Wedding Day Timelines {Part 2}

In part 1 of my blog post on planning the ideal wedding day timeline, I address the importance of flow. Now, it’s time to get down to nitty gritty details. But first, let’s read Dr. Seuss’ perspective on time:

How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?

Just as Cinderalla’s golden carriage will turn into a pumpkin, so too must a wedding day end.

Hiring stellar vendors helps to minimize stress and keep the flow so the wedding couple can focus on being a wedding couple, being present, and enjoying the important moments. Before I delve into timeline details, I offer three tips:

#1. Consider a First Look
If you are in the early stages of wedding planning, consider a First Look. Seriously, the portraits are better, the reactions and emotions in the First Look are also a times better than the walking down the aisle moment. Hair & makeup is fresh for photos. The extra time will be on your side and the images will be that much better. I share more in my 25 tips for your best wedding photography.

The tradition of not seeing the bride goes back to the olden days of arranged marriages (if the bride is ugly, the groom has time to jump town). Two ingredients need for this photographic style include ample time before the ceremony and wonderful natural light. Combined, these help set the stage for a more casual, relaxed approach in your wedding portraits. In addition, with a First Look, you have more control over location choice. Your hair, makeup, and clothing will be photographed while pristine and in plenty of time before ceremony anxiety and emotion. You’ll also have more romantic time for your groom to admire you in your wedding dress away from crowds. An added bonus: you will have more time with guests and can even enjoy cocktail hour with guests!

#2. Plan for Natural Light
You’ll also appreciate the difference of natural light makes in your photos. Summer light lingers longer, giving a great chance at catching the warm light at a low angle. However, shorter days during winter months give little chance to photograph using natural, “pretty” light. If you are getting married in the evening where it is dark after the ceremony or during the months between November and April (in the Northern Hemisphere), we strongly suggest a First Look.

Even if you choose the traditional approach of shooting the portraits after the ceremony, time your ceremony so there is natural light available. Ideally, plan the ceremony to end 2 hours before sunset to get the best out of natural light.

#3. Don’t Stress Weather
Wind, snow, hail shouldn’t mean much on the wedding day. Have good thoughts. Seriously, rain on the wedding day is good luck in Hawaii (where we wed). When the weather doesn’t cooperate, don’t fret! Why worry about something you can’t control?

As a starting point, assuming a 6:30 sunset with a 5pm ceremony, here’s a starting point:

  • 2pm – Photography begins about before bride ready to get into dress. Details, final hair-make-up touches, preparation candid photos of bridal party & family. Bride should be first to be finished before bridesmaids to be ready for photos.
  • 3:00pm – Bride dresses with candids of Mom and bridesmaids. Groom gets into wedding attire.
  • 3:30pm – First Look, wedding couple portraits before ceremony
  • 4:00pm – Wedding Party photos
  • 4:30pm – Bridal party relax while guests arrive. Ceremony details and candids captured.
  • 5:00pm – Ceremony (about 90 minutes before sunset is ideal)
  • 5:30pm – Ceremony Ends (special note: a receiving line will add considerable time and can fatigue wedding couples quickly).
  • 5:40pm – Family Photos
  • 6:00pm – Sunset Photos (the “Golden Hour” starts)
  • 6:20pm – Reception details photographed
  • 6:30pm – Sunset (the “golden” hour is 30 minutes before to 30 minutes after sunset)
  • 6:45pm – Cocktail Hour Ends. Second photographer shoots candids of guests.

My recommendation for a reception timeline:

  • 7:00pm – Grand entrance / first dance / welcome / blessing
  • 7:15pm – Dinner
  • 8:00pm – Toasts
  • 8:20pm – Special dance (Father/daughter, mother/son dance, etc)
  • 8:30pm – Open Dancing / Cake Cutting
  • 9:40pm – Bouquet / Garter Toss (if applicable)
  • 10:00pm – Photography coverage concludes

My base wedding collections include 8 hours of coverage (upper tier collections include unlimited time). Given the above timeline, I suggest wedding couples to have me start photographing from:

2:00 – 10:00
2:30 – 10:30
1:00 – 9:00

In the big picture, more time for photos equals better photos since we’ll have more time to explore creative locations and have fun.Thoughtfully plan your day in advance, including 20-30 minutes of bride and groom alone time for your portrait session. Exploring an old barn, a nearby beach park, a scenic vista, or even an the quaintness of the town can create an array of creative possibilities. Please plan extra time between your wedding events, as unexpected things may arise. It is recommended to schedule an hour and a half for portraits, including 20-30 minutes with bride and groom alone, 30 minutes with bridal party, and 30 minutes with family (which can get done in 15-20 minutes assuming everyone is present). Keep in mind the sunset will be early and the “best” light usually happens about 30 minutes before sunset.

A visual walkthrough of the day, starting with bridal prep:


Bridal party photos are a fun way to create memories with your favorite friends and family:


And we have a ton of fun goofing around and laughing:

And I love me some Vanity-Fair styled bridal party formals:

With bridal party and creative couple photos done, it’s time to get married!

Where time permits, exploring for 5-10 minutes during the post-ceremony endorphin high can lead to amazing portraits.

In 50 years, family photos matter. 15-20 minutes is all it takes to document family history.

And sunset photos is a nice way to take a breather and savor quality time together.

I recommend all my clients carve out time to enjoy cocktail hour with guests (which is possible with a First Look):

While guests are enjoying appetizers and a drink, we’re off photographing important details and reception decor:

My tip for making guests enjoy their dinner: don’t interrupt them with toasts and dancing to distract. Allow at least 45 minutes for dinner….

… then get down with the get down:

Photo booths offer up opportunities to get creative like this Norman Rockwell inspired photo:



3 Responses to “Wedding Day Timelines {Part 2}”

  1. Marnie — May 8, 2014 @ 4:20 pm (#)

    great thoughts on organizational suggestions!
    I love the review of your work, scans of seasonal changes, latitude and longitude differences. thank you !

  2. Pingback: Wedding Day Timelines {Part 1} » Kern-Photo - Kern-Photo

  3. Pingback: Albert Lea Wedding {Cara & Arthur} - Kern-Photo - Kern-Photo

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