If you’re newly engaged, designing your wedding timeline is one of the first big planning tasks. But with so many moving parts – the ceremony, photos, reception, and more – where do you even start? As an Atlanta wedding photographer, I’ve seen hundreds of timelines in action. In this post, I’ll walk you through a complete wedding timeline template you can easily customize for your big day. Whether you’re working with a wedding planner or DIY planning, this will ensure every special moment goes off without a hitch.

Why You Need a Solid Wedding Day Timeline

A timeline keeps all your vendors aligned, organized, and on schedule. It guarantees ample time to capture portraits, so you can relax and soak in every precious second with your loved ones.

Most importantly – a smart timeline prevents stressful last-minute rushes. Brides report feeling overwhelmed without clear guidance on where they should be and when.

With some advance planning using my easy template below, your wedding events will flow seamlessly – allowing you to fully enjoy each special moment as it unfolds.

Customizable 10-Hour Wedding Timeline Template

While every wedding is unique, this framework serves as an excellent starting point you can tweak to your needs. A typical wedding day timeline is as follows:

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM: Final preparations like makeup and hair, detail photos
1:15 PM – 1:45 PM: The bride dresses with bridesmaids
1:45 PM – 2:15 PM: First look and/or letter exchange (optional)
2:15 PM: First look photo setup
2:25 PM – 3:05 PM: First look portraits
3:05 PM – 3:45 PM: Wedding party portraits
3:45 PM – 4:15 PM Family portraits
4:15 PM: Portrait session ends
5:15 PM – 5:45 PM: Ceremony
5:55 PM – 6:15 PM: Bride and groom portraits
6:45 PM: Grand entrance/introductions
7:00 PM: Sunset – perfect golden hour lighting
6:45 PM – 10:00 PM: Reception events

Top Tips for Planning Your Wedding Day Timeline

When crafting your timeline, here are a few considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Research your sunset time to maximize great lighting.
  2. Consider incorporating a first look to capture most portraits before the ceremony.
  3. Factor in the length of your ceremony, especially if it includes special customs or traditions.
  4. Allow extra travel time between venues.
  5. Hire a wedding planner to oversee the timeline execution.

Common Wedding Day Timeline Questions and Answers

How do I make a wedding timeline?

Check out my full in depth guide on creating a wedding timeline from scratch. You can also find a ton of resources for planning your wedding day on my blog post as well as my SSP Wedding Guide that I send to my clients when they book with me. Also, be sure to use the wedding timeline template as a starting point.

How long should a wedding day be?

If you are wanting typical wedding day coverage, I suggest booking a wedding photographer for 8-10 hours. 10 hours is going to give you a full days coverage without feeling rushed. I would not suggest anything below 8 hours unless you are eloping.

How detailed should a wedding timeline be?

Make it as detailed as possible. Write what moments you want captured throughout your day and then ask your wedding photographer and planner to help you finalize your wedding timeline. Also, include a contact list of your vendors information (business name, name, phone number, email). This will help you feel more organized when you need to contact them. If you have a wedding planner they should be able to take care of that for you.

How long before the wedding should I finalize the timeline?

You should finalize the timeline 3-6 months prior to the wedding day. Most vendors will need to know their start time. A great resource to use is a wedding planner.

How long does a wedding ceremony last?

Wedding ceremonies are typically 30 minutes long. However if you are interested in more of a religious ceremony (ex: Mass) it could take 60-90 minutes.

How much time do you need for wedding photos?

Prior to the ceremony, I suggest setting 3-4 hours of photos. After the ceremony would be 4-6 hours to family photos, couple photos, reception and send off.

How much time should you allow between the ceremony and reception?

I highly suggest allowing at least an hour to an hour and a half for cocktail hour. If you decide on a first look you will probably have time to enjoy cocktail hour. If you decide to not have a first look you will probably use majority of this time for photos (family, wedding party, couple photos).

How long should a wedding reception be?

Usually wedding receptions are around 3-4 hours.

What is the order of events for a wedding?

Usually the order of events for a wedding day are getting ready and portraits, ceremony, cocktail hour and family photos, sunset photos, and reception. Wedding exits are usually around 9PM or 10PM. Consider if you are doing a first look or not because this will change the directory of the wedding day.

How do I plan my wedding month by month?

This is such a wonderful question. Checkout my blog post, the Ultimate Wedding Planning Checklist.

Let’s Connect!

From custom timeline building to capturing your wedding day memories, I’m here to help make all your wedding dreams a reality. Reach out to learn more about my photography services.

For more planning resources, explore my wedding blog for newly engaged couples.

Let’s make it official! 

Here’s to capturing life’s next step