From brunch nuptials to weekday weddings, every wedding should feel like a one-of-a-kind experience for the newlyweds. Yet, while the timing of the event may vary, the average celebration follows a traditional wedding day timeline to maintain the flow throughout the day. Your wedding vendors can help you understand the wedding day timeline and how you may adjust it to suit your preferences.

Let’s walk through the best parts of your Wilmington wedding day timeline!

Getting ready

You can’t show up to the ceremony in your pajamas, so naturally, you and your wedding party need time to get ready! Make sure there is enough time for hair, makeup, dressing, and accessorizing for everybody involved. Consider booking a trial session with your wedding beauty team to determine how much time you’ll need.

How early you start getting ready depends on your ceremony start time and the number of people in your wedding party. Smaller groups won’t need as much time, although it’s best to factor in additional time to eat lunch, split a carafe of mimosas, and take all the selfies!


First look

While the first look is a newer trend, it has become a popular addition to the wedding day timeline. Rather than seeing each other for the first time at the ceremony, the first look provides Wilmington newlyweds an opportunity to take in a private moment together beforehand. It’s generally recommended for couples who feel anxious, as it’s known to ease nerves in advance of the ceremony.

Since the first look adds an extra step to the wedding day timeline, consult with your Wilmington wedding venue, planner, and photographer to confirm its feasibility. If you choose to add a personal touch, like exchanging letters or gifts, add extra time to ensure nobody feels rushed to the aisle!



Wedding ceremonies last about 30 minutes on average, but timing tends to rely on personal preference. For instance, religious ceremonies often take longer since they include a service. Ceremony readings and rituals, like candle-lighting or ring warming, also add to the timeline, so plan accordingly.

Note the size of your wedding party, too. Larger groups will require more time for the processional and recessional, which may also require working with your DJ to time the music properly. When it comes to planning your ceremony, look to your Wilmington wedding officiant for support! They are well-experienced in local ceremonies and can help you plan the perfect order of events.


Portraits + Cocktail Hour

You’re married! Now that it’s #official, your guests will head to cocktail hour, grab a drink, and meet with other friends and family members until the reception opens. In the meantime, you and your wedding party will accompany the photographer to take wedding portraits! Work with your Wilmington wedding photographer in advance to develop a shot list, making it easy to run through all of the portraits.

After the formal photos are done, it’s time to party! Your wedding coordinator will assemble you, your wedding party, and VIP family members to line up for the grand entrance as your guests await.



This is what you’ve been waiting for – the party! Now that the formalities are behind you, it’s finally time to shake off all of the wedding planning and enjoy the fruits of your labor. The beginning of your reception tends to include dinner (or heavy hors d’oeuvres), toasts, formal dances, and other traditions you want to include. 

The rest of the night is free play! The bar is open, the music is pumping, and the dance floor is packed. You and your partner will likely use this opportunity to get face time with your guests, especially those who have traveled to celebrate your marriage.

As the night winds down, guests will start to trickle out. Look to your Wilmington wedding DJ to serve as MC for the night, facilitating your wedding day timeline and ensuring everyone knows what to expect. When the time comes, they’ll announce it’s time for the grand exit. At that point, the remaining guests will line up and see you off to your happily ever after!



Most of the time, newlyweds are free to return to their hotel and unwind after a busy day. However, it’s best to confirm post-reception duties with your venue, planner, and family members. Many venues include post-event breakdown, but you will also need to confirm plans for décor and gifts. Can you pick it up the following day? Or could you designate your parents to take it home for you to get later? 

Start discussing your post-reception plans early in the process, so you know exactly what will happen when the wedding ends. Trust us, you won’t want to wait around to pack your car up after a long, tiring day!

We’re here to help you create your perfect Wilmington wedding day timeline!

Get in touch with us to kick off your stress-free wedding planning process with Coastal DJs! We look forward to connecting with you!