Back when I was a bride, almost ELEVEN years ago (time flies!), my husband and I picked our wedding date rather randomly. Once we got engaged, we discussed time of year, and we both decided we wanted a summer wedding in northern Michigan. The month of June didn’t have any particular meaning to us, but both our venue and photographer had availability on our wedding date, so it was a done deal!
One factor I didn’t consider is how the time the sun sets would impact our wedding day timeline and portraits. In the Temecula and greater Inland Empire area, the most popular time of the year to get married is the fall. This is because summers can be brutal, and ain’t no bride excited to wear a heavy dress in August ;)
The vast majority of couples I work with also have their ceremony and reception at the same venue. This is great because it means there’s only one location people have to go to for the wedding. The downside can be that if a couple opts to not have a first look, the only time to complete all their portraits is cocktail hour. This can be done, but it usually means the bride and groom get the short end of the stick, since family formals and bridal party pictures can be pretty time-consuming.
For a fall or winter wedding, I counsel couples on a few different options if they want to make sure they have plenty of time for portraits. A first look is the primary option I recommend. This is a personal choice, but it’s a good one if having a lot of portraits is important to you. Depending on the timeline, we sometimes also take family formals before the ceremony, which means afterwards I’ll spend maybe 15-20 more minutes with the couple and then they can go off to cocktail hour if they like.
Without a first look, a primary consideration should be seeing if your venue permits for an earlier ceremony time. You want to make sure you have at least an hour of sunlight after your ceremony to ensure you have time to get as many portraits as possible before heading into your reception.
Summer or late spring weddings can be ideal because with the sun setting as late as 8:30, I can often grab couples for an extra twenty minutes some time during the reception. In fact, if the sunset is happening during your reception, make sure you plan time to go outside and get some golden light photos – there’s nothing quite like it!
A random date picking tip is to choose a time after daylight saving time. So for 2019, a wedding date after March 10th but before November 3rd means you’ll have more evening light.
I’m going to walk you through a few sample timelines for weddings I’ve shot during various times of the year. This should give you some guidelines when working on your timeline with your own wedding photographer.
Aliso Viejo Country Club Wedding – Tina & Cory
June 28th – 8:00 sunset
Tina + Cory had a late June wedding, so they had the benefit on their wedding day of having a later sunset time. They opted to have a first look, although due to hair and makeup running behind, our first look was delayed by about an hour. These things happen! Fortunately, with a 5:30 ceremony time, we still had plenty of time after the ceremony for family portraits, a few more bridal party portraits, and lastly bride and groom. The images that we shot about an hour before sunset (or 7:00) ended up being the best light of the day. We had planned on being outside around actual sunset, at 8:00, but clouds moved in and those photos didn’t have the same golden light. Still, we got some additional golf course images to round out the gallery. Because their formals list was short and since we had already taken some group shots before the ceremony, it ended up not being a big deal that their first look was later than scheduled.
Eagle Glen Golf Course Wedding – Kenya + Wasani
September 29th – 6:36 Sunset
Kenya + Wasani had a late fall wedding at Eagle Glen Golf Course in Corona, CA. They opted to have a first look and in their case, this was essential because there was less than an hour between their ceremony start time and grand entrance into the reception. The timestamps on the image below show the story. If we hadn’t had a first look planned here, then Kenya + Wasani would have had just 11 minutes of portraits of the two of them on their wedding day! There was no option for additional natural light portraits during the reception since the sun was gone at about 7:00. Fortunately we got plenty of great pictures prior to the ceremony so what we captured of the two of them after the ceremony was just a little extra variety. We also took them out later in the evening for some backlit night shots – my favorite!
Mountain Meadows Golf Course Wedding – Monique + Jeremy
November 25th – 4:44 Sunset
Monique + Jeremy were married at Mountain Meadows Golf Course in Pomona, CA. Their wedding day took place the day after Thanksgiving, and theirs was one of those rare weddings where everything ran on time! They opted for not only a first look, but to complete the majority of their family formals prior to the ceremony, so they could spend more time at cocktail hour. Their timeline is a great one to reference if you’re looking to do the same. The ceremony time was earlier in the evening to accommodate the earlier sunset. Since we’d knocked out their family formals before the ceremony, we were able to use the last beautiful golden light of the day for their portraits.
So, now that we’ve run through a few timelines, hopefully it’s given you a good idea of some options for your own wedding day! Some of this information may help you to decide on getting married at a certain time of the year, or some ideas on how to structure your timeline so you can prioritize what’s most important to you. Wedding planners are a great resource in this area – a great wedding planner will help to create a timeline with plenty of buffer space, and most importantly, help you hire professionals that keep your timeline running on time. I also put together timelines for nearly all my couples! You shouldn’t be expected to know the perfect timeline for your needs – that’s why you hire a professional!
As you can also see, on a few of these weddings there were things that ran behind or not as planned, and it wasn’t the end of the day! Most of your guests will never know if something runs behind. At the end of the day, no matter what happens, you’ll have a brand-new husband or wife, and that’s what it’s all about! :)
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