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Wedding Timelines for Every Season

Wedding Timelines For Every Season

Wedding Timelines For Every Season

Do you want to know the very best way to ensure you have a fun, relaxing wedding day?

Have an amazing wedding day timeline!

A well-planned wedding day timeline will help your day flow smoothly and make accommodations for when things run behind (as they inevitably do!). I help every couple I work with here in Temecula on their wedding day timeline, but there is a huge difference in timelines depending on your wedding season. So I thought an article on wedding timelines for fall, winter, spring and summer would be helpful!

Questions to Ask When Creating Your Timeline

  1. What time is the sunset on our wedding day?

  2. Do we want a first look?

  3. Does our venue have flexibility in our ceremony start time?

The last question is if you’re getting married at a venue that will host both your ceremony and reception - in fact, the timelines below are specifically for that type of venue, as 90% of the weddings I photograph take place in one location!

Allocating Time on Your Wedding Day

Before we get to seasonal timelines, we need to establish general guidelines for how long things take on the wedding day. Depending on if you’re having a first look and if there’s travel involved, I sometimes start up to 5 hours before the ceremony.

  • 1 hour for details and getting ready: if there’s one thing I love to photograph, it’s all those wedding day details! When I arrive on-site, the bride is typically in final getting ready stages of hair and makeup, and I spend that time photographing the invitations, shoes, jewelry, and anything else important to the couple!

  • 30 minutes for getting dressed: this allows time for all the stages of getting dressed and pictures of the couples separately with their friends and family.

  • 30 minutes for first look: if this is taking place on a site other than the getting-ready location, make sure to account for extra time for travel!

  • 15 minutes for family photos: this is for family photos on each side of the family. For instance, the bride with just her parents, the groom with just his parents, etc.

  • 30 minutes for combined family portraits: these can take place before or after the ceremony depending on if the couple has had a first look.

  • 30 minutes for bridal party portraits: these sometimes also take place before the ceremony with a first look.

  • 20 minutes for sunset portraits: a must on your wedding day! Depending on the season, sometimes this is during cocktail hour, and for summer weddings, during the reception!

  • Travel time: if everything is in one location, this makes this nice and easy! If you’re going to 2-3 locations on your wedding day, it’s critical you note this time in your timeline and determine how people will get where they’re going! Many times when things run behind on a wedding day, it’s because people weren’t sure where they needed to be or how they were supposed to get to their destination.

The First Look

Ah, the first look! You’ve likely heard of the first look by now, where the couple see each other before the ceremony. This is a highly personal decision, but there are a few cases where I definitely recommend it on your wedding day.

You want a lot of portraits and variety on your wedding day.

If you look at my recommended times for portraits, I suggest 90 minutes for all of those pictures on your wedding day, at minimum. Without a first look, all those portraits need to be squeezed into cocktail hour. I’ve done it many times, but couples that choose a first look definitely get more images and more variety in their portraits simply because we have more time and can go to different locations within the venue.

You won’t have any sunlight left after your grand entrance into your reception.

This is primarily for late fall or winter weddings. When a couple gets married in the summer, the sun can set at 8:00 PM or later. This means I get “bonus” time where I can take them out during dinner for another 20 minutes and get some gorgeous sunset portraits. Having extra time in the evening helps to not only get beautiful sunset images, but it’s there in case portraits during cocktail hour took longer than anticipated.

What To Do If You Don’t Want a First Look But You Do Want Portrait Variety

Consider a summer wedding date! In the spring and summer, most ceremony times are set to 5:00. This means you’ll have 3 hours of post-ceremony sunlight, which translates to more time for gorgeous images at your wedding venue.

What To Do If You Want Your Ceremony at Sunset

Ceremony sunsets are absolutely gorgeous! The light is soft and typically “wraps” around the couple in an extremely flattering and romantic way!

If you want sunset ceremony images, then I definitely recommend a first look so you can get important portraits completed prior to the ceremony. Otherwise you may run out of natural light during cocktail hour. There’s always residual light after the sun goes past the horizon, but it doesn’t last long!

Shortcuts to Creating Your Own Timeline

Feel free to take a look at the timelines below! However, I do have a few quick shortcuts to creating your own timeline. The estimates below are based on weddings where everything is taking place at one location.

Once you have your sunset time, the ideal ceremony time is an hour and a half before sunset. As I mentioned previously, a lot of spring and summer weddings have a ceremony time of 5:00, regardless of sunset time. So this tip may be more applicable to fall and winter weddings.

If you’re having a first look, your pre-ceremony photography coverage should start 4 hours before your ceremony.

Without a first look, your pre-ceremony photography coverage should start 3 hours before your ceremony.

Fall Wedding Timelines

For a fall wedding, we’ll be using a date of October 15th and the time the sun sets in Temecula on this day, 6:14 PM.

Positives for a Fall Wedding

  • Fall color! A gorgeous time of year to get married!

Negatives for a Fall Wedding

  • Sunset time could be a factor depending on how late in the fall your wedding date falls

Fall Wedding Timeline Without a First Look

6:14 PM sunset

Ideal ceremony time - 4:30 PM

1:30: Details and getting ready

2:30: Get dressed

3:00: Individual family photos

3:30: Bridal party photos

4:00: Pre-ceremony portraits conclude / photograph ceremony site and guests entering

4:30: Ceremony (30 minutes)

5:00 - 5:20: Family portraits

5:20 - 5:40: Bridal party portraits

5:40 - 6:00: Married couple portraits

6:15: Grand entrance into reception

Fall Wedding Timeline With a First Look

6:14 PM sunset

Ideal ceremony time - 4:30 PM

12:30: Details and getting ready

1:30: Get dressed

2:00: First look

2:45: Individual family photos, followed by combined family photos

3:30: Bridal party photos

4:00: Pre-ceremony portraits conclude / photograph ceremony site and guests entering

4:30: Ceremony (30 minutes)

5:00 - 5:30: Any additional family portraits / bridal party portraits the couple wants

5:30 - 6:00: Married couple portraits

6:15: Grand entrance into reception

Winter Wedding Timelines

For a winter wedding, we’ll be using a date of January 15th and the time the sun sets in Temecula on this day, 5:04 PM.

Positives for a Winter Wedding

  • This is the “off-season” for many venues and you may be able to secure a discounted rate for your event

  • I find winter light to be very pretty! It’s at a lower angle and softer compared to summer light.

Negatives for a Winter Wedding

  • The sun sets very early, so you should definitely work with a venue that can accommodate an early afternoon ceremony

Winter Wedding Timeline Without a First Look

5:04 PM sunset

Ideal ceremony time - 3:30 PM

12:30: Details and getting ready

1:30: Get dressed

2:00: Individual family photos

2:30: Bridal party photos

3:00: Pre-ceremony portraits conclude / photograph ceremony site and guests entering

3:30: Ceremony (30 minutes)

4:00 - 4:20: Family portraits

4:20 - 4:40: Bridal party portraits

4:40 - 5:00: Married couple portraits

5:15: Grand entrance into reception

Winter Wedding Timeline With a First Look

5:04 PM sunset

Ideal ceremony time - 3:30 PM

11:30: Details and getting ready

12:30: Get dressed

1:00: First look

1:45: Individual family photos, followed by combined family photos

2:30: Bridal party photos

3:00: Pre-ceremony portraits conclude / photograph ceremony site and guests entering

3:30: Ceremony (30 minutes)

4:00 - 4:30: Any additional family portraits / bridal party portraits the couple wants

4:30 - 5:00: Married couple portraits

5:15: Grand entrance into reception

Spring Wedding Timelines

For a spring wedding, we’ll be using a date of April 15th and the time the sun sets in Temecula on this day, 7:20 PM.

Positives for a Spring Wedding

  • You’re just starting to see spring blooms and color! A very pretty time of the year.

  • Sunset is later

Negatives for a Spring Wedding

  • Depending on the time of the year and your region of the country, weather can be unpredictable

Spring Wedding Timeline Without a First Look

7:20 PM sunset

Ideal ceremony time - 5:00 PM

2:00: Details and getting ready

3:00: Get dressed

3:30: Individual family photos

4:00: Bridal party photos

4:30: Pre-ceremony portraits conclude / photograph ceremony site and guests entering

5:00: Ceremony (30 minutes)

5:30 - 5:50: Family portraits

5:50 - 6:10: Bridal party portraits

6:10 - 6:45: Married couple portraits

7:00: Grand entrance into reception

Spring Wedding Timeline With a First Look

7:20 PM sunset

Ideal ceremony time - 5:00 PM

1:00: Details and getting ready

2:00: Get dressed

2:30: First look

3:15: Individual family photos, followed by combined family photos

4:00: Bridal party photos

4:30: Pre-ceremony portraits conclude / photograph ceremony site and guests entering

5:00: Ceremony (30 minutes)

5:30 - 6:00: Any additional family portraits / bridal party portraits the couple wants

6:00 - 6:45: Married couple portraits

7:00: Grand entrance into reception

Summer Wedding Timelines

For a summer wedding, we’ll be using a date of July 15th and the time the sun sets in Temecula on this day, 8:00 PM.

Positives for a Summer Wedding

  • Many venues have a 5:00 ceremony start time in the spring and summer. This means you usually get “bonus” portrait time during your reception when there’s still light outside!

  • If you want to spend cocktail hour with your guests, this is the best time of year for your wedding. After the ceremony I usually take any remaining family portraits and additional bridal party photos the couple wants before they head to cocktail hour.

Negatives for a Summer Wedding

  • It can be a very hot time of the year. In Temecula, August and even September are the hottest months of the year.

Summer Wedding Timeline Without a First Look

8:00 PM sunset

Likely ceremony time - 5:00 PM

2:00: Details and getting ready

3:00: Get dressed

3:30: Individual family photos

4:00: Bridal party photos

4:30: Pre-ceremony portraits conclude / photograph ceremony site and guests entering

5:00: Ceremony (30 minutes)

5:30 - 5:50: Family portraits

5:50 - 6:10: Bridal party portraits

6:10 - 6:45: Married couple portraits

7:00: Grand entrance into reception

7:45: Sunset portraits with married couple

Summer Wedding Timeline With a First Look

7:20 PM sunset

Likely ceremony time - 5:00 PM

1:00: Details and getting ready

2:00: Get dressed

2:30: First look

3:15: Individual family photos, followed by combined family photos

4:00: Bridal party photos

4:30: Pre-ceremony portraits conclude / photograph ceremony site and guests entering

5:00: Ceremony (30 minutes)

5:30 - 6:00: Any additional family portraits / bridal party portraits the couple wants

6:00 - 6:45: Married couple portraits

7:00: Grand entrance into reception

7:45: Sunset portraits with married couple

Reception Timeline

Each couple has a different approach to their reception events! One important note when planning reception events is what time your photography coverage concludes. I typically don’t stay through the very end of the reception. If you also have a scheduled photography end time, you should plan to have your last major reception event 30 minutes before your photographer leaves. This leaves a bit of a buffer just in case things run a bit behind.

8 hours is a typical wedding photography collection for the couples I work with; below is a sample reception timeline added to the Summer Wedding Timeline above!

Summer Wedding Timeline With a First Look, Including Reception

7:20 PM sunset

Likely ceremony time - 5:00 PM

1:00: Details and getting ready

2:00: Get dressed

2:30: First look

3:15: Individual family photos, followed by combined family photos

4:00: Bridal party photos

4:30: Pre-ceremony portraits conclude / photograph ceremony site and guests entering

5:00: Ceremony (30 minutes)

5:30 - 6:00: Any additional family portraits / bridal party portraits the couple wants

6:00 - 6:45: Married couple portraits

7:00: Grand entrance into reception

7:05: Couples’ first dance

7:10: Toasts

7:15: Dinner

7:45: Sunset portraits with married couple

8:15: Father/daughter and mother/son dance

8:30: Additional toasts

8:45: Bouquet and garter toss

9:00: Cake cutting, followed by open dance

9:30: Photography concludes


I hope this article was helpful in your wedding planning! Remember to consult with your own photographer or ideally your wedding planner! Each couple has an individual approach to their day and these are meant to be guidelines in the initial stages of your wedding planning!

Looking to get information on how your wedding day may be impacted by Coronavirus?

Check out my comprehensive article Your California Wedding and Coronavirus. And also see some tips on spending a lot more time with your sweetie at Surviving Quarantine with Your Partner - it's not just indoor date night ideas! :)

Looking For More Temecula Wedding Planning Resources?

See the links below for more helpful tools as you plan your wedding day!

How to Get Married in Temecula

Getting a Marriage License in Temecula

Temecula Micro Wedding Photographer

Temecula Wedding Venues

Temecula Wedding Vendors

Temecula Wedding Photographer

I would love to chat with you if you’re looking for your Temecula wedding photographer! As a photographer with 10 years of experience, I love creating timeless, authentic and fun images with my clients on their wedding day! Take a look at my Wedding Portfolio, review my Pricing, and connect with me on my Contact page!



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