Ann Losinski Photography | Fargo Wedding Photographer

How to Plan a Catholic Wedding Day Timeline

How To Plan a Catholic Wedding Day

When I am sitting down with my couples to plan out their big day, the very first question I ask them is: “What time is your Ceremony”? Catholic ceremonies are either a half hour or an hour depending on if you are having a full mass or just a service. (There are reasons why couples might choose either option!) The time of the ceremony is the most important time of the entire day, and everything else we will be doing on that day will be in reference to that. Even dinner can be slightly flexible give or take 10 minutes, but if your ceremony starts at 2pm, it will start at 2pm sharp!

Along with that, the next question I like to ask is “What time do we need to be completely out of the church by?”. This question is important, because most often, the church will be holding an evening mass and we need to know how much time we have after the ceremony before we need to be completely out of the church. This makes a huge difference if you would like to take formal pictures inside the church after your ceremony!

The Hour Before Your Wedding Mass

Once we have your ceremony time, I like to work backwards to plan out the beginning of your day next. A good rule of thumb is that for Catholic weddings, it is a good idea to be out of the chapel by an hour before your wedding mass begins. This is good so that you aren’t having to greet guests that might arrive early, and is respectful of the space if people would like to pray prior to mass!

So what do you do with this time then? There are multiple things you can do. You can grab a bite to eat, rehydrate, go to confession, relax, reapply makeup, etc. Read more about this in my post about the hour before your wedding.

Formal Pictures

The decision is yours on whether you would like to have a first look, but this might change the course of events on your wedding day. Read more about why I wish I had done a first look. If you are doing a first look, you can expect to spend about an hour to an hour and a half before your wedding taking pictures. For instance, if you wedding is at 2pm, you can expect to spend from 11:30pm-1pm taking all your family formal pictures and other portraits.

If you choose not to do a first look, that is totally fine as well, you can expect maybe 30-45 minutes for individual bridal party sides to take pictures. (So you would start taking pictures around 12:15pm.)

The First Look

If you choose to do a first look, you will want to give yourself 15-20 minutes for it. Even though it seems simple enough, giving yourself this time will allow you to not be rushed, allow you to exchange gifts if you would like, and spend a few minutes alone together before you jump into pictures and are with people pretty much the rest of the day.

Also included here is the Daddy-Daughter first look if you would like to do so. This happens right before the first look with your groom. This is a special moment that happens between you and your dad, but also won’t take as much time as your first look with your groom. You can plan about 5-10 minutes for it.

Travel Time On Your Wedding Day

If you are getting ready at a location other than your church, you will need to account for any travel time here.

Getting Into Your Dress

With my couples, I like to nail down the exact time you will be getting into your dress. If you mom is helping you get into it, this gives her a timeline of when to be ready as well. Give yourself at least 30 minutes for this, it might not seem like much, but it can take quite awhile! (And it’s always good to be ahead of schedule!)


Finally, the first thing on your list for the day, hair and makeup! You will need to ask whoever is providing this for you how long they estimate it will take. Remember to prioritize you and your mom so that you both can be done by the time you need to be getting into your dress. Based on what we have already talked about, you should have a good idea of when you will need to start your appointment based on what we have already talked about!

Once you have that figured out, you will now know exactly what time your day officially starts, so you will know what time you will need to get up in the morning! (But trust me, most brides wake up way before that time anyways!) So make sure you get up on time, eat a good breakfast, and start drinking water early!

What Happens After The Wedding Mass?

Now we are going to jump to after your wedding mass. The one big question I ask here is “Will you be doing a receiving line?” This is totally up to you if you would like to do it or not. A good rough estimate for how long it will take is about 45 Minutes for 250 guests. If you would like to grab a picture with your Priests, you would want to also do that at this point.

After that, we generally take more pictures. If you did not do family formals prior to the ceremony, they happen at this point. (Plan for about an hour for those) and then we take bridal party pictures. Bridal party pictures can be as little or as extensive as you want them to be. Some couples want to just take formals in the church, and some couples want to take them to a park for outdoor pictures.

Regardless, you will want to try to plan in about 20-3o minutes for portraits of just you two somewhere during that time, especially if you didn’t take any pictures before the ceremony together.

Prior to dinner, the rest is really up to you. Go get ice cream, take a walk in the park, go mingle with your guests, take a moment for yourselves, whatever you like!

Dinner, Toasts, and Dancing

Dinner typically has a set time, so making sure you are there at that time is the next and last priority. Once dinner starts, you have the freedom do basically do as you please. So enjoy your dinner, mingle with your guests, and enjoy your night. Toasts, Your Cake Cutting, and your dance often do have start times, (with your dance starting somewhere between 1.5 hours and 2 hours after dinner starts) but trust your vendors and your attendants to take care of you and get things started and enjoy your night!

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