Wedding Tips

Start your timeline here: 5 essential wedding timeline tips

photos from a wedding day featuring wedding timeline tips
Hi! We're Morgan
and Ryan
We're a wedding photography duo based in Madison, WI. We're here to honor and celebrate the best day of your life, in the best way we know how: beautiful pictures and a personalized experience.
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Planning your wedding timeline can be stressful. Maybe you don’t know where to start. Or maybe you’ve been to a few weddings where the bride and groom seem stressed, dinner starts super late, or the couple didn’t get all of the wedding photos they wanted to fit in the day. As wedding photographers, we see it all when it comes to timelines, and we know what works best and what leaves couples a little more stressed. We’ve put together our top five wedding timeline tips to help you get a head start! We show up to wedding days knowing the timeline inside and out, and even before that, we’ve helped our couples set it up for success.

Wedding planners AND wedding photographers are great resources for timeline planning. Photographers know when the best golden hour light is, how long it takes them to shoot wedding party portraits, or how much time they’ll need to get through the list of family photos. When we book a Wisconsin wedding (or any wedding for that matter!), we always help our couples work through an ideal timeline. We never want our couples to feel rushed on their wedding day, especially during their first husband and wife portraits. A great timeline and relaxed couple makes for better photos!

If you’re starting to plan your wedding timeline, here are the first five questions we always ask our couples when building their timeline:

The Eloise Wedding Barn Wisconsin Photography

1. Are you going to do a first look?

A first look is a special moment that you set aside before the ceremony to see your future spouse for the first time! A lot of our couples prefer to do a first look because they get to have a private moment to soak it all in before the ceremony. It results in gorgeous, intimate photos (and a few tears!). The other benefit of a first look is that we can do all of the full wedding party photos before the ceremony. Your bridesmaids and groomsmen will appreciate having the photos done before the ceremony, so they can get to the party right away! It also allows for time to take couple portraits before the ceremony too. Some couples don’t want to see each other before walking down the aisle, and that is okay too. When planning the timeline, no first look typically means an earlier ceremony time, with more time between the ceremony and reception for wedding party and couples photos.

First Look Timeline Tips

2. What time is sunset?

The dreamiest time for photos on a sunny day is about an hour before sunset. Summer is the most popular time for weddings in Wisconsin, which means sunset will be during the reception. Most of the time, we can build 15 minutes into the timeline to “steal” the couple away from the reception to take some gorgeous golden hour photos. But if your wedding is in the fall, or has a sunset time around 6:30 or 7 p.m., you might want to consider starting dinner just before or just after that golden hour time. 

Wisconsin wedding Timeline Bride and Groom Golden Hour
Bride and groom golden hour wedding photos

3. Are you going to do a receiving line?

Receiving lines (where the couple stands outside of the ceremony location and greets each guest as they walk out) can take a deceptively long time. I LOVE mingling, and I am definitely someone who would want to take the time to thank my guests for coming. However, we often talk to our couples about building that time into the cocktail hour and reception. Especially if you don’t do a first look before the ceremony, you will have a lot of photos to do between the ceremony and reception. Receiving lines, followed by family photos, can be somewhat exhausting..And we want you to be fresh going into your photos! If you do a first look and photos before the ceremony, receiving lines tend to fit in better. If not, we recommend doing the photos right away, and saving time to mingle at the cocktail hour. 

4. Are you traveling from one wedding venue to another?

It may seem like an obvious question, but we always have to take travel into consideration! If you’re traveling with your wedding party, we always account for a little extra time to gather everyone up between locations. We might be driving to a photography location 5 minutes away, but we would consider about 15 minutes of travel from start to finish. And hey, if we make the time up, sweet! If your ceremony venue and reception venue are different, an earlier ceremony time often makes the most sense to give your guests time to get to cocktail hour, and to give you and your wedding party some extra travel time. If your wedding is at one venue, a slightly later ceremony time makes more sense, so your guests aren’t waiting around for cocktail hour to start!  

The Eloise Wedding Barn Wisconsin Photography

5. How many people will be in your formal family portraits?

We take family portraits immediately after the ceremony. It’s easiest to gather everyone then, before they wander off to cocktail hour! We always ask our couples to put together a specific list for family formals, so we can call off names and get them done as efficiently as possible. Similar to the receiving line, family formals can take a deceptively long time if a lot of family members are involved. We recommend keeping family formals to immediate family members only (plus grandparents), and taking less formal photos of aunts, uncles, cousins and more at the reception if they want a group shot. We even recommend doing family photos with the couple in almost ALL the photos After all, you are all family now! Moving around a lot, especially for the bride, can take up a lot of time. We never say no to the family portraits that are important to you though. Just build in more time for them if you know you’ll have a long list!

family pictures paine art center oshkosh

If you have questions about where to start with your wedding timeline, please send us a message!

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