Timeline Tips | Planning a Catholic Wedding Day

catholic wedding timeline planning

In a world where so many couples opt for a brief, onsite ceremony, a Catholic wedding comes with its own set of special considerations when it comes to planning a timeline.

I’ve included a sample timeline below to show you how these days typically go!

Catholic Wedding Timeline Planning Template


12:00 – Getting Ready ————–

—-add travel time to the church—-

2:00 – Beginning of Ceremony—————

3:00 – End of Ceremony————-

3:00 – Begin Receiving Line———

3:20 – Begin Grand Exit ————-

3:30 – Start Family Portraits———

4:00 – Start Wedding Party Portraits

4:30 – Portraits of Bride and Groom 

5:00 – End Portraits——————

—— add travel time to venue ——-

5:00 – Cocktail Hour Begins ———

6:00 – Reception Begins————-

10:00 – Reception Ends————–

planning a catholic wedding timeline

Scheduling Photography Hours

I recommend having about an hour and a half of ‘getting ready’ coverage at the beginning of the day and about 2 and a half hours of reception coverage. For most couples with a similar timeline, this fits within an 8 hour day. Depending on how much travel time there is between locations and how much coverage you’d like at the beginning and end of the day, 10 hours might be a more comfortable fit for some.

First Looks

Typically, couples who have Catholic ceremonies tend not to do a first look. Some of it is personal preference but, besides that, having your ceremony at a church rather than the reception venue usually means that in order to do your portraits at the venue, we would have to do them after the ceremony.
An exception to this might be if you two were planning to get ready at the venue before the ceremony, or if you were alright taking your portraits somewhere other than the reception venue.

bride and groom at catholic wedding ceremony

Scheduling Time In Between the Ceremony and Reception

Because most of my Catholic ceremony couples don’t do a first look, a lot of them choose to schedule a bit more time in between the ceremony and reception to account for travel as well as accommodate time for portraits.
Whereas couples who have their ceremony and reception onsite have usually have a 5 hour block of reception time proceeded by a half and hour for the ceremony, you’ll have a little more flexibility on what time you’d like your reception to start following the ceremony. You can leave enough time for you to attend cocktail hour or just do portraits during that time and get announced at the reception!
wedding grand exit outside catholic church

Receiving Lines

For those of you who are uninitiated, a receiving line is when you exit the church after the ceremony and greet each of your guests as they exit. Some couples like to do a receiving line because it gives their well wishers a chance to congratulate them without them having to walk around to each table at the reception.
Depending on how many guests you have, this usually takes around 20-30 minutes.

catholic wedding timeline planning

Ceremony Send Offs

Ceremony send offs are when everyone exits the church, stands outside and blows bubbles or throws confetti at you as you walk through.

There are 2 different ways people do this :

1. After their walk down the aisle as husband and wife, they tuck away into a side room until all their guests are outside and ready to do the send off.
– OR-
2. At the conclusion of the ceremony they stand at the door, greet people in a receiving line, then once they’ve greeted everyone, they walk down the church steps where people are gathered, confetti in hand, for their send off.

Doing a sendoff after the ceremony typically adds about 10-20 minutes to the timeline for the day. If you’re already doing a receiving line, you can usually expect it to take less time since your guests will have already exited the church.

fun bridesmaid pictures in historic west chester near penn oaks

Scheduling Portraits

Family portraits usually take around 25-30 minutes, if everyone is ready to go after the ceremony. On a normal wedding day I usually spend about 30-45 minutes doing bridesmaids, groomsmen and group photos of everyone, and for the two of you, I like to spend at least 30 minutes. Now, depending on your priorities and how big your family or wedding party is, we can work within this time frame to suit your specific day. In general, an hour and a half is a perfect amount of time to get all those portraits done.
*NOTE : If you plan on doing portraits at the church after the ceremony, make sure you confirm with the church that we’ll have time in between when the next service or function is scheduled.
I hope these tips help you in planning your Catholic wedding day timeline. If you have any questions or tips of your own, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section!
  1. Francesca says:

    This is such a thoughtful and comprehensive post! Great advice, and that’s coming from a girl who’s Catholic 🙂

  2. juliarenee says:

    Such a helpful post! You know I needed these tips this last year when I was planning my wedding since I didn’t realize how long everything would take! 😉

  3. Haley Richter says:

    So lovely to break this down for couples! Love the photos too- we’ve been at that church and is a tough one because it’s so dark! But you made them so bright and beautiful. Great post!

  4. Heidi says:

    Great timeline tips!

  5. Over this article you will get to know in detail about the timeline tips for planning a catholic wedding day. Things to be considered includes many options listed in this link. It is very useful article and would suggest others too. I am sure many people will come to read this in future.

  6. […] Sources: Officiant Eric; BBC; Wire Wedding; Petal & Glass […]

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