I’ve seen A LOT of Indian weddings, some smooth and some… not so much. I quickly recognize a well-planned Indian wedding timeline, and so I wanted to give you some advice on how to plan a wedding timeline to foster as stress-free a wedding as possible. My primary goal for my couples is to have the BEST time of their lives, which is not possible if they’re worried about the timeline.
4:30 am | Getting Ready
Wedding preparation is often the most underestimated portion of the wedding day timeline regarding budgeting time. Hair and makeup (HMU) frequently run later than expected, so you should be allotting 1.5 to 3 hours. To get an even better sense of the time required, you can try to run a test with your HMU team. Wedding photographers typically show up when you are almost finished to start photographing details. Your photographer should wait to take your portraits until after your makeup is finished because you want to look flawless in your wedding photos.
7:00 am | Photographer Arrives
When they arrive, the first thing your photographer will do is photograph all of your outfit details, so try to have them gathered in one place. Often, the best light in a room is by the windows, making it the best place to take these detailed shots. This also happens to be the best place for YOUR portraits! Ask your HMU artist to turn the lights off, set up near the windows, and use natural light to get you ready. I promise it makes for a more gorgeous photograph.
7:15 am | ‘Getting Ready’ Portraits
Once your makeup is ready, and you’re mostly dressed is the perfect time for ‘candid’ prep shots. You’re looking your best, and your photographer can capture beautiful photos of you putting on your jewelry. They should look for clean backgrounds and beautiful light. If the room is tiny, it’s often best for your bridesmaids to hang out in another room. But if there’s space, having one or two help you get ready can make incredible memories.
7:45 am | Individual Portraits
This small pocket of time before your First Look is the perfect point in your timeline to get a few portraits of just you. Indian Weddings move so fast that it’s nice to prioritize some of these in the morning. Your photographer may do most of these wherever you get ready but may also take some around the building (while keeping an eye out for your SO).
7:55 am | Leave For First Look
8:00 am | First Look and Couples Portraits
I bet you’ll remember this moment for the rest of your life, the first time you see your partner on your wedding day. It’s an emotion-packed moment for both of you and makes for incredible photos. Your photographer should have a spot scoped out beforehand and will help to direct you.
8:45 am | Bridal Party and Immediate Family
This is the best opportunity to get those traditional photos with your closest friends and family. Your photographer will typically get shots of the bride(s) with all their bridesmaids, the groom(s) with their groomsmen, individuals, and an entire group photo. I also recommend immediate family formals are taken care of at this point in the Indian wedding timeline.
9:15 pm | Extended Family Portraits
I recommend you complete all of the extended family and group photos before the festivities begin. People are much more amenable before sitting for hours and waiting for lunch, there’s also less pressure from the venue to leave, and the Mandap is in prime condition. Make sure your wedding planner or photographer has a list of groups prior so that you don’t have to stress over which groups are next.
10:00 am | Baraat
The Baraat is a high-energy tradition where the groom gets to party with their family in a processional towards the ceremony stage. Riding on a horse or fancy set of wheels, they’ll be accompanied by lots of dance and traditional Indian music, like a dhol drummer. You can read more about the Baraat here.
10:45 am | Milni + Ganesh Puja
The Baraat typically flows right into the Milni. The groom goes to meet the bride’s family, where he’ll take off his shoes and proceed to enter the Mandap. While he takes off his shoes, they most often get stolen by the sisters at the fault of the groomsmen in a light-hearted tradition known as Joota Chupai. He’ll have to cough up some dough after the ceremony to get them back (so remember to budget 5-10 minutes for negotiations after the ceremony).
Once the groom and parents have been seated, the priest(ess) will commence Ganesh Puja. This is a prayer to Lord Ganesha, God of beginnings, to bless the ceremony and remove obstacles. You can read more about it here.
11:00 am | Ceremony
An Indian Wedding Ceremony consists of any number of a multitude of different traditions and rituals. I’ve included a list of some below, but this is just a start. Expect your ceremony to take anywhere from 1-2 hours, and budget time accordingly. Some more modern priests have condensed these rituals in excellent ways and can help buy you more time on your wedding day.
- Vivaah Homa
- Granthi Bandhanam
- Saptapadi or Mangal Fera
- Laaja Homam
- Kansar Bhakshan
1:00 pm | Vidai
In the Indian Wedding Timeline, you’ll have just been married, and many of your guests will be running off to lunch. If you have a Vidai, make sure it happens now and not after lunch. Often more emotional than the first look, the Vidai symbolizes the bride leaving her family and riding off with her new husband. To read more about the role the Vidai plays in the Indian Wedding Timeline, check out this page.
3:00 pm | Hair + Makeup Touch Up
5:30 pm | Couples Portraits (Cocktail Hour)
Your guests will start arriving at the reception, but typically the bride and groom do not attend this cocktail hour because they are away taking more photos in their reception attire. Your photographer should take this opportunity to get creative and ensure they don’t miss any essential portraits from the morning. You can expect sunset/evening photos around your venue and photographs in the reception hall before all your guests come in. It takes time to travel around a wedding venue. Therefore, if you do want some time to mingle with guests at cocktail hour, let your photographer know so that they can accommodate it in your Indian wedding timeline. You don’t want to stress about not having enough time for pictures or seeing your guests.
6:30 pm | Reception Details
During Cocktail Hour, your photographer should also be taking the opportunity to photograph all your reception decor. Ensure the planner and decorators know to have the reception room picture-perfect for at least 20 minutes to accommodate these photos.
7:00 pm | Grand Entrances
7:15 pm | Speeches, Dances, Cake
This time is usually allotted for your first dance, parent dances, speeches, and any other planned performances. After they’re over, your MC should have a creative and seamless way of getting everybody out on the floor and dancing. If you’ve ever seen a Bollywood movie that ends with a wedding, you know you’re in for a crazy night and a popping dance floor!
8:30 pm | Open Dance Floor
9:00 pm | Night Portraits
This is the perfect opportunity to wrap up your wedding day photos. Your photographer should spend an extra 10-15 minutes with you after dancing for a bit to create some nighttime portraits. With so much energy on the dance floor and a totally different nighttime look at your venue, nighttime portrait possibilities are endless.