What’s a “timeline”?

A timeline is simply a schedule for your day. It lets us know when everything is happening and is a super important element of any wedding day. This is what we’ll follow on the day of to make sure we stay on time and know what’s happening next.

Unless you’re one of those people who’s been planning their wedding since they were 5 or a wedding photographer yourself… you probably haven’t even thought of the logistics of your timeline yet. No need to worry though, I’ve got you! Let’s figure this out together.

It’s important to get this sorted out earlier than later so when your florist + hair and makeup artists say, “Hey Marie, when do I need to be there?” You’ll be able to refer back to the timeline you created to make sure everything runs smoothly. Below, I’ve put together a worksheet that will walk you through creating your timeline from the time we arrive, through to the time we leave to make sure you’re getting all that you want covered in the the time that you have us! 

Great, you’re getting married. And now you keep getting asked  for a timeline, but you don’t know how much time you’ll need let alone what a sample timeline would look like. I’ve got a sample timeline just for you!

PRE-CEREMONY EXAMPLE / WITH FIRST LOOK

Take your exit time and subtract our hours of coverage from there to see when we arrive. Example: If your exit is at 9:30pm and you have us for 9 hours, we’ll arrive at 12:30p.

(12:30p): Photographer/Videographer Arrive + Capture Details
(1:00p): Bride/Groom “Getting Ready”
(1:30p): Bride/Groom “Getting Ready
(2:00p): First Look + Couple’s Portraits
(2:45p): Full Wedding Party Portraits
(3:00p): Bride/Bridesmaids or Groom/Groomsmen Photos
(3:30p): Bride/Bridesmaids or Groom/Groomsmen Photos
(4:00p): Family Formals Begin
(4:30): Tucked Away (hidden from guests)
(5:00): Ceremony Begins

POST-CEREMONY EXAMPLE / WITH FIRST LOOK

(5:00p): Ceremony Begins
(5:30p): Ceremony Ends |
(5:40p): A Few Sunset Couple’s Portraits Begin
(5:50p): Announced into Reception + First Dance
(6:00p): Dinner Begins
(6:45p): Speeches / Toasts
(6:55p): Cake Cutting
(7:05): Parent Dances
(7:15): DJ Invites for Open Dancing
SKIP TO THE EXIT TIME!
(8:45p): Bouquet + Garter Toss then Open Dancing
(9:20p): Private Last Dance
(9:30p): Special (sparkler, bubble, etc) Exit

PRE-CEREMONY EXAMPLE / NO FIRST LOOK

Take your exit time and subtract our hours of coverage from there to see when we arrive. Example: If your exit is at 9:30pm and you have us for 9 hours, we’ll arrive at 12:30p.

(12:30p): Photographers Arrive + Capture Details
(1:30p): 
Bride/Groom “Getting Ready”
(2:00p): 
Bride/Groom “Getting Ready
(2:30p): 
Bride/Bridesmaids or Groom/Groomsmen Photos
(3:00p): 
Bride/Bridesmaids or Groom/Groomsmen Photos
(3:30p): 
Tucked Away (hidden from guests)
(4:00p): 
Ceremony Begins

POST-CEREMONY EXAMPLE / NO FIRST LOOK

(4:00p): Ceremony Begins
(4:30p): Ceremony Ends | Family Formals Begin
(5:00p): Full Wedding Party Portraits Begin
(5:15p): Couple’s Portraits Begin
(6:00p): Announced into Reception + First Dance *without a first look, cocktail hour is about 1.5 hours and if you shorten it, you have a shorter couple’s portrait time. Never ever have less than 30 minutes for couple’s portraits. Less time = less photos / footage and it can affect your gallery versatility and the length of your film.
(6:10p): Dinner Begins
(6:50p): Speeches / Toasts
(7:00p): Possible B+G sunset photos
(7:10p): Cake Cutting
(7:20p): Parent Dances
(7:30p): DJ Invites for Open Dancing

SKIP TO THE EXIT TIME!
(8:45p): Bouquet Toss then Open Dancing
(9:20p): Private Last Dance
(9:30p): Special (sparkler, bubble, etc) Exit

STEP 1: HOW MANY HOURS HAVE YOU CONTRACTED ME FOR?

Check out your contract and to see how long you have me for! If you’re having a special exit you want captured – do the math backwards to see our arrival time.
EX: Exit at 9pm + you have 9 hours = we arrive at 12p and leave at 9pm.

STEP 2: WHAT TIME DOES THE SUN SET ON YOUR WEDDING DAY?

Knowing what time the sun will set on your wedding day is a huuuuuuuge must. I recommend starting the ceremony 1.5 – 2 hours before sunset. Reason being, we need light for family formals and any other portraits you may save for after the ceremony. I also recommend this time frame because if it rains or is a really cloudy day, it will get darker earlier.

The link below is linked to sunset times in Knoxville THIS MONTH – if your wedding location + month are different, click the link and search your wedding location city + month to see the sun set times projected for there/then.
SUN SET TIMES IN KNOXVILLE

STEP 3: DECIDE ON A CEREMONY TIME

**Both scenarios below are based on a 20-30 minute ceremony.
Doing a first look? If so, we can get most of the portraits out of the way before the ceremony. With a first look, we recommend beginning your ceremony 1.5 hours before sunset.
No first look? I recommend starting your ceremony 2.5-3hours before sunset because we will need the sun to be up long enough for full wedding party photos, couples portraits, as well as family photos after your ceremony. 

STEP 4: SEE HOW LONG EVERYTHING WILL TAKE

I’ve put the average amount of time it takes for me with a second photographer to capture each portion of your day on our coverage calculator (below). You’ll use this to put together your timeline. If you don’t have a wedding party, for example, you don’t have to include time for wedding party portraits in your timeline.

FIRST LOOK OR NAH?


I would never want you to feel pressured into doing a first look. It is amazing for photography and your timeline, however, I believe in first looks because they’re so much more than that.

From a bride: Personally, we did one for our wedding for three main reasons… we wanted lots of photos of the two of us (hello we never look that good ever), because we heard it calmed the nerves for the ceremony, and because we had a small guest count and wanted to get straight to the reception / have more time to talk with everyone who was sharing our day with us. We also figured we’d be super hungry by that point and that was so true.

If you’re having trouble deciding, I made a list of pros and cons below.

FIRST LOOK: CONS

• Untraditional
• See each other before the ceremony

FIRST LOOK: PROS

• Untraditional
• Calms the nerves before the ceremony
• Time together on your wedding day – you won’t get much of that!
• More Couple’s Portraits
• All photos can be done before the ceremony
• you get to go straight to the party!
• Longer dancing time during the reception

STEP 5: CREATE YOUR TIMELINE!

Having a first look or not having a first look will change the structure of your timeline entirely. Because of that, I’ve put templates below of both a timeline made for a first look and one made for no first look. Make sure you use the correct template when working out your timeline!
I recommend splitting it up into two portions while working it out: Pre-Ceremony and Post-Ceremony. Start with the ceremony time and work backwards and forward from there with the examples + template.

NOTE: WHEN CREATING YOUR TIMELINE, ONLY LIST THE STARTING TIME IN THE PARENTHESIS. (ex. “4:00p”) 
DO NOT LIST TIME BLOCKS. (ex. 4:00p-4:30p)

There are two timeline templates below to help you get started: one including a first look, the other not. Make sure you use the correct one. The timeline templates are built for a 9 hour day. If you have less coverage, some cutting will have to happen so pick what you prioritize capturing! If you have more than 9 hours of coverage, we can take things a little slower 🙂

Father First Looks + Bridesmaid reveals aren’t included in the templates. If you want those captured, leave about 15 minutes for each of those things!

FULL DAY TEMPLATE / WITH FIRST LOOK

***This is the one you copy if you’re doing a first look.
(our arrival time): Photographers Arrive + Capture Details
(30 minutes later): 
Bride/Groom “Getting Ready”
(30 minutes later): 
Bride/Groom “Getting Ready
(30 minutes later): First Look + Couple’s Portraits
(45-60 minutes later): 
Full Wedding Party Portraits
(30 minutes later): 
Bride/Bridesmaids or Groom/Groomsmen Photos
(15 minutes later): 
full wedding party group Photos
(30 minutes later): Family Formals Begin
(30 minutes later): 
Tucked Away (hidden from guests)
(30 minutes later): 
Ceremony Begins
(ceremony end time): Ceremony Ends
(15-30 minutes later): A Few Sunset Couple’s Portraits Begin
(20 minutes later): Announced into Reception + First Dance
(10 minutes later): Dinner Begins
(45 minutes later): Speeches / Toasts
(10 minutes later): Cake Cutting
(10 minutes later): Parent Dances
(10 minutes later): DJ Invites for Open Dancing
SKIP TO THE EXIT TIME!
(45 minutes before exit): Bouquet Toss then Open Dancing
(10 minutes before exit): Private Last Dance
(exit time): Special (sparkler, bubble, etc) Exit

A FIRST LOOK NOT FOR YOU?

FULL DAY TEMPLATE / WITHOUT FIRST LOOK ***This is the one you copy if you’re not doing a first look.(our arrival time): 

Photographers Arrive + Capture Details
(30 minutes later): Bride/Groom “Getting Ready”
(30 minutes later): Bride/Groom “Getting Ready
(30 minutes later): Bride/Bridesmaids or Groom/Groomsmen Photos
(30 minutes later): Bride/Bridesmaids or Groom/Groomsmen Photos
(30 minutes later): Tucked Away (hidden from guests)
(30 minutes later): Ceremony Begins
(ceremony ending time): Ceremony Ends | Family Formals Begin
(30-45 minutes later): Full Wedding Party Portraits Begin
(15 minutes later): Couple’s Portraits Begin
(45 minutes later): Announced into Reception + First Dance *without a first look, cocktail hour is about 1.5 hours and if you shorten it, you have a shorter couple’s portrait time. Couples portraits require a minimum of 30 minutes for couple’s portraits. Less time = less photos and it can affect your gallery versatility and the length of your wedding video.
(10 minutes later): Dinner Begins
(45 minutes later): Speeches / Toasts
(10-15 minutes later): Cake Cutting
(10 minutes later): Parent Dances
(10 minutes later): DJ Invites for Open Dancing
SKIP TO THE EXIT TIME!
(45 minutes before exit): Bouquet + Garter Toss then Open Dancing
(10 minutes before exit): Private Last Dance
(exit time): Special Exit (sparkler, bubbles, etc)

Too complicated? Does this Sound like another job?

No problem, included with your wedding collection you get photo a timeline created for you!

Book me as your photographer then wait for me to deliver you your wedding day photo timeline.

Wedding day sample timeline

Things to note when putting together a wedding day timeline. If there is any travel between ceremony  venue and reception venue, just double it. If it’s 15 minutes figure 30 just to be safe with traffic or someone getting lost.

Faux exits.

Sounds crazy, I know. But hear me out, if you want photos of the exit yet not necessarily photos of 2 hours of dancing this is an option.

Consider a faux exit if:

  • certain people leaving early that you want to be part of the exit
  • you only want your wedding party and a few close friends and parents in the photos
  • some might be too drunk to participate if you wait to the end

Sparkler Entrance

Here’s another option! Have all your guests line up  and throw rose petals/ hold sparklers/ blow bubbles/ toss confetti when you enter the reception.

private last dance with just the bride and groom

DJ TRAXX of the Smokies playing at 4 Points Farm

Private last Dance

Private last Dance is another really nice thing do at the end of the night right before the exit.

Trying to decide what kind of exit you want? Check out these wedding exit ideas

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