A Breakdown of the Perfect Wedding Day Getting-Ready Timeline

Getting Ready Timeline


The No. 1 secret to a stress-free wedding day? Scheduling ample time for you and your wedding party to get ready. By including enough prep time in your wedding-day schedule, you'll arrive at the ceremony venue relaxed and ready to go, with plenty of time to spare. If stuff like hair and makeup runs late, everything else will be behind schedule for the rest of the day, so it's important to stick to a pre-determined itinerary and wrangle your wedding party together (or entrust your person of honor to do so).

To help you make it to the ceremony on time, we've put together a getting-ready guide and sample timeline for you to follow along with tips from hair and makeup pros that might even have you ahead of schedule.

Michela Buttignol/Brides 

How Much Time to Allot

Some brides try to cut costs by hiring one hairstylist and one makeup artist to work on themself and the bridal party. While we're totally on board with saving some funds, you need to plan accordingly time-wise. If you cram, you run the risk of throwing yourself off schedule, and if you do start to run behind, a wedding planner can get things back on track. If you planned your own wedding, then it helps to have someone who's not part of the bridal party on hand just in case things get hectic. When you put your day-of timeline together, try to keep these guidelines in mind.


  • 30–45 minutes per person
  • 60–90 minutes for the bride


  • 30–45 minutes per person
  • 60–90 minutes for the bride

Getting-Ready Timeline Tips

Be Smart About the Order

Carefully consider your crew's individual strengths and weaknesses when navigating the order of appointments. "We always tell our brides to schedule the most responsible bridesmaids earlier in the morning," says Amie Decker of Amie Decker Beauty. "That way your schedule isn't held up because of the one bridesmaid who is always late to everything."

You should also weigh any external factors that could impact their time slot. "Often the mother of the bride will want her services done earlier so she's available to help out before the ceremony," says Linsey Snyder Wachalter, owner of Face Time Beauty. "Or if a bridesmaid has young children, find out when the babysitter is arriving, so she can have her hair and makeup done while someone else is watching the little ones."

But Don't Give Your Bridal Party Too Much Say

"No one wants to be the first appointment," says Christy Ogden, owner of Divine Beauty Artists. "Everyone is worried about their hair and makeup lasting throughout the day, so I always remind my clients that, even if you're the very first appointment, you'll be touched up at the end so you look fresh as you walk out the door."

Be Flexible

"I try not to think in terms of 'appointments,' but having a schedule and an order for the morning of your wedding will help keep you and your wedding party on track and make sure you're finished on time," says Beke Beau, a Philadelphia-based makeup artist. "While I will create an order of who goes when, everyone should be ready and on [their] toes, so [they] can get in the chair as soon as it's [their] turn."

"Strict schedules just don't work," adds Decker. "Everyone's hair and skin types are different, so the services will take a different amount of time for each person. If you tell people they have an appointment time, they're more likely to be inflexible and start earlier or get nervous if their time has passed. Instead, remind everyone that the timing is fluid, and ask them to be available in a particular order without a strict time attached."

Request that anyone having their hair and makeup done be around all morning, so they can easily swap appointments if someone needs to step out for a few minutes.

Keep Styles in Mind

Some artists, including Beau, defer makeup application until after hair appointments. "That way you're not getting hairspray on your face after you've had your makeup done," she explains. Decker, on the other hand, prefers to make the judgment in real time. "I don't usually find that the order matters much unless someone has a hairstyle with more face-framing pieces that could get in the way of applying makeup," she explains. "When someone's hair is finished, it's best to touch it as little as possible. So sometimes to keep the services moving along, we'll do most of the hair, and then finish the top or front pieces after [their] makeup is done." If you're opting for a hairstyle that requires setting (curls!), get the process started before moving on to makeup. "This way you can have your makeup done while your hair is setting and then have your hair finished when you're done," says Wachalter. "It's more efficient, and you won't be stuck sitting in a chair for too long."

Schedule Services Based on Your Timeline

"When deciding what time to do the bride's appointment, it's important to know what else is going on before the ceremony. Is she doing a boudoir shoot, bridal portraits, or a first look? Then she'll need her hair and makeup done earlier in the day," explains Ogden. "If she's not doing any photos until after the ceremony, I usually do the bride's services second to last or last. If she's a little more nervous, it's better to do her appointments second to last so she has some time to relax before putting on her dress."

Decker prefers to schedule the bride's services somewhere in the middle. "We want to make sure there's more than enough time for the bride since she's the most important person of the day. Doing her hair and makeup in the middle leaves time for adjustments, fixes, and a more leisurely process," she says. "It also means the bride will be in great shape when the photographer arrives or the florist drops off her bouquet. If she's out of the hair and makeup chair, she'll be able to answer questions or take care of things and still have lots of time to relax before she gets dressed."

Factor in VIPs, such as your mom or person of honor, who might have additional duties to perform. "If they are going to help you get dressed (and that moment will be photographed), their hair and makeup should be done beforehand," says Beau.

The Quickest Appointments Should Go Last

The last people in the hair and makeup chairs (before touch-ups, of course) should be the flower girls. Young girls can be fidgety, which may cause their hair to come undone if they've got too much time before the ceremony. "Flower girls also love to ask for their lip gloss to be reapplied after every sip or bite they take—no exaggerating," says Decker.

Make Sure You Have Plenty of Stylists

"When we're estimating how much time we'll need, we allow for 40 minutes per application," says Beau. "It doesn't usually take that long, but it means we won't be rushing." Her general rule of thumb is to have one makeup artist for every six applications. "It means we won't fall behind, which would have a big impact on the day's timeline," she says. "I rely completely on the photographer's timeline to know when I need to be finished."

Decker uses the day's timeline to determine the number of stylists. "A bridal party that doesn't need to be ready until 4 p.m. has much more time than one that needs to be ready at 11 a.m., and additional stylists will cut that getting-ready time in half," Decker explains. Ogden, who does both hair and makeup, can handle 10 or more services on her own, as can many of her artists. "We allocate about 30 minutes per service. Ten people having both hair and makeup would be 20 services, so in that case, I would want to schedule at least two artists to keep things moving."

When in doubt, follow this simple advice:

  • Have your stylist start on the bridal party first while the makeup artist begins with the bride.
  • Book the photographer to arrive one hour before the bride is ready to go. That way, they will be able to shoot getting-ready shots, like the bride applying their last bit of lipstick or having a flower pinned to their hair. This also gives the photographer plenty of time to capture those oh-so-important detail shots: the wedding outfit on a hanger, shoes, jewelry, purse, etc.
  • If you have yourself plus four people in your bridal party all getting hair and makeup done, allot at least four hours of getting-ready time. That may seem like a lot, but it's just enough.
  • If your bridal party is a bit bigger, ask your stylist to bring an assistant to cut down on time. Do the same for makeup. Make sure any additional charges are discussed ahead of time.

Sample Timeline

Take a look at our getting-ready order of events below for some extra help with the planning process. For our example, there's a 4 p.m. ceremony start time and the bride has four people in their bridal party.

10:00 a.m. Bride's makeup and bridal member No. 1's hair.

10:30 a.m. Bridal member No. 2's hair.

11:00 a.m. Bridal member No. 3's hair and bridal member No. 1's makeup.

11:30 a.m. Bridal member No. 4's hair.

11:45 a.m. Bridal member No. 2's makeup.

12:30 p.m. Bride's hair, bridal member No. 3's makeup, the photographer arrives to take getting-ready and detail photos.

1:15 p.m. Bridal member No. 4's makeup.

2:00 p.m. All hair and makeup complete. Wedding party photos are taken.

  • When should I start getting ready for my wedding?

    For the bride and a bridal party of four, we suggest starting to get ready four to five hours before the ceremony begins. This will provide ample time for hair, makeup, and photos. Add an hour and a half for each additional bridal party member (or subtract the same amount of time for smaller wedding parties). If you're traveling to a salon, double the travel time you anticipate.

  • What should I wear to get ready for my wedding?

    Wear clothing that can easily be taken off without messing up the hair or makeup. Robes or tops that zip or button down the front are best since they don't have to go over the head and face to be removed.

  • What should I eat when getting ready for the wedding?

    Since getting ready will span several hours, make sure that you and your bridal party don't skip breakfast or lunch. Opt for an energizing combo of whole grains and fats or satiating protein and fiber mix for breakfast. Have a few light snacks like nuts, crackers, and fruit on hand, and don't forget to drink plenty of water to hydrate.

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