This is when the party really begins—your wedding reception!

It’s time to relax, dance and celebrate.

At this point in the day, your coordinator and DJ will most likely be the ones ensuring that everything stays on schedule, that way you can focus on enjoying the night.

Like most things, proper planning before your reception will help lead to amazing results.

Here are some things to think about while planning to help you get the most out of your wedding reception.

Make your wedding reception your own

Your family and friends will most likely give you a lot of input as you go about wedding planning. (Heather and I know, we’re in the process of planning our own wedding!)

Though they mean well, at the end of the day, it’s your party.

Make it your own and don’t feel pressured by those around you!

If you want to have a special dance with your grandparents, do it! Thinking about a donut bar instead of a wedding cake? Why not?

Make your reception a reflection of your values and don’t feel tied to traditions.

RGNY Wedding Reception

Indoors or outdoors?

When deciding on your reception space, you may be debating between an outdoor or indoor location.

Both are great choices, and each one has a very different look and feel.

Outdoor wedding receptions

As someone who’s a nature enthusiast, I love outdoor receptions.

An outdoor space feels much more open than the confined walls of an indoor location.

You’ll also be able to take advantage of the beautiful views your venue or location has to offer.

With that being said, an outdoor reception can be more challenging to plan. Here are a few things to consider:

Be mindful of rain

This is the biggest potential drawback of an outdoor reception.

Mother nature will do her thing regardless of what you’ve planned, so always have a backup plan in case it rains.

Aside from rain, it’s also important to consider the time of year and how warm/cool the weather will be.

You don’t want your guests melting on the dance floor at a midday reception in the middle of July, for example!

Turks and Caicos Destination Wedding Reception

Include rain plans in your budget (as needed)

Being prepared for rain can add a bit more to your wedding budget, so keep that in mind when planning.

Work with your wedding coordinator/venue beforehand to have a tent on call.

This way if there is rain in the forecast you can easily have it set up and ready to go a few days before your wedding.

This gives you less to worry about as you get closer to your date.

Check if background noise could be an issue

Depending on where your venue is located, you might also have to worry about external sounds interfering with your event (think traffic, planes, etc.).

Certain locations may also have a noise curfew, so talk to your venue if you’re looking to have a late party.

Indoor wedding receptions

There’s no doubt that the logistics of an outdoor reception space are more complicated than hosting your reception indoors.

If this all sounds too complicated, there are many advantages to hosting your reception indoors.

Crummy weather? No problem!

Perhaps the biggest advantage is this. An indoor reception space ensures that you won’t need to worry about rain in the forecast as your wedding day approaches.

Adirondack Dancing

A more intimate approach

Having a confined space indoors can create a warm atmosphere that feels more intimate than an open outdoor space.

Easy access to bathrooms

An indoor space often makes it easier for guests to find the bathrooms. No one wants to go for a hike to use the restroom.

Avoid colored uplighting (at all costs!)

Regardless of what you choose (indoors or outdoors), here’s a pro tip for amazing reception photographs: Avoid vibrant-colored uplighting.

Many DJs will offer this option for you and some include it in their standard packages.

Although it may seem like a cool addition, it can be a nightmare for your photographs.

It’s difficult to remove the color cast those lights create in post production. This can cause skin tones to look purple or green or blue (whatever color the uplighting is.) I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want purple skin in any pictures of me!

Staying away from colored uplighting will ensure everybody’s skin color looks natural and your photographs look timeless.

Adirondack Wedding

Live music or DJ?

This can be a tough decision—should you hire a DJ or live band for your reception music?

Generally speaking, a live band is going to cost more money than a DJ, since five or more musicians are necessary to cover all of the different instruments.

There is also a space issue. If you’re considering a live band, make sure your venue has an area for the musicians to set up.

If you’re planning on hosting your reception at a smaller location, a live band may not be the best option.

Pros and cons

Though I may be biased (I am a musician myself), I feel nothing beats a good live band when it comes to getting people up and dancing. A live band usually has an added bonus of an MC (usually the lead singer) who does announcements and keeps the energy level up.

Live music is infectious and a group of solid musicians will wow and dazzle your guests.

A DJ, however, can often play more variety, from all different genres of music.

It’s usually not hard for a DJ to find the songs you’re looking for, where a live band will often need to learn them if they’re not in their repertoire.

A solid DJ/MC combination can read the crowd and keep the party moving well throughout the night.

Both are great choices, with different appeals. Weigh the options and choose the best one for you!

The Old Field Club Wedding Reception

Have a “no play” list

Regardless of your choice in band or DJ, make sure you give them a “do not play” list.

This way you don’t have to worry they’ll play songs you really don’t want to hear during your reception.

Prepping the setup & keeping guests engaged

If you can, try to take your guests into consideration when planning the flow of your reception timeline.

If you have a lot of elderly guests that may not be staying until the very end, for example, you can schedule the cake cutting at a relatively early time so that they can be a part of it.

Chat with your coordinator about how you can plan your reception in a way that will keep guests engaged and moving all night!

Also, plan your centerpieces, welcome table, etc., well before the wedding date and show your coordinator (or a family friend) how you’d like to set them up so that you aren’t even thinking about those things the day of.

W Loft Wedding Cake

Wedding reception photography coverage

Many wedding photographers have packages that include various amounts of hourly coverage.

If you’re considering a package that doesn’t have coverage until the end of the reception, that’s ok!

You can work with your photographer to plan your timeline so you have at least one hour of dancing photographed, with all of the important formalities concluded by that time.

I typically recommend at least two hours of reception coverage.

The guests who dance during the first hour will still be dancing in the third hour—one hour of dancing will be enough time to really capture the joy of your reception.

Not to mention, as the night goes on, people get sweaty and a little crazy—most people are ok with that part of the night not being documented 😂!

Wedding reception Planning

Consider a sparkler exit

I absolutely love capturing sparkler exits!

These are usually some of my favorite images from a wedding day and a perfect way to end the night (not to mention close out your wedding album).

If you’re thinking about doing a controlled exit, here are a few of my top tips:

Make sure your venue allows sparklers

Before doing any planning, touch base with your venue to make sure they allow sparklers on the premises.

Buy longer, 36″ sparklers

I once was a guest at a wedding where all we had where the smaller-sized sparklers.

Everyone’s sparkler went out before the couple was able to walk down!

Don’t let that happen to you—make sure you purchase the longer-sized sparklers so they burn the entire time.

Make them easy to light

Here’s a pro tip: Assign two people (one to each side) on “sparkler lighting duty.”

Give them each a candle and have them go down the line, lighting two sparklers at a time.

This will speed up the process, giving you more time to enjoy them while they are lit.

Sparkler Exit

Give each guest two sparklers

Have them light the second sparkler when their first one is about half way finished.

This will not only add more light to the scene, but will ensure you have even more time if their first sparkler goes out.

Have a place to dispose of the used sticks

Have a few pails of water for guests to dispose of their sparklers once they’re done.

I also recommend a separate pail for guests to put their unused sparklers as well.

What to do if you have limited photography coverage

If you’re set on doing a sparkler exit but your photography coverage ends before the end of the night, here’s a tip:

Plan a faux exit with your bridal party and a few family members earlier in the evening.

This also allows your photographer to have more control over these shots (because it’s a smaller group of people), and the party NEVER has to stop!

Most people won’t even notice that the bride and groom are missing for a few minutes.

In your photos, it will be almost impossible to tell everyone isn’t there waving sparklers and sending you off.

Doing your exit this way allows you to save money and still capture amazing sparkler exit images.

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Want more wedding inspiration? Check out these boards on Pinterest.

Being engaged is such an exciting time in your life—and it can feel like it’s whizzing by once you start wedding planning.

There’s research to do, emails to send, decisions to make… it’s a full-time job!

We’ve been shooting weddings for over six years and through meeting different couples, hearing about their planning experiences (and through our own wedding planning as a couple), we’ve learned a lot about how to make things more stress-free.

These six tips will help to simplify the process so you get the most joy out of every moment leading up to the wedding.

1. Start your wedding planning by finding a checklist

When Heather and I got engaged, we realized pretty quickly that we needed an amazing wedding planning checklist.

I’m a pretty visual person, so if you’re anything like me, having a guide to reference is priceless for my sanity.

With that need in mind, Heather and I put together this Ultimate Wedding Planning Checklist. It breaks down everything you’ll need to know and do, month by month.

There are plenty of great checklists out there, so whichever one you choose, be sure it resonates with you so you can follow it step-by-step leading up to the big day.


Wedding Planning Brian Shannon

2. Hire a wedding planner (or at least a day-of coordinator)

Real talk: Planning a wedding by yourself is a monumental undertaking.

With our busy day-to-day lives, you’re probably spending a huge bulk of time planning. (Hence the full-time job reference above!)

A wedding planner will majorly help alleviate that stress.

Even though they might be a significant part of your budget, (this article by Brides magazine says a wedding planner typically ends up costing about 10% of your wedding budget) a good wedding planner could actually end up saving you money in the long run—not to mention saving you time! 

If you want to enjoy the process of planning your wedding as much as possible, yet you don’t want to get too caught up in the details or overwhelmed with decisions, a wedding planner makes total sense.

Having an expert there to take some of the pressure off of you and be a guide throughout your planning can totally change the vibe of the whole process.

They’ll help you stay organized and work with you to bring your unique wedding vision to life.

Merrily & Eugene

Not sure about a wedding planner?

Maybe you want total control and really love the planning process or you’d rather splurge on other parts of your wedding. Many venues can connect you with a day-of coordinator who can help to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Without a day-of coordinator, there’s a really good chance the responsibility of solving any dilemmas will automatically fall on your maid of honor, your mom, the photographer or you!

When a photographer is in charge of all of the coordination, it tends to pull us away from our main focus of capturing your day. Many of the most stressful wedding situations we’ve seen could have been avoided if there was a wedding planner or day-of coordinator present.

It’s your day and you deserve the space to be able to focus on your special love and commitment to each other, rather than worrying about details of the day!


Wedding Planning Kate and Ryan

3. Find a photographer with a calming presence

A great wedding photographer does so much more than take gorgeous wedding pictures.

If you’re not super comfortable in front of the camera (few of us are!), it’s your photographer’s job to make sure you feel and look relaxed—so you look like you.

The right photographer will work with you beforehand to go over things like family combinations and the general flow of events for the day so you can focus on enjoying the moment.

It helps to find someone who gets your wedding vision, and that you might not want overly posed or traditional photographs, for example, but rather a more candid and natural feel.

Your photographer will also be frequently interacting with the people closest to you, and their personality and style will have a big impact on the overall energy and mood of your wedding day.

You’ll be spending the whole day with your photographer, too, so choose someone you easily vibe with. Their calming presence throughout the day will mean a lot.

Check out this article to learn more about the character traits I believe you should look for in your wedding photographer.


Wedding Planning NYC

4. Work with your photographer & wedding planner to create a realistic timeline

Crafting a well thought out wedding timeline is the best way to avoid stress on your wedding day. A good one is like a forecast of how the day will unfold.

It’s hard to know how much time you’ll need to allocate when planning though—that’s why it’s great to lean on your wedding photographer and/or wedding planner.

They really get how wedding timelines work (and often don’t work!). A great photographer will give you guidance and possibly even craft the timeline for you.

As a wedding photographer, one of the ways I make sure I do this is by providing you with a questionnaire.

I ask for the locations and times for the major events surrounding your wedding.

That way we can craft a wedding timeline that allows us to take great photographs and anticipate any areas that may need extra time built in.


As the wedding date gets closer, we’ll plan a FaceTime call to catch up and go over these timeline details to ensure everything flows smoothly.

Here are a few general wedding timeline tips:

Pad your timeline

The number one reason wedding schedules end up running late? It’s usually because hair and makeup take longer than expected. Our tip is to double the time you think you’ll need for hair, makeup and travel.

This will assure you have plenty of time for all the portraits you want to take before the wedding.

Wedding Planning Hudson Valley

Plan to take the majority of your wedding photos during sunset

The best time to get those dreamy, beautiful, soft-lit portraits you see all over wedding blogs is an hour or two before sunset.

Pictures taken in mid-day sun will often have a very different look and feel. If it’s not possible to dedicate that time to photography, try to schedule in at least 15 minutes so you can get the best pictures possible!

If you’d like to learn more about how to craft a stress-free wedding timeline, check out this post here.

Write a detailed list of the family photos you want to take

Only take photos of family combinations that are important to you during the formal family pictures.

If you have a large family and you’re worried about squeezing in the additional combinations during the day, try taking larger group or extended family photographs during dinner or the reception.

This ensures everyone will be in one place and your MC can help gather them for a quick picture.


Erin Michael Walk Down Aisle

5. Consider seeing each other before the ceremony

A wedding first look is a set time for you to see each other before the wedding day takes off.

If you decide to do a first look, you can arrange to have many of your formal photographs taken before the ceremony.

Getting this done early frees up time later to spend with your guests and enjoy your wedding.

There are many other advantages of doing a first look, and not all of them are photography related.

If you’re on the fence or just not sure if that’s something you’d like to do, be sure to check out this article.


Wedding First Look Dane Carolyn

6. Plan to do an engagement session before your wedding

An engagement session is a great way to capture casual photographs of you and your fiancé. There’s also a hidden perk:

It’s a great way to get more comfortable in front of the camera.

Your photographer will share tips for posing in a way that looks candid, so you feel like a pro by the wedding.

These sessions are also a great way for you to get to know your photographer better.

That way they’ll arrive on your wedding day already knowing how you and your fiancé interact, and how to photograph you in the most genuine way.

I always recommend doing an engagement session, if possible.

Wedding Planning Brooklyn Bridge

Oh, and if you’re worried about your photographs looking cheesy or aren’t into taking pretty pictures at a park or beach, don’t be!

To me, an engagement session should reflect the uniqueness of each couple and be more than just a way to get save-the-date photos.

I like to plan the sessions with the couples I work with around activities or interests that they really love.

Here are a few examples:


Nicole and Joe

6. Don’t forget to be present and make the most of the planning process!

Your wedding is one of the most important days of your life, so there’s a good deal of pressure for everything to be well-planned and look a certain way.

That also means that a time that is meant to be the happiest can also be incredibly stressful.

One of the best things you can do is focus on things that ground you, keep you calm and bring you major joy—whether that’s going snowboarding or playing board games with family or curling up with a book.


We hope these tips are helpful to you. This is such an exciting time, soak up every minute you can!

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In one of the most exciting and emotionally charged days of your life, a wedding first look is a set time for you and your love to see each other before the day takes off. 

As photographers and business owners (and a newly engaged couple ourselves!), we’ve been photographing weddings for over six years and we’ve seen how a wedding first look can calm nerves, create much-needed space for feeling all the feels together and allow for alone time in a whirlwind of a day.

Often no one else is there with you for a first look (besides the photographer), which allows you both to express those built-up emotions and share this magically intimate moment without tons of people around. 

The photographer will find a beautiful location, build the suspense and, of course, capture that special moment when you see each other for the first time that day.

Here, five reasons (both practical and romantic) to do a wedding first look.

Two brides walking with NYC skyline in background.

Doing a Wedding First Look Will Calm the Nerves

If the idea of being the center of attention is a bit overwhelming, you’re not a fan of huge crowds or you get nervous pretty easily (hello, we’ve been there!), then this is a big reason to go for a first look.

It’s hard to know (until the day of) how nerve-wracking it can be and exactly how you’ll feel. Believe it or not, we find more often it’s the groom who feels the wedding day nerves the most. 

Either way, once you see each other, those nerves disappear.

Both of you will feel so much more relaxed and ready for the ceremony.

RGNY Wedding First Look

You’ll Get Precious Time to Interact & Feel the Feels Together

If the first time you see each other is during the ceremony, you can’t really embrace or chat.

You’ll have to wait until the ceremony is over for your partner to react and tell you how amazing you look, and after 30 minutes of the ceremony, the reaction isn’t the same as that initial first glance.

At the first look, you’ll be able to touch, interact, talk and feel all the emotions then and there while your photographer captures them.

It creates a truly unique and magical moment that you two will always remember. (And we promise, that second look walking down the aisle will still be just as emotional and moving.) 

Couple holds hands at Inns of Aurora in upstate New York

You’ll Have More Time With Family & Friends

Doing a first look means more time relaxing and enjoying your wedding day. Without a first look, the day begins when you walk down the aisle.

After the ceremony, normally you would rush through portraits so that you’re not late for the introductions, and then it’s reception time. 

With a first look, it’s like extending your time celebrating with loved ones by almost 3 hours!

Instead of being rushed for your bridal party portraits, you get to slow down and have fun hanging out with your best friends on your wedding day.

Since there’s more time to take pictures, (and to relax!) couples that opt for a first look often fill the first half of their wedding album with images just from this time together before the ceremony.

La Jolla wedding day first look

Doing a Wedding First Look Might Be Your Only Alone Time

Your wedding day will likely feel like a whirlwind, and having quiet moments just the two of you might be rare.

A first look ensures you’ll have time alone (besides the photographer, but don’t worry—you won’t know we’re there!). The energy of seeing each other and having that intimate time together puts you in the perfect mood for romantic portraits.

Without a first look, portraits are often rushed after the family pictures. It can be hard to get back into that euphoric frame of mind that you had when you first see each other—especially with family around!

Taking those romantic photographs right after your first look will guarantee you and your fiancé look and feel amazing. As photographers, we capture some of our favorite images of the day during those moments, which leads us to…

Intimate wedding hug between bride and groom.

With a Wedding First Look, You’ll Have More Images of the Two of You

The reality of a wedding day is that, even when it’s super well-planned, things tend to run behind and mishaps can happen (traffic, weather, Grandpa forgets his pants (yes that happened once).

Planning a first look is the best way to guarantee a solid amount of time for photographs with your fiancé, your family and your bridal party. (We’ve found that a first look means you’ll get about 50% more photos of the two of you!)

These images will become some of your favorites—and they’re likely the ones you’ll want to decorate your home with.

We may be a bit biased as wedding photographers, though we’ve seen firsthand the impact a first look can have—not just on the emotions of the couple, but on the timeline, the stress of the day and so on.

We hope this was helpful as you’re planning your big day!

–Tom & Heather

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Want more wedding inspiration? Check out these boards on Pinterest.

I recently had the privilege of photographing Breeann and Brandon’s beautiful wedding in New York. After the wedding, I sat down with Breeann to get her thoughts on  wedding planning and her favorite moments of the day.

How can you be prepared for one of the most exciting days of your life? Here, Breeann shares:

Top 10 Photos of 2018

The best wedding planning advice for a bride:

“This is a difficult question; I have so many pieces of advice I would love to give!

My two best would be to first, focus on what you and your fiancé want while planning the wedding. It can become very stressful and overwhelming listening to the opinions of everyone around you.

It doesn’t matter if Aunt Sue hates outdoor ceremonies, or if your cousin thinks your color scheme is ugly. This day is about the two of you, and no one else. Most importantly your wedding day is meant to celebrate the love between you two.

Don’t stress the small stuff when there are such greater and happier things to focus on.

Secondly, embrace every single second of your big day. The rumors are true; the day is over before you know it!”

Wedding Planning

The biggest wedding planning surprise about HER wedding day:

“There weren’t really any shocking surprises that we experienced on the day of our wedding. A pleasant surprise was seeing how perfectly the day fell together, whether we had planned for things to be that way or not.

When things strayed off course a bit (and let me tell you, they will–there’s no avoiding it) it didn’t bring us down at all. We planned for over a year and hoped for a picture–perfect wedding just like any other couple does, but on our wedding day we honestly didn’t care about the centerpieces or the flowers or the cake. What we enjoyed the most was looking around the room and seeing all of our family and friends enjoying themselves.

All of the little details might not have been perfect, but we wanted an unforgettable party and we certainly got one!”

Wedding Planning Ceremony

How to tame those wedding day nerves:

“To be honest, I wasn’t nervous at all. Leading up to my wedding and on the day of, I received a lot of comments about how I was the calmest bride anyone had ever seen.

I knew that I was making one of the best decisions of my life, marrying Brandon, and I was more eager and excited than anything.

Even if there was an ounce of nervousness in me on my wedding day, I’m sure all of the getting ready mimosas would have washed those worries away very quickly!”

wedding planning hands

Her favorite photo moment:

“It was pouring outside and Tom had asked us if we wanted to get out in the rain with our umbrellas for some cool group shots, or if we wanted to play it safe and stay dry. Brandon and I turned to our bridal party and left the decision up to them.

Without question, each of them picked up an umbrella and marched out into the rain. Not one of them complained for even a second about being wet or cold.

Everyone laughed and enjoyed themselves, and when Tom asked for a few more minutes of pictures, no one hesitated.

It was such a great feeling knowing that we asked such amazing people to be by our side that day who would do anything to keep the day fun and happy. ”


Which one moment will always stand out to her?

“Our vows. Brandon and I decided to write our own vows, and I’m so happy we did.

We didn’t ramble off the cliché “in sickness and in health” bit. Our words were unique, from the heart, and so incredibly emotional. Everyone listening truly felt and understood our love for each other.

During those few minutes, no one else in the world existed but the two of us. It was so surreal knowing that in a few short moments the man standing before me, my soulmate, would be my husband forever. It was one of the happiest moments of my life.”


What she loved about working with Tom Schelling Photography:

“Tom didn’t have to work hard to impress my husband and I. From our first meeting all the way to our wedding day, he maintained an incredible level of professionalism and expertise.

He made our entire wedding planning process so smooth and simple, giving tips and advice not only on wedding photography, but also on vendors, our wedding day timeline, and so much more. He went above and beyond for us!”


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Are you looking for some wedding inspiration? Check out these boards on Pinterest!

Creating a wedding-day timeline might not be the most exciting part of your planning, but it’ll have a huge impact on the amount of stress you feel that day.

As wedding photographers (Tom has captured weddings & love stories for over six years now!), we love helping each couple we work with to create their perfect timeline.

This timeline example is based on a wedding day with a 5 p.m. ceremony time frame that includes a first look. (On the fence about seeing each other before the ceremony? Check out this article to see if a first look is for you.)

If you’d rather not see each other before the ceremony, the group portraits part of this example timeline could be done during your cocktail hour instead.

Of course, all weddings are different and your timeline may differ due to travel times and unique situations. I would recommend using this as a guide and making tweaks to personalize it to fit your day.

Happy planning! 😃 

Wedding timeline quick links

Use these links to jump to a specific part of the wedding timeline.

Bridal details: 11:45AM–12:45 p.m. (One hour)

Your details are a fun part of your wedding story (and make a great spread in your wedding album). I personally love having some time to shoot the dress, shoes, jewelry, invitations, etc., before the day gets going, as it gives me a chance to warm up and get creative.

The amount of time needed can vary, but I would recommend typically allocating at least 45 minutes to an hour for bridal details.

Your photographer can also use this time to take some more candid images of you and your bridesmaids getting ready.

The star of the bridal details is… the bridal bouquet!

Here’s a little tip that can save you money and make a huge impact on the way your images turn out: Make your bridal bouquet a big priority!

If you have a gorgeous bouquet, your photographer can make it look like beautiful florals are everywhere.

He or she can use it to spruce up bridal details, reception details and bride & groom portraits.

I highly recommend getting your dream bouquet and investing less on the bridesmaids’ bouquets since they won’t be photographed nearly as much.

Groom getting-ready images come next

If the groom is getting ready nearby, your photographer can jump back and forth to capture images of the groomsmen while you’re getting dressed.

If you’d like extensive groom getting-ready coverage, or your groom is getting ready at a different location, I would recommend hiring a second photographer.

Getting ready: 12:45–1:45 p.m. (one hour)

After the details have been photographed, it’s time for you to get into your dress.

This is when the day starts to feel real!

This is a good time for the mother-of-the-bride and your bridesmaids to get dressed, too. After you’re in your gown, you can put on your jewelry, veil, shoes, etc.

This is also when your photographer would capture candid moments with your bridesmaids, mom and other loved ones as the day begins.

Thinking about getting ready at a hotel?

Here’s a simple way to get Pinterest-like getting-ready photographs: If you’re not getting ready at your venue, I always recommend getting ready at an Airbnb instead of a hotel.

Here’s why:

  • Airbnbs are often much cheaper than a hotel room. A quality Airbnb can sometimes cost less than half that of a fancy hotel and it’ll have better elements for taking getting-ready photographs.
  • With an Airbnb, you can rent out an entire home, which gives you access to many rooms. This will give you the space your family and friends need to get ready while still being together.

No one wants to be on top of each other while getting dressed!

First look: 2:00 p.m.

This is one of my personal favorite parts of the wedding day!

Your photographer will find a beautiful location, build the suspense and, of course, capture that special moment when you face each other for the first time that day.

There are many great reasons to consider doing a first look:

  • It’ll calm any nerves
  • You’ll get precious time to interact & feel the feels together
  • You’ll have more time with family & friends throughout the day
  • It might be your only alone time together
  • You’ll have more images of the two of you

If you’re on the fence about seeing each other before the ceremony, and want to learn more about each of the points above, check out this article!

Portraits: 2:15–3:00 p.m. (45 minutes)

After you enjoy a quiet moment together during your first look, you can use the time afterward to take a few romantic portraits.

While all of the wedding-day images are important, the ones that resonate most with the couples I work with are usually from this session.

These images are my favorite not only because of their beauty, but because this is such a fun portion of the day. For this brief moment in time, you’ll be pretty much alone together on your wedding day (believe it or not, that’s rarer than you think!).

You’ll have a chance to really connect and get lost in the moment together.

For a few minutes, the whirlwind of the day will fade into the background.

While that’s happening, the wedding party can start making their way over to you for wedding party portraits.   

Wedding party & family portraits: 3:15 p.m.–4:15 p.m. (one hour)

After your first look is a great time for the wedding party portraits.

During this time, you can take some great images of the bridesmaids and groomsmen separately and together.

Here’s a tip to make things go smoothly: One way to make sure you stay on schedule is to ask someone to put the boutonnieres on the guys before they arrive for portraits and ensure the bridesmaids have their flowers.

This time can also be used to capture formal portraits with your immediate families, so you don’t have to spend much time taking pictures during your cocktail hour.

This part of the day should be fun and light, and shouldn’t feel like a chore.

Taking these photos earlier in the day ensures your friends and family will be free to relax and enjoy the cocktail hour.

Bride & groom prep for ceremony: 4:30 p.m.–5:00 p.m. (30 minutes)

At this point, it’s a good idea to  separate and begin to prepare for your ceremony.

Some time away from each other before your ceremony helps re-build the anticipation—it will begin to feel like you’ve yet to see each other again.

Reception details: 4:30 p.m.–5:00 p.m. (30 minutes)

If the reception is in the same location as the ceremony, this is a great time for your photographer to shoot the reception decor untouched.

If the ceremony and reception are in different locations, I recommend having a cocktail hour outside of the main reception area.

This ensures you’ll have great images of your reception before the night begins and guests start laying down purses and coats on their seats.

Ceremony: 5:00 p.m–5:30 p.m. (30 minutes)

Here it is—the moment everyone’s been waiting for!

The music is playing and the guests have been seated.

The coordinator is lining up the bridesmaids and queueing the musicians.

You’re about to walk down the aisle and see the love of your life.

You’ve probably dreamed about this moment for a long time!

Vows will be shared and promises will be made—this is what it’s all about.

In a world full of wedding blogs, Pinterest and bridal magazines, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and consumed by the “prettiness” of the event.

While details do matter and planning is necessary, it’s important to never lose sight of the real purpose of this amazing day—the connection and love you and your fiancé share.

Ceremony length

Most ceremonies are about 30 minutes long. If your ceremony is longer than 30 minutes, or you plan on having a receiving line, you’ll want to add some extra padding to the timeline.

Cherish these moments—your ceremony will pass by so quickly!

(Here are some of my top tips to make sure your ceremony looks great in your wedding pictures.)

Extended family portraits: 5:45–6:15 p.m. (15–45 minutes)

If you plan on capturing a lot of extended family, you’ll want to do this immediately following the ceremony, since all family members will be present at that time.

You should typically allocate about 15-45 minutes for your family pictures, depending on how many groupings you’re looking for.

To make this process as smooth as possible, I like to send a questionnaire before the wedding so you can list out the family combinations that you’d like, and to make sure we don’t miss any important family pictures.

Wedding Party walking for The Central Park Boathouse Wedding.

A few just-married portraits: 6:15 p.m.–6:30 p.m. (15–30 minutes)

The time these photos will be taken changes depending on the time of year.

The best time for these photographs is during the hour before sunset. This is when the sun is glowy and golden, and the light is at its best.

These photographs are often some of the favorite images from the day, so don’t skip out on them!

The reception begins: 7:00 p.m.

The fun has begun! It’s time to relax, dance and celebrate.

Your coordinator and DJ should take care of making sure that everything stays on schedule so that you can enjoy your night.

At this point in your wedding day, the timeline will become a bit more relaxed.

Your photographer’s approach will most likely become more photojournalistic—they’ll be capturing things as they happen, as opposed to giving you direction.

Reception coverage

Unless you have something specific planned at the end of the night, you also most likely don’t need photography coverage of your entire reception.

I typically include enough coverage so that I can be present for the main events of the reception (cake cutting, dances and speeches) and about an hour or two of dancing.

I find this is more than enough time to capture plenty of variety to tell the story of your wedding day.

Final thoughts

A solid wedding-day timeline helps to ensure amazing photographs *and* reduce stress in a major way.

I hope these tips help your day to flow more smoothly, so you can focus on soaking in every moment.

P.S. Here are more free tips and resources on all things wedding planning, from 3 skills to look for in your wedding photographer to how to get gorgeous engagement photos & more! 

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Destination Wedding Photographer based in NYC & Southern California