What Time Should Your New Jersey Wedding Photographer Arrive On Your Wedding Day?

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing someone (probably your hair and/or makeup artists!) is asking you what time your wedding photos will begin, even if your wedding is *next* year!

And you’re probably thinking, “Who the heck knows!? Maybe I should ask Mike.”

Am I right?

Here’s the thing: If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard this question, I’d be a rich man.

So, I thought I’d make this easier for everyone by sharing a few helpful tips, and sample timelines. Let’s dive in!

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3 Things to Consider When Planning Your New Jersey Wedding Timeline

When deciding what time to get your wedding day started, there are a few variables to consider:

  1. Start Time of Ceremony – If you’ve nailed down your ceremony start time, start with that time in mind and work backwards.
  2. Number of Locations for Pre-Ceremony Photos – This is the trickiest part. Because of travel time, this variable is super important to consider. It also tends to add the most confusion to timeline design and planning. But don’t worry, I’m about to make this a lot easier!
  3. First Look or No First Look – Look, I’m not here to debate whether you should or shouldn’t do a First Look. It’s a personal choice and totally up to you. I have my own thoughts, but everyone is different! The thing is, whether you have a First Look (or not) does impact a ton of other things. So, you definitely need to know whether or not you want to do one before you start designing your timeline. 
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What Do Wedding Photographers Do Before a Wedding?

When I tell couples we want to arrive 2.5-3.5 hours before the ceremony, their initial reaction is often, “WHY?!? That sounds like so much time!”

Well, let me explain.

When we first arrive, we’re going to scout the venue again. (If you are getting ready at your venue!)

  • To know how things are uniquely laid out for your wedding and reception
  • To see where the light is hitting the ceremony, if it’s outdoors
  • To look for picture-perfect spots to gather the two of you for your First Look and Wedding Party photos

Then, we’ll want to start capturing your wedding day details.

What do I mean by details? These items are often the small, personal details that you’ve chosen that help tell the story of your day. These items could include anything from your rings and shoes to your grandmother’s handkerchief or the crazy socks the wedding party will be wearing.

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Once all that is captured, we’ll want to start photographing you getting ready with your family and friends. But trust me, you don’t want us there when you’re REALLY getting ready. You want us there right at the end – when hair and makeup is *just about* finishing up – and you’re just about to be slipping into your wedding day attire. So, that’s when we like to show up.

From there, we’ll either move on to the First Look photos or to the Bridal Party and Family Photos. 

And because we scouted out ideal spots when we first arrived, we’ll then lead you to a place that offers both privacy and a stunning backdrop. From there, we’ll jump into bridal party shots and family formals.

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And because we want to avoid any arriving guests (AND the fact that you’ll honestly need a break to reset your mind and get in the right headspace for the ceremony), we’ll want to be wrapped up with pictures about 30 minutes before guests arrive.

Sample Wedding Day Timelines

Now that you have a better understanding of what takes place before the ceremony ever begins, let’s take a look at a couple of sample timelines.

(NOTE: The timelines below all include a First Look. If you’re not doing a First Look, WHY?! Kidding. If you’re not doing a First Look, you’ll likely want to adjust the start times below by an 30 minutes – 1 hour.)

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Everything in ONE Location

This is, by far, the least complicated timeline. And if you have this option, I suggest taking it!

Oftentimes, one location means less stress, less headaches, and possibly less $. Think about it: When everything happens in one location, you don’t have to account for travel time for your vendors. You don’t have to arrange transportation for yourself, your family, or your wedding party. And you won’t have to worry about everyone arriving on time or getting stuck at a light between the church and the reception. Not to mention avoiding multiple rental fees.

Basically, when you choose one location for everything, you can just relax and get the party started!

  • 2:30pm Photographer Arrives | Scouting Work
  • 3:00pm Detail Shots
  • 3:30pm Hair & Make Up | Getting Ready Shots
  • 4:00pm First Look
  • 4:30pm Wedding Party Pictures | Family Formals
  • 5:30pm Guests arrive | Couple tucked away
  • 6:00pm Ceremony
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TWO Locations

In this very common scenario, you’re likely getting ready in one location – like a hotel room or family home – and then traveling to the venue or church for the ceremony. This travel time adds a bit more complexity and more logistics to think through. 

We’ll still want to arrive to capture those detail shots and getting ready shots, but then we’ll need to run the venue to do the scouting mentioned above.

Helpful Tips: To avoid wrinkles, you likely won’t want to wear your dress or suit in a car, bus, or trolly. So, be prepared (and plan accordingly) to dress and undress multiple times.

Also, when moving your wedding party from one location to the other, be sure to pre-arrange transportation for everyone so nobody accidentally gets left behind or arrives late for Wedding Party photos.

  • 2:00pm Photographer Arrives | Detail Shots
  • 2:30pm Hair & Make Up | Getting Ready Shots
  • 3:00pm Photographer Leaves for Venue
  • 3:30pm Photographer Arrives to Venue | Location Scouting
  • 4:00pm First Look
  • 4:30pm Wedding Party Pictures | Family Formals
  • 5:30pm Guests arrive | Couple tucked away
  • 6:00pm Ceremony
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THREE Locations

If this sounds like your wedding day, then you’re likely having a ceremony at a church and then moving to a separate reception venue. This won’t really effect our arrival time before your wedding. However, because of the travel time, multiple locations, and likelihood that you’ll want beautiful images of your ceremony and receptions rooms plus photos of your guests enjoying the cocktail hour, we’ll likely recommend two (2) photographers for your wedding day. 

Hopefully this gives you a sneak peek of what to expect from us on your wedding day. And what time to tell hair and makeup, the venue, or anyone else who’s asking what time your wedding photos will begin. 

Let’s do this!

  1. Kiko says:

    Thank you, this is SO very helpful!!!

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mike zawadzki photography

is a New Jersey Wedding Photography Studio based out of Livingston, NJ.

take a select number of winter weddings on the Gulf Coast of Florida, and are available for travel world-wide!
info@mikezawadzki.com | 973-941-2940

is a New Jersey Wedding Photography Studio based out of Livingston, NJ. take a select number of winter weddings on the Gulf Coast of Florida, and are available for travel world-wide!
info@mikezawadzki.com | 973-941-2940

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