening celebrations. All told, a morning wedding usually lasts about 3 to 4 hours total, as opposed to a 6- or 7-hour evening wedding (but of course, talk to your venue coordinator to determine the exact amount of time you'll have access to the space). As your reception comes to a close, your DJ or band will play the last dance and guests will gather to wish you and your new spouse well and send you off into married life!