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We are Matthew and Brittany! A husband and wife photography team based in Knoxville, Tennessee! We love photographing weddings, educating other creatives, and eating Chick-fil-A!

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February 26, 2019

How to Create the Perfect Wedding Day Timeline

FILED IN: Advice

Everything is finally done. You’ve chosen the date, the venue for the ceremony and reception. You and your fiancé tasted so many cakes and different food options that you thought you might never want to eat again…and you’ve selected the perfect Wedding Cake, Groom’s Cake and catering for your wedding.

You found THE dress.

Your bridesmaids and groomsmen know what they are supposed to wear and either have it or have it ordered. Flowers are in the works. You have an awesome DJ to help you keep the celebration going at your reception. You have chosen the right photographer for you and are working on scheduling an engagement session (or maybe you already have it scheduled and are looking forward to it or have already done your engagement session). There is still plenty more to do (like planning the perfect wedding day timeline), BUT hopefully a lot of the big things are done!

So what do you do now? Well, first off…pat yourselves on the back. Planning a wedding is hard work. Really hard work! You’ve done an awesome job. We know that so many things go into planning a wedding and it can get really crazy at times. Just know we’re rooting for you and are so proud of everything you’ve done to make your day perfect! Now it’s our turn to help you plan just one more thing to make sure your wedding day goes as smooth as possible!

Wedding bands at River View Family Farm

Why is a timeline important?

You’ve worked so hard to get every little detail of this day as perfect as you possibly can. You don’t want anything to go wrong just because someone didn’t know where to be at a certain time or expectations maybe weren’t communicated clearly across the board. This is where a timeline comes in. We like to build a timeline, taking into account all of the big important pieces of your day, that will help make sure not only your pictures, but your entire day flows smoothly and NOTHING is left out! We’ll start our timeline upon our arrival and walk you through the entire day all the way up until you leave to go on your honeymoon!

Reception details are important parts of planning the perfect wedding day timeline.

So how do you even build this thing?

There are so many moving parts to a wedding day…and a lot of it really does revolve around pictures. All of those little details, the big details, all of the people there to celebrate with in the bridal party, all of your family and friends there to celebrate with you…are all in those timeless pictures that you want captured on your wedding day! When it comes to photography, your photographers are going to be the center of a lot of it because you have them there to capture each and every moment of your day. It is so important to build a timeline with your photographer…so we want to let you in on everything that goes into building one!

Here are a few of the major parts of a wedding day timeline:

  • Photographers arrival
  • Details (think ring, dress, shoes, bouquet, jewelry, etc)
  • Bride getting ready
  • Bride with bridesmaids
  • Groom getting ready
  • Groom with groomsmen
  • Bride with family
  • Groom with family
  • First look (if applicable, and this is always totally optional)
  • First look with Dad
  • Bridal party
  • Bride and groom together
  • Family portraits
  • Ceremony
  • Entrance to reception
  • First dance
  • Father-daughter dance
  • Mother son dance
  • Cutting of the cake
  • Bouquet Toss
  • Garter Toss
  • Speeches
  • Exit

That’s just the standard every single wedding ones…that pretty much every single photographer is going to capture. This doesn’t include all of the candid photos we like to capture throughout the day to show everyone interacting and just being together to celebrate you or include any of the special pictures that we as Matthew and Brittany always capture because that’s just us! This doesn’t include anything extra that the Bride and Groom might want us to capture. This is just a quick list, not an exhaustive one…and each of those can be broken down into even more subcategories of pictures too! So as you can see, there are a lot of things that could get off track if a good solid timeline is not set in place.

bride and groom holding each other close during their portraits at Knoxville Wedding Venue.

Again, so how do we build this timeline you speak of?

So to start, we’re going to break everything down into about 15-30 minute chunks of time. But for now, let’s start with when we would arrive at a wedding! For us, we take the ceremony start time and then go back 3-3.5 hours. That is when we arrive. Our typical wedding day coverage is 8 hours, which is our sweet spot for capturing everything for a wedding day and still giving wiggle room if things get behind! Upon arrival, we will come and find the bride usually and let her know we are there and get comfortable with everyone.

We always start photographing the details first. This allows us to get in our creative mindset in photographing details…get a feel for the day and it allows the opportunity to walk around the ceremony/reception site to familiarize ourselves with the venue for later during the day. Details usually take us about 45 minutes to shoot!

Once we finish with the details, we will move to the bridal suite! This is where we will spend about 15-20 minutes with the bride and her getting ready. We will photograph her getting into her dress (fake of course…just those beautiful styled shots of mom/bridesmaids finishing up the back of the dress), putting on the finishing touches of hair, makeup, jewelry, etc. One of the most important things about this portion of the day is that EVERY single person who is in the room getting the bride ready needs to be ready themselves. We always make sure to remind our bridesmaids and any family that they need to be ready when we come to get the “bride getting ready” pictures!

After the bride gets ready, we have a couple different options in how the day can go. If you choose to do a first look before the ceremony, we will jump over to the groom really quickly and spend about 15 minutes with him as well getting ready. Then we will move into the “First Look” portion of the day where we will spend about 30 minutes with the bride and groom for these photos as well as some portraits of them too! If the couple chooses not to do a first look, we will move into bridesmaids pictures with the bride. Bridesmaid pictures usually last about 15 minutes as well.

Now that the bride has had pictures with her bridesmaids, we will move into taking pictures of the bride with her immediate family. This can really be whoever the bride determines she wants there at this time. Mom, Dad, siblings, grandparents on both sides are the ones we usually see for this portion of the day! Doing some of these immediate family pictures helps alleviate some of the time after the wedding for family pictures.

Once the bride has finished with family photos, we will move over to the groom and basically follow the exact same flow. Groom getting ready, groom with groomsmen, groom with immediate family. Once we finish with the groom, our priority moves to the venue!

We always give ourselves about 30 minutes to shoot the reception and ceremony details. We will photograph the ceremony site, reception site, cake, gift tables, guest book, individual tables decorated for the reception as well as get wide shots of the entire venue and each location (ceremony and reception). Our goal is to STOP taking photos completely 30 minutes before the ceremony.

Newly married couple kiss as they become husband and wife.

Always build yourself time in your timeline…

It is so very important to remember that a timeline is so very important and you want to try and stick to it as much as possible. But there is something even more important. You have to (and we do too) remember that sometimes things happen and people are late or something just doesn’t go according to plan. We always make sure to build a buffer of about 30 minutes into our timeline so that if something happens, we have some time built and in and have time to plan where and when we need to move things.

Every ceremony is different, so this is something that you will want to communicate with your photographer. Some ceremonies are really short and only last 10 minutes, while some could last up to an hour and half depending on the type of ceremony. This is something super important to know because it helps us build what happens after your ceremony in terms of pictures…and it also helps us decide what we can realistically get accomplished before the ceremony as well.

Once the ceremony is finished, we always move directly into family formals. We ask our brides and grooms ahead of time to communicate to family that after the recessional, family needs to come back to the front of the ceremony site and wait for family photos. Many times, even the pastor will mention that for us as well (somewhere after the “everyone is invited to the reception” part) before they dismiss the guests.

Family formals are so important to us because these are people that you might not always get a picture with on a normal day, but they came to celebrate you. Sometimes, it could even end up being one of the most memorable or even last pictures you get with a certain family member. So we always make sure to not miss any shots! We even send out a questionnaire that helps you build a shot list that is as detailed as you want it to be! The more details we have, the quicker and more efficient this time can be! This will usually take between 15-20 minutes!

Now that we’ve dismissed family to go back to the reception and hang out, we will then get to the bridal party. That is, unless you’ve done a first look and more than likely we will have done bridal party pictures BEFORE the ceremony! The very last set of pictures we always do before we head into the reception are portraits of the bride and groom. Even if you do a first look and we already took portraits of you, we will take more.

Part of the perfect wedding day timeline is making sure there is room for plenty of photos, including the wedding ceremony.

More Pictures?

Yes, more pictures. After the ceremony, you’re now married. The feeling has totally changed. The emotions are different. Many times, we find that the couple is more relaxed and just feel so comfortable and the love radiates out from them. Before the wedding, the nervous excitement, the giddiness, the silly grins and giggles and all the emotions are there. Whether you do a first look or not, trust us…we’re going to take as many pictures as you will allow us to. The timeline for this really depends on the couple and how much time they are willing to give us before they enter into their reception. We always make sure to meet up (in person or via Zoom) to go over the timeline and hash out important details like this!

Once we enter into the reception, we really begin to follow the DJ’s timeline because they are the ones who run the show after that. Granted, it’s always nice when the DJ gives us Photographers a heads up when big things are about to happen so we don’t have to jump across tables or spring across a room to make sure we don’t miss a shot! Many times, we like to share our timeline with the DJ and have them share theirs with us. This just helps everyone be on the same page and helps everything go smoothly…all the way up until we photograph your exit as you head to celebrate the beginning of your marriage journey on your honeymoon!

Knoxville wedding photographers capture the bridal details as the work through their wedding day timeline.

Major things to consider

So what are the biggest things to consider when building your wedding day timeline? You will need to consider how long it will take to have your hair and makeup done as well as your bridesmaids and anyone else getting theirs done. This will help you figure out when you need to arrive to your location so that you’re ready for your photographers when they arrive.

You will need to make sure to communicate clearly to the groom and groomsmen when they need to arrive to the location (if they are getting there at a different time…because let’s face it…they don’t have to do near as much it seems). It is so important to make sure that your family knows when they need to be there (and that they need to be picture ready when they do arrive) so that no one feels anymore rushed or stressed than they need too!

It wouldn’t even be a bad idea to print out the timeline for bridesmaids, groomsmen, family, and wedding coordinators too just to make sure everyone stays on the same page all day long. Communication is key. Sometimes we might even over-communicate to our couples, but we just want you to be as prepared as possible and want your day to be something magical 🙂

I know throughout all of this we talked about time in 15-30 minute chunks. What I want to do now is give you a sample timeline of how a wedding day might look for someone with both a first look and without a first look!

Knoxville wedding venue River View Family Farm

Some Sample Timelines

Day of Timeline (No First Look)

  • 1:00 Matthew and Brittany arrive and shoot bridal details
  • 1:45 Bride Gets ready
  • 2:00 Bride with Bridesmaid
  • 2:15 Brides Immediate Family
  • 2:30 Groom Getting Ready
  • 2:45 Groom with Groomsmen
  • 3:00 Groom’s Immediate Family
  • 3:15 STOP PORTRAITS
  • 3:15 Shoot ceremony details
  • 4:00 Ceremony
  • 4:30 Ceremony Ends/Family Formals
  • 4:45 Bridal Party
  • 5:00 – Bride and Groom
  • 5:25 Leave for Reception Venue
  • 5:45 Enter Reception
  • 5:45 – 9:00 Follow DJ Timeline
  • 9:00 Exit/Photographer End Time

Day of Timeline (with First Look)

  • 2:00 Matthew and Brittany arrive – Photograph Bridal Details
  • 3:00 Bride gets ready
  • 3:15 Groom Getting Ready Photos
  • 3:30 First Look with Bride & Groom
  • 3:40 Bridal Party
  • 3:50 Bride with Bridesmaids
  • 4:00 Groom with Groomsmen
  • 4:10 Reception and Ceremony Photos
  • 4:45 STOP PHOTOS/Prep for Ceremony
  • 5:15 Ceremony
  • 5:45 Ceremony Ends/Family Formals
  • 6:00 Bride and Groom Photos
  • 7:00 Enter Reception
  • 9:30 Fake Send Off
  • 10:00 Photographer End time
Bride and groom leave wedding reception at the end of their wedding day timeline.

Again, y’all we cannot stress enough the importance of a timeline on your wedding day and communicating back and forth with ALL parties involved! We strive to make your wedding day as smooth and seamless as possible. Having a timeline to go by, that everyone has talked about and agreed upon really helps with that. Hopefully, this has helped you think about ways to build your timeline and all of the things that have to happen to make sure you get all the photos you could dream of on your wedding day!


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