SAMPLE TIMELINES FOR YOUR WEDDING DAY
Whether you get married inside or outside, or during the winter or summer, the timeline of your wedding day will impact every part of the day - I'll share two timelines from opposite ends of the spectrum. My priority, when we're talking about your timeline, is always going to be working with the light. Whether we're talking about summer light, winter light, or something in-between, there is light worth avoiding and light worth fighting for - involving your photographer when you're finalizing your wedding day timeline will make a huge impact on the images of your wedding day. I try, with every wedding possible, to walk through the venue(s) a week or so before the wedding, ideally around the same time as your ceremony starts, to scout locations with you, get a feel for your favorite opportunities, and take a look at how the sunlight interacts with the space.
EXAMPLE : June 25th - Whitsett, North Carolina - Outdoor Wedding
1pm : Arrive at venue
I arrived at the site to get a feel for the venue that day (had it rained recently? how did this change the locations we planned to use? were there areas being decorated that I should make sure to capture?)
2pm : Getting ready / details
Always anticipate hair / make-up lasting longer than you think.
I started with the details - the bride was working on make-up and I usually wait for that to be nearly complete before photographing her too much - and grabbed the dress, shoes, rings, invitation, and jewelry and took them outside to use the scenery as a backdrop. I ran by the ceremony venue and grabbed a few of that, as well, set-up but free of guests. This took me about 20-30 minutes, after which I came inside for some candids of the bride and bridesmaids getting hair / make-up done.
I left at about 3:30 and drove to the other end of the property (about 5 minutes drive) to get some photos of the groom getting ready with his family. Guys can get ready in under 10 minutes, so it's really about capturing some of the anticipation and really soft moments of him getting ready - putting on his tie, having his mom help him with his suit / vest, a few final details.
4pm : The dress.
By the time the bride is ready to get into her dress, her bridesmaids (or at least maid of honor) and mom should be ready to go. They'll help her into her dress and won't want to feel sloppy or self-conscious in those photos. We found an area in the house that was clear of a lot of clutter and flooded with soft, natural light, and stood the bride in front of a nice antique mirror where she can see herself turn into a bride. These are some of my favorite photos of the day!
4:30pm : The Venue
As the guests started to arrive and while the bride and groom were enjoying one last calm moment before the day really started, I ran over to the reception venue for some photos of the set-up.
5pm : Ceremony starts
I'll stand at the end of the aisle (towards the altar) to capture the groom, groomsmen, bridemaids and bride as they head towards the altar. I'll move around (A LOT) during your ceremony to capture photos of you two from different angles, your wedding party, and candid shots of your guests as they celebrate with you.
5:45pm : Portraits / Cocktail hour
I always ask the bride and groom to advise their family members to stay put after the ceremony. It's a lot easier to find the people you need for portraits when they're still sitting there waiting than to go looking for a random uncle who's on his way to the cocktail hour.
We spent about 20 minutes doing family portraits, shooting different combinations of parents / siblings / bride / groom. When we were done with family members, we dismissed them to the cocktail hour and focused on the wedding party. Once we were done there, we released everyone except the bride and groom to the cocktail hour.
The three of us (bride, groom, and myself) walked around the property for the next 30 minutes taking some more intimate photos of the two of them. We work to get all kinds of angles and expressions, some candid and some not, and I let the couple enjoy some down-time before heading back to their guests.
6:45pm : Reception begins
The couple was announced and immediately went into their first dance - this kicks-off the reception and gets the first dance out of the way while you've got everyone's attention.
7pm : Dinner was served for everyone, including the bride and groom.
7:45pm : Toasts and cake cutting.
8pm : Anniversary dance.
8:15pm : Newlywed portraits at dusk. The sunset was at 8:40, so by 8:15 the sun was almost down behind the trees and the light was a soft pink over the property. We snuck-out of the reception and drove out to an open field for some soft, private photos of the bride and groom. These are my OTHER favorite photos of the day.
8:30pm : Dancing!
10:45pm : Sparkler send-off
I highly recommend keeping this time tentative. If you realize at 9 that your guests are tired and heading home, there's no shame in moving this up a bit. You want to run through a good amount of people, not the last 5 who lasted until the end.
I asked the bride and groom to run halfway through the tunnel of guests, stop and pause together (maybe kiss? maybe just look at each other?) and then run through the end. Sometimes, if there's enough fire left on the sparklers, I'll ask them to run through again - why not? It's fun and gives us the chance for more photos!
EXAMPLE : December 17 - Raleigh, North Carolina - Indoor Wedding
12pm : Visit venue
The bride was getting ready off-site, so before meeting with her, I stopped-by the wedding venue to take a look at the set-up and do some day-of scoping out.
1pm : Getting ready / details
The bride and her bridesmaids got ready at a different location off-site. I met them there and scoped out our options - where could I get the best light, did I have access to anything outside or on the roof, etc. I started with the details - I did a little rearranging and photographed the details - her dress, shoes, jewelry, invitation, etc.
Mostly everyone had hair and make-up done by the time I got there - they started earlier that morning - meaning we could jump pretty quickly into candids of everyone. We took some photos, once the girls all had hair and make-up done, of the bridal party before they got into their dresses - they had all worn matching plaid shirts and the space was really pretty, so why not?
1:45pm : The dress
We looked for the best light in the space and used that area to get the bride in her dress. Her mom and bridesmaids helped and looked-on, and I took photos of the details of her dress, the bride and the emotions she was going through, and the make-up artist touching-up her hair and make-up.
2pm : First Look
I always recommend a First Look for winter weddings because it gives you the opportunity to do as many portraits as possible BEFORE the sun sets.
The entire wedding party headed to the wedding venue - we kept the bride and groom separate until their first look, and the rest of the wedding party hung out in a private room upstairs. By this point, I had another photographer with me, and we photographed the bride and groom seeing each other for the first time, shooting it from as many different angles as possible to capture both reactions.
2:20pm : Wedding party portraits
Now that the bride and groom have seen each other and had a moment to soak-up the excitement of their wedding day, we used the daylight to take photos of the wedding party outside using downtown Raleigh as a backdrop. This took about 20 minutes - making sure we had photos of the bridesmaids, groomsmen, as well as bride with her maid of honor / groom with his best man. After we were done, we dismissed the wedding party to the private room in the venue to hang out until the ceremony.
2:45 : Bride and groom
While guests were starting to arrive at the front of the venue, we walked-around behind the venue to take a few photos of the bride and groom. Again, we could easily do this later, but we were racing against the sunset and wanted some photos of them in natural light. We wrapped-up with a few out front before quickly ducking inside and hiding them from their guests.
3:15pm : Groomsmen photos
Once we were hidden upstairs and out of guests' view, we had a little time to kill, so we took a few photos of the groomsmen - some details of their ties and a few candids of them hanging out before the ceremony.
3:30pm : Ceremony starts
Just as with any other ceremony, I move around throughout the entire ceremony to photograph your ceremony from a variety of angles and distances, and capturing some candid photos of your guests.
4pm : Portraits / Cocktail hour
While the space was flipped from ceremony to reception, the guests were transitioned to the front of the venue for a cocktail hour. We used that time to gather both families right outside of the front door to take some portraits of them with the last bit of natural light.
We spent about 20 minutes on the families of the bride and groom, and released the families back to the cocktail hour. We took a few more photos of the bride and groom and snuck them into the private room upstairs through a side door, ready to be formally announced into their reception.
5pm : Reception begins
The entire wedding party was announced and after a Welcome by a family member, salads were served and the buffet was opened. The sun set was at 5pm, so we let everyone eat and wait for the party to start.
6pm : Toasts and cake cutting.
6:30pm : Dancing!
8:30pm : Send-off / Exit
The bride and groom had an earlier exit, and (because they were in downtown Raleigh) walked with some of their guests to a nearby bar for an after-party. It was the perfect way to let guests choose to go home or join them for a night out and still get in a send-off with the majority of your guests in attendance.