timeline planning

Timelines can be intimidating! I want you to be able to relax and enjoy wedding day not thinking about logistics. That's why I've put together this timeline guide. We'll go over everything from how much time we need to spend on each aspect of the day, to lighting, and other tips.
 Take a look over and we'll begin building your timeline in a questionnaire 30 days before the wedding. 

time to start

ring, dress, shoes, & other details

Ideal Time Allotment – 30 minutes
Ideal Time of the Day – Morning
Ideal Location – Bridal Suite, Hotel, Airbnb

Advice – Getting ready photos can be some of the most special moments of the day. The anticipation in the air and the emotions unfolding can cultivate some of the most beautiful moments in the time long before guests arrive!

However, it's important to note these stunning memories can be concealed by cluttered rooms and not-so-ideal lighting conditions. Here’s a few things to consider when choosing a location and prepping for my arrival on your wedding day!

Details: We don't want to leave out the beautiful details you have put time into on wedding day. When I first arrive and after I give you the warmest welcome, I'll ask if you have any details for me. It's super helpful to put a box or bag together with invitations, jewelry, the rings, any available loose florals, family heirlooms, vow books, shoes, and anything else that is special to you! You definitely don’t need to give me everything you but those few details can be some of your favorite photos later on as you put so much thought into these items and they tell the story of your day.

preparation & getting ready

Ideal Time Allotment – 60 minutes
Ideal Time of the Day – Morning or Early Afternoon
Ideal Location – Bridal Suite, Hotel, Airbnb

Cleanliness: These special emotion- filled moments at the start of the day can be a little less stunning with fast food bags, clothes splattered, more clutter in the background. If you want to make the most of your getting ready photos, and not be embarrassed of any mess in your gallery, please make your getting ready location as clean as possible BEFORE I arrive. Throw out garbage, and hide all suitcases, gym bags, and other clutter in closets and under beds.

Lighting: I may turn off all the lights in the space you’re getting ready. We want the cleanest, most even light which means we want to turn off all fluorescents so your skin doesn't look bright orange! Choosing a location with lots of windows and natural light will always be gorgeous.

Room aesthetic: When it comes to a getting ready space, lots of windows and natural light is most important! Clean decor and white or light walls are also ideal helpful! If you do not have a clean space with natural light for getting ready photos, you can bring your dress, shoes, and jewelry to the venue and we'll capture your finishing touches or you could always get ready outdoors. It sounds super funny, but once you have your dress on mostly on, we often times will zip and do finishing touches outdoors so we can get the most stunning natural light.  The aesthetic for getting ready rooms is just as important for guys.

First looks before the ceremony

A first look gives you and your love a chance to see each other in a private, intimate setting before the ceremony.

Many photographers will push first looks. It is no secret that it is every photographer's preference to have a first look for the reasons below, I will NEVER persuade away from what feels right for you two. That being said, here are some reasons a first look may be the right move for wedding day.

Ideal Time Allotment – 20 minutes
Ideal Time of the Day – 1- 1.5 hours before ceremony
Ideal Location – Near ceremony

It'll take some pressure off. There are so many nerves going into wedding day. Sometimes you haven't seen your partner in a good 24 hours and you just might want that moment between the two of you to take a breath, see how beautiful they look, and enjoy a few embraces pre ceremony. I definitely notice my couples are more relaxed going into ceremony after a first look.

It makes for better photos. While I do love the groom reaction shots while a bride walks down the aisle, it does not have the intimacy a first look does, and truthfully the emotion captures better during a first look because we are able to get  get closer up. It’s also much more challenging to take in the moment for yourselves when you're in the spotlight of your guests.

It makes your timeline easier.  After your first look, we typically have time for part of our couples portraits, wedding party photos, and even sometimes we can do part of your family photos. Do you know what this means?! You get to enjoy your dang cocktail hour!! Opting for a first look means you at least split your timeline up so instead of an hour and a half of photos after ceremony, you will maybe need 20-30 minutes for family photos and go drink, eat, and be merry! 

Privacy please: I HIGHLY recommend keeping first looks private. Meaning you, your fiance, myself and my second shooter. The moment you see your future spouse for the first time can be such a beautiful moment and I recommend keeping it as private as possible.

Family photos

While the majority of the day is focused on capturing emotion and unplanned moments, I realize that family photos are just as important and I take them very seriously.

Ideal Time Allotment – 30-40 minutes
Ideal Time of the Day – Morning or Early Afternoon
Ideal Location – At Ceremony Arch, Nearby Mountains, or Clean Background

Advice – You'll finalize your family groupings on your timeline questionnaire but I recommend limiting to 10 or less family formal groupings. Trust me, I know it's a slippery slope of wanting 30 million family groupings and it's hard to narrow down but I'd encourage you to think which are the most important. Family photos are easily the most tiring portion of the day, and nearly every couple I've had with large family grouping numbers end up getting burnt out. Instead I recommend a smaller grouping list and we capture the candid moments you spend with family during reception.

Expect each grouping to take 3-5 minutes to form. If the group sizes are larger and harder to wrangle everyone in, they can take 10+ minutes to form each group. Simplify this by keeping sizes smaller and letting family know to stick around after the ceremony.

Wedding party

Ideal Time Allotment – 45 minutes - 1 hour
Ideal Time of the Day – 1 hour before ceremony or post ceremony
Ideal Location – Clean background

Tell your wedding party to come ready to have fun! If we can stay focused for the first bit, it helps make the group photos move swimmingly. It's best to join before everyone has had TOO much booze, but we still want the wedding party to have some fun. I highly recommend telling your wedding party to come with embarrassing stories, inside jokes, and if we have time, it's so fun to get your inside jokes in photos or recreate a photo back from the old days.

Note on Drinking & Smoking: We are from Colorado after all! Let's get real, smoking weed in photos often makes our eyes droopy, red, and not as photogenic. We recommend not smoking until bridal party photos are done and we're more than stoked to be there capturing you all smoking a blunt after. For drinking, a little alcohol is honestly great for loosening up your bridal party but we still want to make sure no one is sloppy so keep it limited to 1-2 drinks for this part of the day, we'll capture drunken shenanigans on the dance floor ;)

Ceremony

When planning your outdoor ceremony location, it’s easy to be distracted by stunning views and decor but it's equally as important to focus on the lighting which can make or break the photos!

Ideal Time Allotment – Up to You!
Ideal Time of the Day – 2-3 hours before sunset
Ideal Location – At Ceremony Arch, Nearby Mountains, or Clean Background

Backlight: This is big to focus on if you're having your ceremony EARLIER than 2.5 hours before sunset. This means setting up your ceremony so the sun is behind you, your fiancee, and your officiant, and your guests are facing the sun. Ask your venue coordinator, they should be able to help you.

Sunset is best: I recommend doing outdoor ceremonies about 2 hours prior to sunset allowing time for couples photos as well as potential delays + timeline difficulties. If you're NOT having a first look, plan for 2.5 hours before.

Couples portraits

It’s no secret that couples photos are my favorite part of the day.  I will love photographing every aspect and moment of your day but couples portraits are just so exciting. These are the images you'll hang in your home, make an album of, and show to children and grandchildren one day. The intimate moments of holding each other and the look of excitement in each of your eyes are memories you'll reminisce on for the rest of your lives together.

Ideal Time Allotment – 45 minutes - 1 hour
Ideal Time of the Day – Anytime! But please allow an additional 15-20 before sunset.
Ideal Location – Let's talk! This could be near your ceremony site, a drive away, or anywhere special. I highly recommend anywhere scenic nearby.

Sunset: I'm sure you've heard the term "golden hour" at least a few times in your life. The suns diffusion as it goes down makes for the softest, warmest light that complements any scenery so perfectly. We recommend allowing us as much time as possible around sunset for portraits. Typically 1 hour before the official sunset time. If we take couples photos earlier in the day, we recommend stealing you two away for even 15-30 minutes. It's also SUCH a nice moment to spend just the two of you away from everyone. Take in the moment together!

Post-ceremony: While most couples do a first look prior to the ceremony, we can either start couples portraits then or wait until later. Keep in mind you will be SO much more relaxed post ceremony. There can be a lot of nerves building up to the ceremony, and once it’s over, not only are you MARRIED, but you’re giddy, excited, and ready to love up on each other which makes for amazing photos.

Just the two of you, please! While your relatives, best friends, and every guest are pumped to spend time with you after the ceremony, I ask that your couples portraits time stays between you two and your photographer. Guests can be distracting and can take away from the beautiful, intimate moments you'll have.

reception

I spend the majority of your day photographing in natural light as it's the softest and least intrusive. Once reception rolls around it gets DARK! I'll be bouncing between flash on cameras and continuous LED light. While this can be a little more noticeable (hello flash in the face) please know it is so we can adequately capture your reception and all your photos won't be pitch black ;)

TIMELINE: Dinner 45-60 minutes, toasts 15 minutes (you can start these while dinner is still being served!), first dances 15 minutes, party 15+ minutes

Outdoor lighting: If you've opted for having an outdoor reception, remember to find adequate lighting. Our cameras are unable to focus without at least a little light and while a few scattered candles may seem sweet, trust us when we say the more outdoor lighting, the better! I recommend using string lights, tons of candles, and even edison bulbs.

One last word on receptions: please feed your photographers! Most wedding days are 9-12 hours with travel. Besides getting straight up hangry during that time, an underfed photographer is not a creative one. While some vendors can eat later in the night, we recommend photographers eat at the same time you do. This means we aren't waiting on food or stuffing our faces when it's time for toast (although that'd be a hell of a sight)

Here's what an 8-hour timeline looks like.

(our arrival time): Photographers Arrive + Capture Details
(30 minutes later): Partner One "Getting Ready"
(30 minutes later): Partner Two "Getting Ready
(30 minutes later): Partner One and their Wedding Party Photos
(30 minutes later): Partner Two and their Wedding Party 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
(25 minutes later): Couple's Portraits Begin
(40 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.
Never ever have less than 20 minutes for couple's portraits.
Less time = less photos and it can affect your gallery versatility.
(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, confetti, etc)

(our arrival time): Photographers Arrive + Capture Details
(30 minutes later): Partner One "Getting Ready"
(30 minutes later): Partner Two "Getting Ready
(30 minutes later): First Look + Couple's Portraits
(45-60 minutes later): Full Wedding Party Portraits
(15 minutes later): Partner One and their Wedding Party Photos
(30 minutes later): Partner Two and their Wedding Party Photos
(30 minutes later): Tucked Away (hidden from guests)
(30 minutes later): Ceremony Begins
(ceremony end time): Ceremony Ends | Family Formals Begin
(30-45 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 + Garter Toss then Open Dancing
(10 minutes before exit): Private Last Dance
(exit time): Special (sparkler, bubble, etc) Exit

Without First Look

With First Look

some questions & answers:

OF COURSE, it's your day! This information is a LOT and I'm sure can be overwhelming but it comes from all the love for you two and me wanting you guys to have the best day and most beautiful photos. If you have questions or suggestions, shoot me an email and we can chat about ideas and logistics. If you do decide to follow this guide, just know you will be set up for success to have a stress free dat!

Is it okay if we make our own suggestions?

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It definitely will be! For the best quality formal photos (couples, bridal party, and family) you'll need to allot at least an hour and a half. Without a first look, we still need 30 minutes family, 30 for wedding party, and 30 for couples portraits. I’d definitely recommend either doing a first look before your ceremony, or moving your ceremony time to 2 1/2 hours prior to sunset so we can fit all your photos in after the ceremony.

Our ceremony Is closer to sunset and we don't want a first look, will that be a problem?

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Of course! I work with all my clients to create a timelines so they can relax on wedding day. Shoot me an email if you have specific questions OR we can schedule a time to chat about errythang!

Email me at info@merakiweddings.com

I'm still worried abuot creating a timeline, can you help us?

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@merakiweddingphoto