March 6, 2018

Your Wedding Timeline Planning your day around the best sunlight

Your wedding day timeline is just one more thing to do when planning your big day! It can be hard trying to anticipate how much time you need for each piece of the wedding day. When you’re working with a wedding planner, they can help to create a lot of this for you; but sometimes they don’t know how much time a photographer may need for certain times of the day. The best thing to do is amalgamate the two so that you have everything you need to be photographed, and your planner can build the rest of the day around that. Here are my thoughts on that to go through for your wedding timeline checklist!

Many people think a photographer’s job description is to photograph the day as-is and make everything work regardless of what happens and when. And to some extent, it is—we have to be ready for a lot of things on the fly. But what your photographer should actually be good at is knowing where the sun will be at each part of the given day and helping you to plan your big day around that.

This sun scheduler is almost always open as a tab in my internet browser. I use it pretty much daily while helping my couples plan their wedding days and engagement session start times. It’s surprising how much of the afternoon that you should actually avoid shooting outside unless absolutely necessary. On a Saturday during the middle of summer, the sun is usually at it’s highest at about 1:00 pm. Photographing in this harsh light is often difficult, and to be honest, not the most flattering. Imagine this from a bird’s eye view – the sun is directly above you, creating shadows using your own body shape; dark eye sockets, wrinkles and dark areas under parts of your own body that the sun doesn’t directly see.

Long story short – your ceremony or portraits probably shouldn’t be around this time.

On top of that, it does not give me the ability to give you those glowy, backlit photos that my style is known for. Of course, there are photographer secrets to start to get this effect if the sun it still high, but I usually try to avoid portraits outdoors at the time of day where the sun is sitting at it’s absolute highest. For each of my couples, I draw up my recommended timeline for the best possible photographic outcome. Obviously, you don’t have to do it 100% that way, it’s just my recommendation and it can be tweaked. It’s just meant to give you an idea and keep vital pieces of the day in mind. That way, I can give you the time that would be best for me to start coverage, and what time you need to tell your hair and makeup artists to be done by.

My own wedding is the perfect example of this. The church gave us (what I would call) an awkward ceremony time, and sometimes you have to work around things like that! As a photographer, knowing all the benefits, I would have loved to do a first look and get ALL of the photos done before the ceremony. This includes bride & groom, bridal party, and family formals. But doing all of those photos before my “awkward ceremony time” would mean doing them all in high-sun and that would not be the smartest decision.

This is also why I explain to my couples that with a properly arranged timeline, most couples do not need more than 8 hours. Here is an example of a rough timeline I would draw up for a September 29th wedding if you have free rein of when the ceremony and dinner time are, both with and without a first look:

First Look

  • 1:15 pm – Highest sun
  • 1:15 pm – Bridal details
  • 2:00 pm – Bride prep
  • 2:00 pm – Groom prep
  • 2:45 pm – First look
  • 3:00 pm – Bride & groom portraits
  • 3:30 pm – Bridal party portraits
  • 3:45 pm – Ceremony details
  • 4:00 pm – Bride & groom in hiding
  • 4:30 pm – Ceremony
  • 5:00 pm – Family formals
  • 5:30 pm – Few extra golden hour portraits (only needs to be 5-15 min)
  • 5:30 pm – Cocktail hour
  • 6:00 pm – Reception details
  • 6:30 pm – Reception space opens to guests

    No First Look

  • 1:15 pm – Highest sun
  • 1:45 pm – Bridal details
  • 2:30 pm – Groom prep
  • 2:45 pm – Bride prep
  • 3:20 pm – Ceremony details
  • 3:40 pm – Reception details (space needs to be finished)
  • 3:40 pm – Bride & groom in hiding
  • 4:00 pm – Ceremony
  • 4:30 pm – Cocktail hour
  • 4:30 pm – Family formals
  • 5:00 pm – Bridal party portraits
  • 5:15 pm – Bride & groom portraits
  • 5:45 pm – Reception space opens to guests

    With this schedule, you are unable to attend cocktail hour. If you desired to attend cocktail hour, everything prior would need to be bumped up by 1 hour, which would leave your guests with nothing to do for an hour. This is why a first look is a helpful option.

    Obviously, this is very different during the late fall and winter, and it’s often best that, even if you do a first look, all portraits are done during the golden hour light, or everything done prior and there ceremony is before golden hour, since the sun can set super early and we would need to be done natural light photos as early as 3:40 pm.

    If you have any questions on how to hide from the sun or how to work around factors such as the ceremony and reception time that you can’t change, I’m an open book. Email me and I’d love to help you out!

  • nicole

    xoxo,

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