4 Wedding Timeline Tips for Gorgeous Photos

As a photographer, my job is to tell the story of your wedding day through photos. You’ve put tons of thought and effort planning and envisioning this day, and your photos are one of the only parts of your wedding day that last long beyond the day itself.

Most brides I speak to after their wedding are shocked at how quickly the day flew by and often remember it as one giant, joyous blur. From romantic portraits, to personal details and candids of their guests, they are so grateful for photos that capture the day in greater detail than they could ever have remembered it otherwise.

One essential component to capturing photos that paint a well-rounded picture of your day is your timeline!

Read on for four essential tips on planning your wedding timeline!

luxury santa monica wedding day timeline tips

1. Consider The Light

What time of day is your ceremony in relation to sunset? Do you want to see each other before the ceremony? Are you having a really large bridal party?

Don’t get overwhelmed just yet! These are all important factors to consider when planning the timeline of your wedding day, but very much something your photographer should help you navigate.

If bright, natural light photos are super important to you, or if the thought of not being able to hang with your guests at cocktail hour sounds awful, make sure to let your photographer know where your priorities lie so that they can recommend the best flow for the day to insure you get photos you love. 

golden hour wedding photos and wedding timeline tips

Having a December wedding and not doing a first look? That’s cool, but with sun setting as early as 4:30pm, chances are most of your photos will be shot indoors with flash. If gorgeous golden hour photos are important to you, you may want to consider a first look, or timing your ceremony so that cocktail hour falls during the last hour before sunset for dreamy, golden light. 

RACHEL’S TIP: for lots of light, bright photos— do a first look before your ceremony. You’ll be able to get your family photos done before guests arrive, and can utilize the gorgeous post-ceremony light for romantics as Mr. and Mrs. 

wedding timeline tips for natural light family photos

2. Getting Ready – The Details

The very first thing that gets photographed when I arrive are your details! It’s important to have everything organized and set aside so that you’re photographer can jump right into these on arrival. I usually arrive a minimum of 1 hour before hair and makeup is complete to allow time for styling and capturing gorgeous details photos.

For the bride, set aside:

  • jewelry
  • both bride & groom’s wedding bands and bride’s engagement ring
  • shoes
  • perfume
  • dress (steamed and already on the hanger you want it photographed on)
  • veil
  • invitations

wedding timeline tips for wedding detail photos

For the groom, set aside any special accessories being worn. This usually includes:

  • shoes
  • cufflinks
  • watch
  • socks
  • bowtie / tie
  • pocket square

groom wedding details and wedding timeline tips

RACHEL’S TIP: have your florist deliver the bouquets, boutonnières, and some loose flowers just before your photographer arrives. Your photographer can get photos of the flowers at their freshest, plus loose blooms never hurt when styling details. 

3. Getting Into Your Gown

As excited as you are to get dressed, there’s a lot of small ( but important) things to be done first, so don’t plan on hopping directly from the makeup chair into your dress. Leave 15-30 minutes of extra room in your timeline for:

    • Cute photos of you and your girls in bathrobes
    • Champagne Toast
    • Opening the card and/or gift from your groom
    • A bathroom break

bridesmaids in robes and wedding timeline tips

RACHEL’S TIP: Groom wearing a real bowtie? Make sure he practices tying it before the wedding day to make sure he arrives for your first look or ceremony on time and looking sharp!  

4. Seat Guests Shortly Before the Ceremony & Reception Begin

You’ve probably spent more hours than you can count on Pinterest and Instagram gathering inspiration for your flowers and decorations. You put a lot of time into picking the perfect venue, and have spent months envisioning how it all will come together for your special day. Make sure your photographer has time to capture all the incredible choices you’ve made.

carondelet house wedding decor and timeline tips

As a standard, most guests start arriving 30 minutes before the ceremony and your photographer will block off 15 minutes before guests arrive to capture all the ceremony decor. During this time, your photographer can get clean shots of the space before it fills up with people, and you’ll get a chance to relax and freshen up before you walk down the aisle. 

However if your ceremony starts at 6pm but you’re putting 5:30 as the start time on your invites to avoid late-comers, keep in mind your photographer will need to capture all the ceremony details BEFORE guests start arriving ( AKA around 4:45pm). 

descanso gardens wedding ceremony and timeline tips

Same goes for your reception space. If your reception takes place in an area that can be roped off or closed off from guests sitting down…take advantage! ( the urge to claim a seat and put purses / jackets down on tables immediately following the ceremony is STRONG!) Typically, the venue needs most of cocktail hour to put the finishing touches on your reception space — from arranging chairs to lighting candles and filling water glasses — so it’s best to keep guests entertained at cocktail hour until 10-15 minutes before your grand entrance.

RACHEL’S TIP: Dream of your wedding being published on a blog? Wedding blogs do require clean shots of both ceremony and reception spaces, so make sure that you discuss the logistics with your venue if you think guests may head straight from ceremony to their dinner table

The most important thing to remember on your wedding day is to be present. You only get to do it once; so look to your planner and photographer to guide you on crafting the perfect timeline. 

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