The Best Wedding Timeline for a Fall Wedding

The best wedding timeline for a fall wedding by Temecula wedding photographer Courtney McManaway Photography

Fall is one of the most popular times of the year to get married! The refreshing cool weather, the leaves changing color…oh sure, that doesn’t so much happen in southern California, but I can imagine it happening in other areas of the country! I grew up in Michigan, after all! :)

The biggest consideration for a wedding day is the sunset time, and particularly so for a fall wedding. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the biggest considerations no matter what time of year you’re getting married, but definitely so the later it gets in the year.

Once you have your wedding date picked out, head on over to your best friend Google and type in “sunset time” and your city and wedding date. For instance, if you’re having a Temecula wedding on October 26th, it looks like your sunset time is 6:03.

At this point, you’ll want to figure out if you’re having a first look on your wedding day. If you’re having a first look, this means you’ll have had a number of portraits in advance: bride and groom, bridal party and family. In this case I’d recommend a 5:00 ceremony if you’re having a ceremony no longer than 30 minutes. This means for the post-ceremony time, you’ll have the remaining sunset light for gorgeous bride and groom portraits.

Without a first look, you should consider a ceremony start time no later than 4:00. This way you’ll have sunlight after the ceremony for all of your portraits.

Most photographers (including me, of course!) are very competent with flash and in the case where there is no first look and a later ceremony time, I can definitely capture all your needed portraits with flash. However, when couples are touring their wedding venues, they start to picture themselves in pictures at the venue, and most of those couples are picturing those images in sunlight. So if you’re not having a first look, it’s super important to back up that ceremony time so you can get the images you want!

I’d recommend having a slightly longer cocktail hour without a first look, at least an hour and a half if permitted by your venue. This will ensure you have more time for all your photos!

It’s always best to rely on the professionals you’ve hired and work with your venue, planner and photographer to come up with a timeline that will meet all of your needs. Each wedding day and couple is different, so your timeline needs will be unique!

How Much Time You Need For Pre-Ceremony Pictures and Portraits in Your Fall Wedding Timeline

I show up to start photography 3-4 hours before the ceremony starts – and this is if everything is taking place at the same wedding venue! Account for extra time if you need to travel from your hotel to your ceremony site.

Below are some rough guidelines if you’re trying to plan out your day:

  • Details photos – 45 minutes. I typically shoot these as soon as I arrive. Bride should be in final stages of hair and makeup (all bridesmaids finished before the bride!) and I’ll photograph shoes, invitations, jewelry, and of course the wedding dress!
  • Getting dressed – 20 minutes. Sometimes this takes longer depending on undergarments. I always recommend the people helping the bride get in her dressed be in their wedding finery as they help the bride into her gown!
  • Individual family portraits – 20 minutes. This would be the bride with her immediate family, and the groom with his immediate family.
  • First look – 30 minutes. The first look itself is 5-10 minutes (totally depends on the couple – I tell all my couples to take their time!) and then the rest of the time is for portraits.
  • Bridal party – 30 minutes. Plan on extra time for those large and rowdy bridal parties :)
  • Family photos – 30 minutes. It often takes less time since I help my couples build a list and call off first names, which helps this portion of the day move much more quickly!
  • Everything else – reception events don’t need any particular time, but one tip for all couples is that I rarely stay through the entire reception. Work with your photographer to see when coverage will conclude, add a half an hour, and then back your timeline up from there. For instance, if your photographer’s leaving at 9:00, your last major event will be at 8:30. It’s always good to plan in buffer time should things run behind!

Planning Your Wedding Day

If you’re getting married in the Temecula market, I have some other great resources for planning your day! How to Get Married in Temecula is a comprehensive overview of the city, things to do, hotels, the closest airport to Temecula, and more! Best Temecula Wedding Venues will give you more information on event options. And don’t forget the paperwork! All you need to know for getting your marriage license can be found here.

Below are sample pre-ceremony times for a fall wedding with a 6:00 sunset. Happy wedding planning for your fall wedding! :)


Fall Wedding Timeline – 6:00 Sunset – With a First Look
12:30: Photography starts
1:45: Bride gets dressed / bridal portraits
2:30: Individual bride/groom family photos
3:15: First look
3:45: Combined family photos
4:30: Bride and groom relax
5:00: Ceremony
5:45: Final bride and groom sunset portraits

Fall Wedding Timeline – 6:00 Sunset – Without a First Look
1:30: Photography starts
2:00: Bride gets dressed / bridal portraits
2:30: Individual bride/groom family photos
3:00: Individual bridal party photos
3:30: Bride and groom relax
4:00: Ceremony
4:45: Family photos / bridal party / bride and groom portraits

Getting married during a different season?

Every season has unique challenges for your wedding day timeline! For a comprehensive guide on timelines, whether you’re getting married in spring, summer, fall or winter, 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

Temecula Engagement Photo Locations

Temecula Micro Wedding Photographer

Avensole Winery Wedding

Bel Vino Winery Wedding

Temecula Wedding Vendors