Winter Wedding Timeline: How to Plan Your Ceremony with Limited Daylight

winter wedding timeline

Winter weddings are unique. The season comes with many symbols of romance: cozy fires, candlelight ambiance and beautiful snow-covered landscapes. 

Venues also offer better rates, and there is much less stress over availability. There are many good reasons to tie the knot between November and February. 

But hosting a wedding during a less traditional time of the year requires detailed planning. You will want to make the most of the day’s limited daylight, allot enough time for photos and stay punctual. 

Our timeline templates and tips will ease your workload and help you organize your big day. If you’re currently trying to plan your wedding, keep reading and get set to warm up to the idea of a perfect winter wedding.

winter wedding timeline with a sunset ceremony

Winter Wedding With a Sunset Ceremony 

If you’re hosting an outdoor wedding, it’s essential to consider daylight hours. The intention is to allow enough time for every element of the day while also planning around the best light for photos.

It’s essential to note the precise sunset time when crafting your winter wedding timeline. You can check here for the expected sunset time for your location and, once you have it, you can build your timeline around it. 

winter wedding timeline with a first look

Winter ceremony timeline with a first look 

Planning for a first look is a great way to get all your dreamy photos before the sun disappears for the day. By including the first look, you will get an opportunity for an intimate moment with your spouse-to-be, and you will also have enough time to capture your couple portraits before it gets dark. 

Pro-tip: The ideal time for photos is one hour to 90 minutes before sunset. 

Check out our winter wedding timeline for a sunset ceremony. It includes a first look and will help you figure out how to organize your big day and your photo time. 

  • 11 a.m. — Bride and bridal party arrive for hair and make-up
  • 12 p.m. — Photographer arrives for candid photos of the bridal party
  • 12 p.m. — Groom and groomsmen get ready
  • 1:15 p.m. — Photographer gets candid shots of the groom and groomsmen
  • 1:15 p.m. — Bride puts on wedding dress
  • 1:15 p.m. — Bridal bouquet delivery 
  • 1:30 p.m. — First look with bride’s father (or other family members)
  • 1:30 p.m. — Groom heads to first look location to await his bride
  • 1:40 p.m. — Bride heads to first look location
  • 1:45 p.m. — Bride and groom first look and photos
  • 2:30 p.m. — Wedding party photos
  • 3 p.m. — Family photos
  • 3:30 p.m. — Bride touches up hair and make-up
  • 3:30 p.m. — Photographer takes pictures of venue and guests arriving
  • 4 p.m. — Sunset ceremony begins 
  • 4:30 p.m. — Hugs and congratulations after the ceremony (formal reception line, if you choose to have one).
  • 5 p.m. — Bride touches up and bustles dress with help from her mother or the maid of honor
  • 5 p.m. — Cocktail hour (photographer takes candid photos) 
  • 5 p.m. — Bride and groom take post ceremony photos 
  • 6 p.m. — Reception begins. Guests are seated 
  • 6:10 p.m — Bride and groom make a grand entrance 
  • 6:15 p.m — Dinner is served 
  • 6:45 p.m. — Toasts and/or speeches
  • 7 p.m. — Cake cutting and serve dessert
  • 7:15 p.m. — First dance
  • 7:20 p.m. — Parent dances
  • 7:25 p.m. — The dance floor opens to guests 
  • 9:30 p.m. — Last call for drinks
  • 10:00 p.m. — Bridal couple leave (the send-off)
  • 10:15 p.m. — Guests begin to leave
  • 11:15 p.m. — Vendors finish packing up and leave
winter wedding timeline with a cocktail receotion

Winter Wedding With Cocktail Reception 

If you prefer a more relaxed vibe, you can consider forgoing a formal dinner. Instead, you can host a cocktail reception with lots of hors d’oeuvres, cake, and mulled wine to keep everyone warm. 

winter wedding timeline with a cocktail reception without a first look

Winter ceremony timeline with a cocktail reception / without a first look 

Some couples will not want a first look. Maybe they’d prefer to wait for that special walk down the aisle when they see each other for the first time. 

If you’re one of those couples, this timeline template will be more suitable. But you will need to consider starting your wedding ceremony earlier to ensure you have enough natural light for your photos after your “I dos.”

This timeline will give you insight on how to plan a winter wedding without a first look followed by a casual cocktail reception. 

  • 10 a.m. — Bride and bridal party arrive for hair and make-up 
  • 10:30 a.m. — Photographer arrives for candid photos of the bridal party
  • 11 a.m. — Groom and groomsmen get ready
  • 11:30 a.m. — Photographer gets candid shots of the groom and groomsmen
  • 12 p.m. — Bride puts on wedding dress
  • 12 p.m. — Bridal bouquet delivery 
  • 12 p.m. — Groom and groomsmen take photos
  • 12:15 p.m. — First look with father (or other family members)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Bride and bridal party official photos (bride and groom to avoid seeing each other)
  • 1:15 p.m. — Bride and family photos
  • 1:45 p.m. — Groom and family photos (bride and groom to avoid seeing each other)
  • 2 p.m. — Bride and bridal party freshen up hair and make-up
  • 2 p.m. — Photographer takes pictures of venue and guests arriving
  • 2:30 p.m. — Ceremony begins
  • 3 p.m. — Hugs and congratulations after the ceremony (formal reception line, if you choose to have one).
  • 3:30 p.m. — Cocktail hour for guests
  • 3:30 p.m. — Wedding party and family photos 
  • 4 p.m. — Couple’s golden hour photos
  • 4:30 p.m. — Sunset reception starts, wedding party makes an entrance
  • 4:35 p.m. — Bride touches up and bustles dress with help from mother or maid of honor
  • 4:40 p.m. — Bride and groom make a grand entrance
  • 4:45 p.m. — Hors d’oeuvres to be served
  • 5:15 p.m. — Toasts and/or speeches
  • 5:30 p.m. — Cut the cake and serve dessert
  • 5:45 p.m. — First dance
  • 5:50 p.m. — Parent dances
  • 5:55 p.m. — The dance floor opens to guests
  • 7 p.m. — Bridal couple leave (special send-off).
  • 7:15 p.m. — Guests start to leave
  • 8:15 p.m. — Vendors finish packing up and leave
winter wedding timeline with indoor venue

Winter Wedding With Indoor Venue 

An indoor winter wedding can allow you to create a festive and cozy vibe, especially if you create aesthetics that embrace the season: candlelit decor, mood lighting and baby’s breath flowers. 

For photos, using flash offers some pretty unique shots that you wouldn’t get otherwise. You should consult your photographer and planner for ideas on indoor shoots. They may even be able to show you their previous photos from indoor weddings. 

If you don’t care for an early ceremony and would rather forego golden hour photos, you can consider an indoor winter wedding.

winter wedding timeline for an indoor wedding

Winter ceremony timeline for an indoor wedding 

Check out our timeline template for an indoor wedding followed by a celebration with dinner and drinks. 

The added advantage of an indoor winter wedding is that you and your guests will remain warm. Add some warm beverages, and you’ll have everyone dancing till late.

  • 12:30 p.m. — Bride and bridal party arrive for hair and make-up 
  • 1:00 p.m. — Photographer arrives for candid photos of the bridal party
  • 1:30 p.m. — Groom and groomsmen get ready
  • 2:00 p.m. — Photographer gets candid shots of the groom and groomsmen
  • 2:30 p.m. — Bride puts on wedding dress
  • 2:30 p.m. — Bridal bouquet delivery 
  • 2:30 p.m. — Groom and groomsmen take photos
  • 2:45 p.m. — First look with father (or other family members)
  • 3:00 p.m. — Bride and bridal party official photos (bride and groom to avoid seeing each other)
  • 3:30 p.m. — Bride and family photos
  • 4:15 p.m. — Groom and family photos (bride and groom to avoid seeing each other)
  • 4:30 p.m. — Bride and bridal party freshen up hair and make-up
  • 4:30 p.m. — Photographer takes pictures of venue and guests arriving
  • 5 p.m. — Ceremony begins
  • 5:30 p.m. — Hugs and congratulations after the ceremony (formal reception line, if you choose to have one).
  • 6 p.m. — Cocktail hour for guests
  • 6 p.m. — Couple takes photos in a separate area from the cocktail hour 
  • 6:30 p.m. — Wedding party and family photos in a separate area from the cocktail hour 
  • 7 p.m. — Reception begins. Guests are seated 
  • 7:10 p.m — Bride and groom make a grand entrance 
  • 7:15 p.m — Dinner is served 
  • 7:45 p.m. — Toasts and/or speeches
  • 8 p.m. — Cake cutting and serve dessert
  • 8:30 p.m. — First dance
  • 8:35 p.m. — Parent dances
  • 8:45 p.m. — The dance floor opens to guests 
  • 10:45 p.m. — Last call for drinks
  • 11:15 p.m. — Bridal couple leave (the send-off)
  • 11:30 p.m. — Guests begin to leave
  • 12:30 a.m. — Vendors finish packing up and leave
winter wedding timeline additional advice

Additional Advice

Be prepared for the cold. Following this additional advice will help you and your guests stay warm.

  • If you’re hosting an outdoor wedding, arrange enough heaters. Speak to your planners to determine how many will be needed to keep everyone warm.
  • Serve plenty of hot beverages: teas, mulled wine or hot cocoa. Try to welcome your guests with a warm and fuzzy drink. They will appreciate the gesture. 
  • Inform your guests beforehand if your event is outdoors so that they will dress accordingly. In addition, warm blankets on the back of chairs and extra shawls are good to keep them extra snug.