Customized Wedding Day Timeline Template

Mar 8, 2019

    It’s your Wedding Day… the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and you are about to have your hair and makeup done. Can you picture this moment? NO, that’s okay, most aren’t thinking about the BIG day just YET… while others are starting to dig into the details. No matter where you are in the planning stage, make sure this one thing is on your checklist. Wedding day timeline planning! 

    As you begin piecing the day together it’s important to consider a couple of things before you nail down your ceremony time and send out your invitations. The biggest detail to consider is LIGHT… no not the kind in your soul that the love you feel for your groom is producing… the actual kind… the light outside! We will dig more into this in a second.

    As a photographer, of course, light is the first thing on my mind, but seriously no matter how you see your day and the events that will play out… light is one of the key factors you need to think about… the others, okay maybe saying I DO and Tacos… or cake, are important too.

    Also, when it comes to THE DAY how do you know when to do what? Regardless of how many hours of Photography coverage you may have for your day.. think of it like this, everything will take longer than you think… which is why we have put together a no kidding break down of what each area of your day could look like and the amount of time you should set aside for it. Now depending on what you want to remember… this will help give you some guidance on when to have a photographer there and how long that section could take to capture all the images you might be thinking about. 

    We want to point out ALL of these times are SUGGESTED and based off of the weddings we have shot. Realize all of these times can be adjusted as no wedding day is the same. The MAIN purpose of this information is to provide a general idea of how much time you should expect for each event. When you are ready, check out the 2 question quiz we put together that will deliver your very own customized wedding day timeline template based off the information you provide! It can be found at the bottom of this post.

Want a custom timeline for planning? Answer a 2 question quiz inside Facebook Messenger to download it now. 




1. Do you want a First Look? Not sure? Read more about a first look >>HERE<<

2. What time is the sun setting on your wedding day? Not sure? Check it out >>HERE <<  

Answering these two questions will allow you to determine the ceremony start time. Once ceremony time is nailed down we can set a start time for the day. 



Yes, I Want A First Look

(Intimate moment between Bride + Groom prior to ceremony)


PROS | Able to have more photo opportunities and finish your creative portrait sessions earlier in the day so you can spend more time with family and friends once cocktail hour starts.

I Don’t Want To Look

(Waiting until the big aisle moment to see each other for the first time!)


PROS | Able to take more time prior to the ceremony to relax. You will also typically have more time planned and dedicated to Bride + Groom photos during optimal light after the ceremony. 



If you haven’t already done so, head over to this link  >>HERE <<  and plug in your location and wedding date to see the exact sunset time. Got it? Perfect …  Now what did you answer to the question in Step 1?

We Are Doing A First Look!

SUGGESTED CEREMONY START TIME | 2 Hours prior to Sunset time. 

No First Look

SUGGESTED CEREMONY START TIME | 2.5 Hours prior to Sunset time. 

EXAMPLE: We decided to do a first look and sunset time will be 6:30pm. This would be a 4:30pm Ceremony start time and 1pm start time to our day. 


    You have determined if you want a first look or not and you found sunset time. Now it’s time to fill in the remainder of the day. Here is a typical flow of events for a wedding day along with the suggested amount of time to plan for.


Suggested Time: 2 hours

This is the perfect time to capture all those little details. We encourage our Brides to have all jewelry, accessories, dress, shoes, rings, and flowers gathered when we arrive. While you are getting ready and enjoying time with your girls, we are capturing all those little details you will want to remember. This time also provides an opportunity to do some epic photos with your bridesmaids popping bubbly and jumping on the bed! After all … girls just want to have fun! 

Tip #1: Explain to your bridesmaids that they need to be ready 30 minutes prior to you putting your dress on. Bridesmaids not being ready is often the #1 reason the timeline falls behind.

Tip #2: If you are able, we recommend doing a test run of your hair and makeup to see how long it takes. 



Suggested Time: 30 Minutes

We love this moment! All of the planning, dreaming, tears, and happiness comes to a head as you put on your wedding dress. We always feel like this truly STARTS the day. As the dress is delicately placed on we are capturing everyone in the room as they begin to tear up with joy and happiness as they get to share in such a special moment. Be sure to have the tissues ready.

Tip: When you receive your dress do a test run and see how long it takes to put on. This will give you a good idea of how much time you need plan for on your wedding day.


Suggested Time: 30 Minutes

You have spent the morning getting ready now it’s time to show off your beautiful dress and have some fun with your Bride Tribe! During this time Joe is with the Groom + Groomsmen doing the same thing. 


Suggested Time: 30 Minutes

This moment is optional but we have so much to say about this magical time and all of the benefits it provides. If you choose to do a first look realize you can do 2 different ones! First look with Dad and of course soon to be Husband. During this time we will find a secluded location where the two of you can have an intimate moment together. 9 times out of 10 these end up being some of the best photos from the day. The emotions are heightened, the expressions are raw and in the moment, and it’s a moment that will never be forgotten. Read more about a First Look >>HERE<<


Suggested Time: 30 Minutes

THIS IS IT! It is time to say “I DO” and marry the love of your life. Average ceremony time is 30 minutes but have seen some go up to 1 hour. During this time we are running around like Ninjas capturing all of the special moments from as many different angles as possible. Our goal is to not be a distraction while every can focus on what’s must important, the two of you! 

Tip: If you have the ability to choose ceremony start time take sunlight into consideration. If you desire optimal light for your Bride + Grooms photos then we recommend reserving at least 45 minutes prior to sunset for your Bride + Groom photos then working backwards to determine ceremony start time.

Example:  (Working backwards) 7pm Sunset time | 6:15pm Bride + Groom Sunset Session Start Time | 6:00pm Wedding Party Start time | 5:30 Family Formals Start Time |  5:30pm end time for Ceremony | 5:00pm start time for Ceremony!


Suggested Time: 30 Minutes

This is optional but highly recommended. After the ceremony everyone is going to want to hug and kiss the new Mr + Mrs then head off to cocktail hour and are all over the place for the rest of the night. Trying to get everyone together again for photos is EXTREMELY difficult and can take away from the day. If you desire formal photos with specific family members then we always highly recommend as soon as the ceremony is over and you walk back down the aisle we roll right into Family Formals.The reason this works so well is everyone is excited to see you and are all centrally located.

Prior to your wedding day we come up with a Family Formal “shot list” where we literally list out every “grouping” that you want captured on your day. We suggest reserving 30 minutes for this portion of the day.

Tip: A good way to really nail down the time it takes is to set aside 1 Minute for each grouping. Examples of groupings: B + G with Siblings, B + G with Grooms Grandparents, B + G with Brides Aunts …. etc.

Tip: Put a family member in charge of calling out the family groupings and tell them prior to wedding day what you will need them to do. This keeps everyone organized. 


Suggested Time: 15-30 Minutes

These are probably the friends and family who have stuck by your side and you couldn’t imagine your wedding without them. This is the moment to show off your personalities together and have some FUN!


Suggested Time: 45 Minutes

The length of this session is totally up to you but we have found 30-45 minutes to be the best amount of time. It allows for you to breath and be in the moment after all of the excitement that just went down. We will find an epic location and let you two be fully present as we get down to doing what we do best. Be sure to revisit the ceremony section above and read about our lighting tip. If you want optimal light for these photos we recommend starting 1 hour prior to sunset for what’s known as “Golden Hour”.


Suggested Time: Time Varies

The “I Dos” have been said, it is now time to party and celebrate your new status as Mr + Mrs with all of your family and loved ones! The reception timeline is normally established by the DJ or coordinator. All we do is stay in Ninja mode and go with the flow. Typical events we see are grand entrance, cake cutting, bouquet + garter toss, first dance, toasts, and exit.

Tip: The thing to consider when booking your photographer is determining how much of the day you want captured and what moments during the day are the most important to you. Using the suggested times above, you should be able to put together a rough timeline of your day. This will allow you to have a better idea of how many hours of coverage you desire. On average we see 8-10 hours being the sweet spot for photography wedding day coverage! 


Suggested Time: Time Varies


Here at Buchanan Photography, we walk all of our couples through a custom timeline planning session as we feel it is the most critical element of the planning process. We have seen this one planning alleviate the stress on wedding day when things get busy time and time again. 

At the end of the day we value nothing more than ensuring you have the best time of your life during your wedding! 

Want help finding out what timeline is right for you?  Seriously take this 2 question quiz… that’s it! We will shoot it over to your inbox before you can even go pop a bag of pop corn, pour a glass of Sangria, and cuddle up on the couch to watch your favorite show! 

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