When should we cut the cake? When should we have our first dance? We're here to help.

jamie jon wedding first dance

Assembling a wedding-day timeline often leaves brides and grooms with more questions than answers. If you're not working with a wedding planner or coordinator, you may not know how to turn to with questions about how the big day will flow. Some common questions? When do you leave your own wedding? And should you cut the cake before or after the speeches? Here's the scoop on some of the timing details you haven't figured out yet, or aren't sure who to ask.

When should I start getting ready?

This is a great question to ask your hair stylist and makeup artist. If your bridesmaids will also be getting ready with you, it'll be important to plan this timing in advance. In general, plan to start several hours before the ceremony.

When should I put my wedding dress on?

You'll want to plan to be ready and in your dress about 45 minutes before you need to depart for your wedding or first look. This allows a decent amount of time for some bridal photography and to get shots of you getting the dress on and hanging out with your mom and sister. You're also factoring in time here to get all your accessories on and gather the things you'll be taking to the wedding.

When should we see each other for the first time?

This depends entirely on your own preference. Some couples opt to do a first look, which would take place once you're fully dressed and ready, just before the ceremony. Other couples prefer to meet at the ceremony without seeing each other beforehand. And still others will get ready together.

When should the photographer arrive?

Depending how long you have your photographer booked for, you'll probably want him or her to arrive while you're getting ready for the wedding. This usually means they get to you about 15-30 minutes before you're scheduled to have your hair and makeup complete.

When do I take off my veil?

You'll probably want the help of your hair stylist in attaching the veil, and it can be taken off immediately following the ceremony. If you'd like to get additional photos of you wearing the veil, you can keep it on for some post-ceremony photos and take it off before cocktail hour. You likely won't want to wear it for all of the group photos.

When should I change my wedding shoes?

Most brides try to keep their formal wedding shoes for the first look, ceremony, formal photos, and cocktail hour. Once the group photos are over, go ahead and change into your back-up wedges or dancing shoes.

When should I bustle my wedding dress?

This is a matter of personal preference. A lot of brides like to keep their dress out until or through their first dance and father-daughter dance. Some prefer to bustle as soon as the ceremony ends and they're making their way through cocktail hour.

When should we eat?

Excellent question! During your reception, you should eat when your guests eat so you don't risk forgetting. While you're getting ready, you should be sure to eat breakfast and lunch to keep your energy levels high.

When's the first dance?

Most couples choose to have their first dance after the final course of food is served. Typically, this is followed by the father-daughter dance and mother-son dance if these traditions are being incorporated. Some couples prefer to sprinkle dancing in between courses of food, in which case, the first dance would follow the service of the first course. Others have their first dance as soon as they enter the reception. You have a lot of choices!

When should we cut the cake?

You can cut the cake before the dinner service is complete so that going from there into dancing is an easy transition with nothing left "to do" once dancing begins. Some couples feel like cutting the cake often acts as a signal for the older generation that the party is winding down and may prefer to wait until the end of the first dancing set.

When should we do the toasts?

You can schedule toasts for any time immediately before, during, or after dinner service, but you should let your catering team know the plan so they can schedule the food accordingly. It usually works best to have the toasts begin just after the last table has been served a course, allowing guests to dine during the toasts and so service can comfortably pause during speeches.

When should I change into my second wedding dress?

Feel free to play this by ear on your wedding day and make a last-minute decision based on how comfortable or uncomfortable you are. Most brides will wait until the formal dances are over, but some will wait until the very end of the night when they depart.

When should we leave our wedding?

Many couples wait until the end of the last song and head out with a special car or send-off from their guests. Some couples sneak off a little earlier or a little later, head to their hotel room to change, and meet up with their friends for an after-party.


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