Wedding Day Timeline: Alternative to First Look

Bride walking down aisle in Adrian, Michigan

If you have been following along in our wedding day timeline series, you’ve learned a few tips on how to schedule your morning that will help you relax and enjoy your time getting ready with the bridal party. We’ve also discussed how to coordinate doing a first look and getting photos out of the way before the ceremony. If you haven’t read those blogs, go back and check them out now.

If you don’t want to see your soon-to-be bride/groom before the ceremony, this week’s post is for you. I said this before and I’ll say it again, we don’t like to push our couples one way or the other when it comes to deciding whether or not to do a first look. The main thing is that you leave plenty of time for photos so you don’t feel rushed or stressed out on your wedding day!

One major difference in doing a first look vs. not doing a first look is that you will want to schedule your ceremony at an earlier time. Since you will be doing most of the photos in between the ceremony and reception, you can’t expect to only leave an hour of time there. You might be worried about your guests having to wait too long between the ceremony and the reception. If this is a concern, you can offer a cocktail hour or games and activities for guests.

Another idea is to point guests in the direction of a local bar, coffee shop, park or museum that they can stop at before the reception. With the help of our graphic designer, Uppercase Designs, we gave our guests a map of downtown Toledo and pointed out a few places they could check out, including one of our favorite breweries, Black Cloister. You have to keep in mind that this is your one and only wedding day. If you have to choose between rushing and stressing through your photo session so guests don’t get upset or feeling relaxed and enjoying every minute of your day, which one would you prefer?

Here is an example of an ideal wedding we have done where we did all the photos in between the ceremony and reception. This timeline assumes that you are doing all the photos in the same location as the ceremony. If you’re traveling to another location after family formals for bridal party photos, don’t forget to add that in.

(The getting ready start time for the girls will depend on how long hair and makeup will take. Don’t forget to add in any travel time if you aren’t getting ready at the ceremony location.)

11:45am Guys start getting ready

12:15pm Bride & Bridesmaids are all done with makeup

12:20pm Groomsmen take photos

12:30pm Bride gets dress on

1:00pm Bridesmaids take photos

1:40pm Hide and wait for ceremony to begin

2:00pm Ceremony

2:30pm Receiving Line

2:45pm Grand Exit

3:00pm Family Formals

3:30 Bathroom break, touch-ups and extra time to gather bridal party together

3:40 Bridal party photos

4:15 Bride & Groom portraits

5:15 Done with photos, leave for reception venue

You will notice there is time allotted for a receiving line, grand exit and family formals. These things are optional, but I wanted to show the time that it takes up. A lot of couples forget to account for these things and it cuts into their bridal party portraits.

Here are some more things to keep in mind about the time before and after your ceremony.

  • Remember to have your pre-ceremony photos done about 20 minutes before the start of the ceremony. Guests will be arriving and this is the perfect time for a bathroom break or hair & makeup touch-ups.

  • If you are doing a receiving line or if you are dismissing by pew, make sure you count this time into your day. Depending on your number of guests, you should expect anywhere from 5-15 minutes.

  • A grand exit also takes a few extra minutes. Although it is something so minor and fun, it usually takes time to round up your bridal party and immediate family members afterwards.

  • If you are doing family formals immediately following your ceremony or grand exit, make sure your family members know! If these people leave right away or get distracted, it could cut into your photo session time.

  • The family formals can be as fast as 15-20 minutes if everybody is ready and willing to cooperate. As great as it is to have these clean, traditional photos, it should be a quick and easy process. We want to spend more of our time getting creative and making beautiful photos with you!

  • Following the ceremony, grand exit and family formals, you are ready for your portrait session. We suggest about 30-45 minutes for photos with the bridal party, and an hour is ideal for your couples session.

  • Amidst all of the emotions and chaos, you won’t want to feel rushed and miss out on socializing and taking in the excitement of it all. As I’ve said time and time again, don’t be afraid to leave extra wiggle room in your schedule.

All in all, there is no problem with not doing a first look. You can keep the suspense and enjoy the thrill of seeing each other for the first time as you walk down the aisle. Just don’t forget the importance of enjoying every moment of your day. Keep it stress-free by planning ahead and allowing extra time for unplanned surprises.

Are you planning a first look, or waiting to see each other until you walk down the aisle? If you are already married, what did you do? Looking back, would you have it any other way now?