timeline planning

Timelines can be intimidating! I want you to feel completely at ease so you can relax on wedding day. That’s exactly why I’ve put together this wedding guide. We’ll cover everything from getting ready locations to family portraits to reception lighting so you can feel confident that you’re setting yourselves up for success.

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 are easily some of my favorite moments of elopement and wedding days. There’s so much sweet anticipation in the air and I’ve captured some of the most beautiful moments in those morning hours long before guests arrive!

However, these moments can be easily be overshadowed by an overly cluttered bridal suite 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!

preparation & getting ready

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

Cleanliness: Those beautiful, emotion-filled moments on the morning of a wedding day can be a little less beautiful with fast food leftovers, gym bags and a pile of shoes in the background. When it comes to making the most of your getting ready photos, it’s important that your getting ready location is as clean as possible when I arrive! Please make sure bags, shoes, garbage and general clutter is put away in order to provide a clean space for your photos.

Lighting: The first thing I’ll do when I arrive in the morning (besides all the hugs, of course), is turn off all the lights in the space you’re getting ready. This may seem counterintuitive, especially if you’re getting ready in a dark room. However, working with the cleanest lighting possible will make your photos turn out best! This means no orangey hues from lamps and room lighting. Choosing a location with lots of windows and natural light will be best.

HMUA: While I’ll likely arrive when your hair and makeup artists are putting the finishing touches on your gorgeous self, it’s important you provide a space with lots of natural light for them to work! If not, they’ll need to use an additional lighting source that can take away from the lovely even lighting of your getting ready space. If it’s absolutely necessary for them to work with an additional lighting source, I’ll request they turn it off for just a few minutes for prep photos. I’d recommend setting them up by a window so we’ll all get the lighting we need!

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, but as long as I have natural light to work with, almost any space will do! If you’re not able to find a space that’s clean with natural light, you may consider bringing your dress to the ceremony location, renting out a space such as an airbnb, or you could always get ready outdoors! It sounds crazy, but once you have your dress on, you could do finishing touches outdoors with gorgeous natural lighting. Room aesthetic is equally important both for the bride as well as the groom, so don’t forget about the guys when choosing a getting ready space!

Details: While most of my work emphasizes the relationships and moments on your wedding day, we don’t want to leave out all the pretty details that help tell the story of your day. When I arrive where you gals are getting ready, it would be great to have some of those special touches ready for me! You definitely don’t need to have a slew of details, but having some loose florals, the rings, an invitation or anything else you’d like documented ready will make it easy for me to capture the details along with all the excitement of the morning.

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. While I prefer my couples do a first look for the reasons below, I will NEVER persuade you otherwise if you feel strongly about seeing your fiance for the first time during the ceremony. However, I highly recommend considering a first look for the following reasons:

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

It takes the pressure off. There’s often a LOT of nerves going into your ceremony. I believe much of that is the anticipation of seeing your soon-to-be spouse for the first time! But if you have a chance to see them for the first time in a quiet, intimate setting before the ceremony, chances are you’ll be MUCH more relaxed when ceremony time comes!


You’ll have better photos. While I do love the groom reaction shots while a bride walks down the aisle, it’s far less intimate than a first look and we aren’t able to capture the emotion as well as if you took some time aside for the two of you! It’s also a lot harder to take in the moment for yourselves when there’s dozens of people watching you!

It frees up your timeline. Yep! Usually after a first look, we’ll do family photos prior to the ceremony. This means you won’t have to spend time doing family photos after all the excitement of the ceremony and you’ll be able to spend even more time with family and friends during cocktail hour and the reception! We’ll still grab you for sunset portraits at some point depending on when your ceremony is, but more time at the reception is a win for everyone!

Privacy please: I HIGHLY recommend keeping first looks completely private. Meaning you, your fiance, myself and my second shooter. That means mom and dad aren’t coming along and the bridesmaids aren’t hiding behind a bush somewhere taking photos on their phones. 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 – We’ll chat to come up with a list closer to your date, but I recommend limiting to 8 family formal groupings. I know it can sometimes be difficult to get your list down to 8 groups, however, I’d encourage you to think about which arrangements are most important to you and stick with no more than 8 groupings. Family photos are often the most exhausting portion of the day, and instead of tiring yourselves out with dozens of family groupings, I recommend allowing for more time with family during cocktail hour and reception while I capture all the candid moments along the way.

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, 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.

Ceremony

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.

When planning your outdoor ceremony location, it’s easy to get caught up in the location and views and disregard the lighting, but the lighting will play the biggest role in how your photos will turn out!

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 especially important if you must have a midday ceremony. This means setting up your ceremony so the sun is behind you, your fiance, and your officiant, and your guests are facing the sun. If your ceremony is in the afternoon or close to sunset, your guests should be facing West (towards the sunset). For morning ceremonies, your guests should be facing East (towards the sunrise).

Sunset is best: With few exceptions, I plan portrait sessions and bride and groom photos right before sunset because the lighting is most beautiful that time of day! It’s softer, golden and straight up gorgeous. That same light is just as important for your outdoor ceremony. I recommend doing outdoor ceremonies about 2 hours prior to sunset allowing time for bride + groom photos as well as potential delays + timeline emergencies.

Couples portraits

It’s no secret that bride and groom photos are my favorite part of the day. Not just because the moments you share on the day you become husband and wife are nothing short of magical, but because these are the photos you will share for the rest of your life. They’ll be on your walls, in your heirloom album, and the ones you’ll show to your kids and their kids someday. You likely won’t reminisce over photos of you cutting the cake or entering the reception, but the look of pure joy on your face as your love holds you close are the memories and photos you’ll treasure for a lifetime!

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: You’ll hear me talk about “soft, beautiful light” a LOT on the days leading up to your I dos, but you might not understand quite what I mean by that! We won’t get too scientific (because let’s be real.. I can’t), but the closer the sun gets to the horizon, the more diffused the light gets. Essentially, all the sunlight gets filtered through little particles in the air making it “softer,” which is why many photos are most beautiful at sunset! There’s less harsh shadows and the light is much more flattering on both your skin and the landscape around you. However, I’m more than okay with working with any kind of light! Having a morning wedding? No worries! I recommend arranging your timeline first and foremost around beautiful light for your bride and groom photos. I like to plan for 40 minutes for photos. But the more time you give me for bride and groom photos, the better your photos will be and the more you’ll receive!

Post-ceremony: While most couples do a first look prior to the ceremony, we don’t do couple’s photos until after the ceremony. Not only because of the light, but because you are SO much more relaxed! There’s a lot of nerves building up to the ceremony, and once it’s over, not only are you MARRIED, but you’re in a giddy, I-can’t-believe-I-just married-you, love bubble of joy and it makes for some amazing moments!

Just the two of you, please! While mom, dad, the best man and every other guest is so excited to spend time with you after the ceremony, I ask that the time during your portraits is just between us. Not only can guests watching be a distraction, but it often takes away from those sweet moments you’ll share after you say I do!

reception

I shoot using natural light as much as possible (with exception to dancing/party photos)! This means instead of setting up artificial lighting during your reception, I’d prefer using the available light already in the space. I do this not only so the photos look more natural, but also because I strive to capture every part of your day not only by the way it looks, but also how it feels.

If you’re having an outdoor reception with beautifully strung lights through the trees and candles everywhere, you want to remember how your reception felt and the mood of the evening. I believe using flash detracts from that so I recommend providing enough light so I can capture your reception naturally!

TIMELINE: Dinner 45-60 minutes, toasts 15 minutes (you can start these while dinner is still being served!), dances 15 minutes, party 15+ minutes
Ideal Location – At Ceremony Arch, Nearby Mountains, or Clean Background

Adequate lighting: Having a few candles around may feel moody and cozy, but will likely not be enough light for me to capture your reception without using flash! I recommend using Edison bulbs or similar string lights. I can work with any space or lighting condition, but for outdoor, open air receptions, the more lights the better!

One last word on receptions: please feed your photographer! Most wedding days are at least 6 hours. Besides getting straight up hangry during that time, a malnourished photographer is not a creative one. I usually plan to eat while you guys are both eating, that way I’m still not waiting for my salad to arrive when it’s time for toasts!

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

(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
(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): 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
(15 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 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:

ABSOLUTELY. I know all this information is overwhelming, but I promise you I have your BEST interest at heart, which is why I’m sharing all this info! I understand that not every wedding day is the same and there’s different considerations depending on various factors. However, based on my experience, these tips will allow for adequate timing for your wedding day and have your best interest in mind when it comes to beautiful lighting for your wedding day photographs!

You seem like you have a lot of opinions regarding the timeline. Is it okay if we make our own suggestions?

1 of 3

It sure is! ;) Without a first look, we still need 30 minutes for family photos, 30 minutes for bridal party photos and 30 minutes for bride and groom photos before the sun sets and we lose our light. I’d definitely recommend either doing a first look before your ceremony, or bumping up your ceremony time to 2 1/2 hours prior to sunset so we can fit all your photos in after the ceremony.

Our outdoor reception is planned for as the sun is setting, but we don’t want a first look. Is that going to be a problem?

2 of 3

Of course! I work with all my clients to create a timeline centered on beautiful light for your photos and a seamless flow for you day. We can absolutely help you out with all the details.

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

3 of 3

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