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        If photography’s important to you, this is how to create the perfect wedding timeline with light, and your photo album, in mind.

        I’m biased. I love the outdoors and nature. And, I’m a sucker for good light. So, I will prioritize the absolute best light for the ceremony and bridal portraits, and for the beginning of the reception (first dance). This is how I create the perfect wedding timeline for my couples. I’ve broken my process down to help you create yours!

        My heart is for outdoor venues and indoor venues with lots of windows because of the unlimited amount of natural light.

        Pro Tip: Pick a venue that will allow for as much natural light as possible, regardless of it being indoor or outdoor. Pay attention to the bride and groom suites and how much light they have too. All of this matters and will make a huge difference.

        Scroll to read about how you can create a perfect wedding timeline for your big day!

        1. Details & Getting Ready

        Ideal Time Allotment: 1-1.5hrs

        Ideal Time of Day: Morning or Afternoon

        Ideal Location: Space with natural light; Room with either large windows or many windows to allow ample light to enter


        Special Notes:

        Have the photographer arrive at the end of make-up application (so at this point you’re mostly ready)! Photos can be taken as the last details are being done, as well as the overall details (rings, other jewelry, wedding dress not yet on you, shoes, flat lay of invitation suite, bouquet etc.) while everyone else gets their hair and make-up done.

        During this time, images of putting on the dress (if you wanted those), of bride portraits, of you and your bridesmaids (if there are any), and the groom, his details, and then photos of him and his groomsmen “getting ready” can be taken. This entire time should be used for the details that set the tone for the day. Here is where your story begins to unfold.

        If after these photos are taken and the ceremony and reception area are ready, then details of that should be taken before any guests arrive!!


        Click here to see a living room space as a getting-ready location for groom. And a hallway/living room area space for the bride.

        2. First Look

        Ideal Time Allotment: 10-15 minutes

        Ideal Time of Day: Afternoon – 4PM; in Daylight

        Ideal Location: Outdoors! Venue Garden? If backyard wedding, then in front of home OR in the neighborhood streets


        I want to say first look’s don’t take away from the walk down the aisle!! It gives you a way to have more bridal portraits, allows you to get family photos out of the way before the ceremony, gives you some intimate time before the big moment, and allows the timeline to breathe a heck of a lot! I included it here because it helps with creating a perfect wedding timeline BUT not doing a first look is absolutely okay, and we will work around that too.


        Click here to scroll through a wedding with a first look.

        3. If you decide to do a first look, then the Wedding Party photos and Family Photos will come after in creating your perfect timeline


        Ideal Time Allotment: 30-35 minutes

        Ideal Time of Day: Afternoon – 4PM; in Daylight

        Ideal Location: Outdoors! Venue Garden? If backyard wedding, then in front of home OR in the neighborhood streets


        Here we’ll go down the formal family list, and then do our bridal party photos! This opens up the rest of the day for guests and gives us some time to do more bridals during sunset time (during cocktail hour)!!


        If you decide against the first look, then you should move-up the timeline, and family photos, bridal party, and bridal portraits can be done during cocktail hour (in that order, keep bridal portraits ’till the very end because that’s the best light)! AND, to make even more time for bridal portraits without first-look, get individual families out of the way during the getting-ready photos! Either way, it shouldn’t take longer than 30min if you have a formal list set and you stick to it.

        How to Create the Perfect Wedding Timeline for Your Big Day

        4. Ceremony

        Ideal Time Allotment: ~15-30 minutes

        Ideal Time of Day: ~2-3 hours before sunset time

        Ideal Location: Outdoor Ceremony Location!! If it’s very bright out, try and find a shady area to do it if possible! If not, face your guests towards the sun, (have the sun behind your officiant). And, if it’s an indoor ceremony, I’d suggest to do it much earlier so there is ample light that can enter the location through the windows (1-2PM).


        Tying the knot time!! You want beautiful light during this time because vows will be spoken, and promises made, you want these images to be as perfect as can be. If the sun is way too high up in the sky, then it will cast unpleasant shadows on faces (this usually happens at around 12-3:30PM in the summertime, 3PM might be perfect during winter time.. just depends on the season and sunset time!). Anyway, if it has gone down too much, without flash these images will be grainy and darker, and if too close to sunset, then you don’t have light left for later!

        Click here for an outdoor ceremony that happened about an hour before sunset in November 2019.

        How to Create the Perfect Wedding Timeline for Your Big Day

        5. Cocktail Hour

        Ideal Time Allotment: ~25-35 minutes

        Ideal Time of Day: ~1 hour before sunset time

        Ideal Location: Different than family photos and bridal party photos, for variety


        After the ceremony, while people are mingling, we will flee to catch some sun-set bridals! But if we already did some portraits of the two of you during the first look, we don’t have to spend much time here and you can get back to the party quicker!



        6. Reception

        Ideal Time Allotment: Rest of the night!

        Ideal Time of Day: Preferably right during sunset time

        Ideal Location: Outdoors, Venue garden


        Grand entrance of bridal party, then bride & groom enter straight into their first dance!! You get some sunset/blue light for this time! Then dinner (about 1hr for everyone to get their food), toasts, special dances, cutting cake, bouquet toss, and any other special happenings! After the first dance, the rest of the night will be in flash! If your photographer knows how to work well with flash, then wohooo it’ll be beautiful! OH! Just a note! If you can add string lights to the reception area, it’ll be so dang pretty with flash! The end!!

        And that is how you break down the day and create a perfect wedding timeline!

        There are of course no rules to this magic but this is how I create my wedding timeline for my brides and grooms and it works out beautifully with the light of the day. On top of the wedding timeline, before I even start to create it, I always add three important things to refer back to: Date, Sunset Time, and Photo Coverage (hrs). That way I try and put all of their most important things that they want photographed in that time limit, and use light to my benefit me during those hours.

        If you have any questions regarding creating a timeline for your big day, ask your wedding photograph for help!! Also, if you’re interested in booking me for your 2021-2022 wedding, let’s talk!!

        Fatima Elreda Photo

        Thank You for Stopping By!

        I am a professional wedding photographer based in Southern California. And I’ll go everywhere your love story takes you, whether your wedding is in Scotland, your backyard, or a venue down the street, it’s all worthwhile to me.

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        I will provide you with an unforgettable experience and top notch quality images that will last a life time, long after every moment has passed. My intention is to take you back to the feelings in your images even years after you’ve forgotten the details. Trust me to photograph the moments you’re going to tell for generations to come.

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