Tips for Brides and Grooms Wedding

The Best Winter Wedding Timeline

Here in Southern California, we don’t have typical “winter” weather. As a midwest girl, I’m thankful I don’t have to deal with scraping my car or static hair, but I still have to deal with many of the same challenges as midwest-based photographers: the sunset time! There’s a few key questions you’ll want to ask yourself as you dive into planning your winter wedding timeline!

The Best Winter Wedding Timeline by Temecula Wedding Photographer Courtney McManaway Photography


What time of year is a winter wedding?

I commonly define this as weddings taking place between November – February. In Temecula, this is seen as the “off-season” and some venues offer discounts during these months. However, you’ll definitely want to ask yourself a few questions if you have a wedding during this time!

3 Questions to Ask For the Best Winter Wedding Timeline

  1. What time does the sun set on your wedding day?
  2.  Do you want a first look?
  3. What time is your wedding ceremony, and is your venue flexible with the start time?

Winter Wedding Timeline Without a First Look – Sunset 5:00 PM

Without a first look, my first recommendation is to start your ceremony at 3:00 PM. If you’re having a somewhat standard wedding ceremony (half an hour or less), this will give you an hour and a half after your ceremony for portraits before the sun sets. In Southern California, nearly all my couples choose their venue because of the natural beauty, so it’s important to me we have time to capture those images while the light is still out! I’d also recommend keeping a concise family portrait list during cocktail hour, meaning images with your immediate families. If there are extended family you want photos with, I always recommend getting those during the reception when we have a bit more time!

The timelines below are also for weddings where all the events take place in one location. If your ceremony and reception are in separate locations, you’ll want photography to start sooner, and make sure to plan for ample travel time!

1:00: Photography starts
1:45: Couple gets dressed
2:00: Couple gets pictures with their individual families (bride with parents, groom with parents, etc)
2:45: Pre-ceremony photography concludes; photographer captures ceremony guests coming in / details
3:00: Ceremony
3:30: Ceremony completed
3:30 – 4:00: Family portraits
4:00 – 4:30: Bridal party portraits
4:30 – 5:00: Married couple portraits
5:15: Grand entrance into reception

Winter Wedding Timeline With a First Look – Sunset 5:00 PM

With this timeline, photography starts earlier since we have a first look + all family and bridal party portraits before the ceremony! Your cocktail hour can be a bit shorter since that time will be used for just married couple portraits! Additionally, some of my couples like this option if they want to attend cocktail hour and spend time with their guests!

12:00: Photography starts
12:45: Couple gets dressed / individual family photos
1:30: First look
2:00: Family portraits
2:45: Bridal party portraits
4:00: Ceremony
4:30: Ceremony completed
4:30 – 5:00: Married couple portraits
5:15: Grand entrance into reception

Reception Timeline

All my couples structure their reception timelines a little differently! Something important to note when planning this is what time your photographer departs. I rarely stay through the end of a reception since with my collections, most couples prefer pre-ceremony coverage instead of hours of dancing. With this in mind, my recommendation is to complete all major reception events 30 minutes before your photographer departs. So with 8 hours of photography coverage, using my winter wedding timeline with a first look above, this is what a somewhat traditional reception timeline would look like:

5:15: Grand entrance into reception
5:20: First dance with the married couple
5:30: Toasts
5:45 – 6:45: Dinner
7:00: Father/daughter, mother/son dances
7:15: Bouquet toss / garter toss
7:30: Cake cutting
8:00: Photography concludes

Getting married during a different season?

I recently put together a comprehensive article for weddings taking place in winter, spring, summer and fall, complete with timelines! See Wedding Timelines for All Seasons for more info and tips!

Getting married in Temecula? Check out the links below for more information on Temecula weddings and planning tips!

How to Get Married in Temecula

Temecula Wedding Venues

Avensole Winery Wedding

Rustic Olive Grove Wedding


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