How To Plan A Destination Wedding Timeline

Trying to work out the details for a wedding timeline can be pretty overwhelming. But when you’re having a destination wedding, the chances are you’re not keeping things too traditional, so you’re able to be a lot more flexible not only with timings, but also with what you decide to include and what you decide to leave out.

A few of the weddings I’ve photographed recently have decided to go down a more non-conventional route, and have passed on things like cutting a cake and having an official first dance. Instead, they chose to include other things, such as having a wish burning ceremony (let me know if you want to know what that was).

However you are planning your day, the most valuable thing you can do when figuring out your wedding timeline is consider the light, and by this I mean the position of the sun.

We all know how hot and bright it can be at mid-day in the summertime. And did you know that, contrary to what you might think, a bright sunny day is not a photographers best friend. Bright sun has the ability to do the following: make you squint, sweat, get sunburnt, and give you very unflattering dark shadows under your eyes. Earlier and later in the day, when the sun is lower in the sky, the light is much more flattering. Not only does it have a much warmer colour to it (that’s why we photographers call the time before sunset “golden hour”), the lower position means it not as hot, bright or strong.

When you’re planning your timeline, the best time for your portraits is the “golden hour” time which occurs around 1 hour before the sunset. And if you’re not sure what time that is, there’s great website HERE that can help you. Just don’t forget that if you are in mountainous areas, the sun may be lost sooner as it may go behind the mountains a few hours before it sets.

Once you’ve worked out roughly when golden hour is, you can work forwards and backwards from there.

Some tips with planning your timeline:

  • Schedule at least 45 minutes for your portraits, longer if you need time to walk/drive to a location away from the rest of the wedding party.
  • If you can’t schedule your portraits during golden hour and have to do them earlier in the day, your photographer may want to steal you away from dinner for 15 minutes to get a couple of pictures at sunset. Just ask someone to save your food for when you get back so you don’t miss out.
  • If you’d like to light lanterns or sparklers, any time from dusk onwards is a good time.
  • If you’re having an outdoor ceremony in the summer, try to avoid the middle of the day if possible. If you can’t, try to find a location that offers some shade.
  • For winter weddings, remember that daylight hours are limited. Holding an earlier ceremony means you’ll still have daylight for your portraits.
  • Don’t forget to plan in enough time for group pictures if you want to have them, preferably sometime after the ceremony but before everyone has had too many glasses of prosecco. These can take 3-5 minutes per photo when you include rounding up the right people and arranging them for the shot.


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