Boston & New England Wedding Photographer Deborah Zoe

Boston & North Shore Wedding Photographer creating timeless imagery for classic New England weddings with a fine art approach.

Wedding Love

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Wedding Day Timelines

I feel like I've written this post a million times over. I've written about wedding day timelines quite extensively here on the blog and the old blog. BUT I've come to realize that this post should be written and rewritten and shared again and again over the years. Especially to those ladies who are currently in the planning stages of their wedding! It seems like the timeline question is asked at almost EVERY client meeting that I have and while I love to help Brides think about their wedding day, it's not exactly something that is easy to communicate within a client meeting, as most wedding days look a bit different.  

So today I'm breaking it all down! From Getting Ready to the First Dance to the Grand Exit, you'll see exactly how I approach a wedding day and just how much time we REALLY need to get everything done!  

A few things to think about before we dive in. First, as stated in my contract (I'm an over-communicator!), we need around 40 minutes for the Bride and Groom Portraits, 30 minutes for the Bridal Party Portraits and 30 minutes for the Family Formals. You'll see how that typically happens during the wedding day below, but these times give us some wiggle room in case anything or anyone runs late, keeps things from running too close together and ultimately helps produce the best photographs AND stress free experience possible!! 

Second, it's important to remember that things are ALWAYS going to take longer than you expected and you want to plan for that BEFORE the wedding day. You're hair and makeup could run late, your grandmother could get lost on the way to the reception, you could have a dress malfunction, your limo could break down truly anything could happen! So instead of stressing on the wedding day, we pad in time here and there to plan for any unknowns and also help to again alleviate any stress on the big day! 

Third, if your First Look location, Ceremony and Reception are at different venues then you MUST allocate for any travel time in your timeline. Will you get stuck in traffic? Will there be enough time between each venue? This is hugely important because if you run late due to travel you entire timeline could be out of whack.  

Finally, I ask all my Brides and Grooms to think about SUNSET on the day of their wedding. Because I am a primarily natural light photographer I want to take advantage of as much natural light as possible. So when we think about what time you pictures will be taking place we also need to be thinking about when the sunsets, what the quality of the light will be and how much time we'll have to work with before that sun dips below the horizon.  

wedding day timeline deborah zoe photography boston wedding photographer

wedding day timeline deborah zoe photography boston wedding photographer

Here is how a typical wedding day breaks down. *Keep in mind that this is just a mock timeline and your times could be vastly different. The important thing to note is how much time is needed for specific periods of the day. 

This timeline is based on a 5:00pm ceremony start time in the middle of the summer with the ceremony and reception taking place at the same venue. 

1:00pm -- I begin at the Getting Ready location to shoot the details. I'll expand more on this in a later Wedding Love post BUT it's important to make time for the details. I NEVER want to rush with the bouquet, the dress, the jewelry, and I need time to set these shots up. Plus I want to make sure I get as much time as possible with you and your girls as you get ready! 

1:30pm -- Typically this is when my second shooter will meet up with the guys as they get ready. 

2:15pm -- Bride gets into her dress. I do this EARLY for a few reasons. One I want the Bride to have as MUCH time as she needs getting in to her dress. It can take a while to figure out those lace up backs, shoes, jewelry. Plus you don't want to rush through that moment with your mom and bridesmaids! This should be a relaxed NON rushed portion of the day! 

2:45pm -- Travel to the First Look if needed.  

3:00pm -- The First Look. We need time to set up the Groom, get the Bride in position AND allow for as much "couple" time as possible during the First Look. Once the couple has seen each other then we move on to some more relaxed portraits of the two! This hour also allocates any travel time that might be needed to the ceremony site. 

4:00pm -- Bridal Party Portraits. This is plain and simple. We take around a half an hour with the Bridal Party for some fun and relaxed photos! 

4:30pm -- Bride and Groom hide before ceremony (I like to end all pictures around a half an hour BEFORE the ceremony begins. Again this alleviates stress on the Bride and Groom, allows us to set up for the ceremony and allows for a moment of breathing room before things get going! 

5:00pm -- Ceremony 

5:30pm -- End of Ceremony 

5:45pm -- Family Formals. The Family Formals will typically start around 15 minutes following the ceremony as we are allotting time for people to exit the ceremony and say hi to loved ones as they do. I want to get through the family formals as FAST as possible to make sure that people can get to the cocktail hour quickly and enjoy themselves! I also don't typically like to split up the family formals throughout the day as it can get confusing for not only me but your family as well.  

5:30pm - 6:30pm -- Cocktail Hour. 

*Below is a typical reception timeline. Of course your reception timeline could look much different, but this is just to help give you an idea of how your night might flow. Once we hit the reception I'm not quite as involved with the timeline, rather I just go with the flow as things happen! 

6:45pm -- Reception Starts, Grand Entrances.  

7:00pm -- First Dance, Toasts, Blessings.  

7:00pm - 8:00pm - Dinner. During this time I also like to take the couple out for any sunset shots/additional portraits. This is a GREAT time as you are typically relaxed and so happily married and the photographs I capture during this time are typically my favorite from the day!! 

8:00pm -- Cake Cutting, Parent Dances 

8:15pm -- Dance floor Opens! 

9:00pm -- If you have eight hours of coverage this would be around the time when we would be finished shooting. If you have any events that you'd like photographed AFTER this mark, then we can certainly talk about starting later, adding more time or changing the order of things! 

And that's it!! That is how I breakdown the wedding day and incorporate as MUCH photography into it as possible! As always if you have any questions about this, leave them in the comment section below! I'm here to help!

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by Deborah Parker