Ideal Timeline for The Best Wedding Photos

Ideal timeline for best wedding photos in Costa Rica.

Depending on what type of wedding you are having – Western civil ceremony, Indian wedding, South Asian wedding, Jewish wedding, a Catholic ceremony, or another type of cultural wedding or cultural-fusion wedding – the ideal timeline for your wedding photography will vary.  The wedding photography timeline below is best suited for more traditional, Western-influenced weddings, and can be adapted to other similar types of weddings.  In any case, this will give you an idea of the ideal time to have each photo session and how much time to allot for each one.

Wedding Preparation Details

Ideal Time Frame: 30-40 Minutes
Best Time of the Day: Morning, Early Afternoon
Best Location: Hotel or Bridal Suite

Notes: Allotting at least 30 minutes to photograph details will give us sufficient time to get great photos of the details that matter to you. If the location where you’re getting ready is unappealing and there are too many people, we’ll find another location nearby inside or outside, which can take more time, but it’s well worth it. 

Bride & Groom Getting Ready

Ideal Time Frame: 60 Minutes
Best Time of the Day: Morning, Early Afternoon
Best Location: Hotel or Bridal Suite

Notes: This is a sufficient amount of time for photos of the bride and groom getting ready.  We’ll focus on taking journalistic and close-up photos of the bride and bridesmaids have their wedding day makeup done and hair styled, as well as on the groom and groomsmen getting ready.  Since these are some of the most intimate, emotional, and fun times of your wedding day, allotting ample time is ideal.  After Lindsay and I finish the details photos, we’ll both take photos of you and your bridesmaids.  At some point, Lindsay will stay with you and I will go to the suite where the groom and the groomsmen are getting ready to take their photos.   

Individual Bride & Groom Photos

Ideal Time Frame: 30 Minutes
Best Time of the Day: Morning, Early Afternoon
Best Location: In Suite, Lobby, Garden, or Other Suitable Nearby Area

Notes: The ideal time for individual portraits of the bride and then the groom is right after they are finished getting ready.  They are the most manicured they’ll be all day, and it’s a relatively calm moment as the wedding is not yet in full-swing, so they’re fairly relaxed, all of which is makes for great portraits. 

First Looks & Couple’s Session

Ideal Time Frame: 30 Minutes
Best Time of the Day: Morning, Early Afternoon
Best Location: Garden, Under Trees, Empty Corridor, (Indirect Natural Light)

Notes: This session is composed to two parts, the First Look and a bride & groom couple’s session.  The First Looks session takes about 10 minutes.  If interested in just a First Looks session, allocate 15 minutes.  We do highly recommend scheduling 45-60 minutes for this session in case there is insufficient time later for a complete bride & groom couple’s session due to delays or other complications, which does happen frequently.  If you are worried about not having time after the ceremony for this session, we recommend adding at least another 30 minutes to this session so we can take standard portraits and some creative portraits at more than one location at the venue. 

Bridal Party – Bridesmaids & Groomsmen

Ideal Time Frame: 50-60 Minutes
Best Time of the Day: Morning, Early Afternoon
Best Location: Areas at and Near Venue – Gardens, Lobby, Beach, Scenic Path

Notes: It’s a good idea to have wedding party photos before your wedding ceremony if the bride and groom are not opposed to seeing each other beforehand for weddings in general, and especially for weddings in Costa Rica given how early and fast the sun sets.  This way, you’ll be sure to get wedding party photos with great lighting and with everyone fairly relaxed, which is not normally the case after the ceremony.  As for the photos themselves, after taking what we refer to as classic photos, we’ll move on to more creative and fun shots.

Immediate Family

Ideal Time Frame: 35-40 Minutes
Best Time of the Day: Morning, Early Afternoon
Best Location: Areas at and Near Venue – Gardens, Lobby, Beach, Scenic Path

Notes: As with the wedding party photos, it’s a good idea to take them before the ceremony to make sure there’s sufficient time to take them.  Wedding days move quickly, they are usually hectic, and there are delays which can and will eliminate the time for these photos after the ceremony.  We know these photos are important to you, so scheduling time for them is recommended.  These photos focus on photos of you and your immediate family – grandparents, parents, siblings – in both a formal and candid style.  To estimate how much time you should allot for this session, know that it takes about 3 minutes to photograph each group.

Ceremony & Venue Details

Ideal Time Frame: 20-30 Minutes
Best Time of the Day: Morning, Early Afternoon
Location: Ceremony Site

Notes: To make sure we can take best and cleanest detail photos of the ceremony location, it’s imperative that your wedding planner has all the decorations and details in place well before the ceremony is scheduled to start – at least an hour – and that there are no guests or other wedding-day providers seated or in the area.   

Wedding Ceremony

Ideal Time Frame: 30 Minutes
Best Time of the Day: 4:00 or Earlier
Location: Ceremony Location

Notes: Civil ceremonies generally take around 30-35 minutes counting the time it takes for the processional, the actual ceremony, the recessional, a quick celebration and maybe a toast, and the signing ceremony.  The larger the wedding, the more people there are in your wedding party, how what sort of processional and ceremony you have, will take longer.  Cultural wedding ceremonies may or may not take longer.

 It’s imperative you schedule your wedding ceremony for the ideal time of day taking into account the above information and if you want group photos and a bride and groom couple’s session after the ceremony.  For ideal times for wedding ceremonies in Costa Rica, visit our Best Time for Wedding Ceremonies in Costa Rica page.

Post-Ceremony Group Photos

Ideal Time Frame: 45-60 Minutes
Best Time of the Day: After Ceremony
Location: Ceremony Location or Nearby

Notes: How large and how many groups there are will determine how much time to allot to this session.  For groups of 10-15 people, plan on 3-5 minutes per group.  For a large group photo of 30 or more guests, plan on 15-20 minutes for just that photo. For this session, organization is key.  It can be a crazy moment.  See how we keep it organized and efficient on our Wedding Day & Wedding Portraits Shot Lists page.

Bride & Groom Session

Ideal Time Frame: 45-60 Minutes
Best Time of the Day: Early to Mid-Afternoon / Next Day
Location: Areas at and Near Venue / Offsite

Notes: Traditionally, the bride and groom couple’ session is after the ceremony.  This, however, is not the ideal time for various reasons. There are two better, ideal options.  One is to have it after the bride and groom have just finished preparing as it’s when they will look the best on their wedding, and are at ease, unlike after the ceremony, especially in hot and humid climates.  The other and better option is to have it the day after the ceremony and at another location, or even days after.  The bride and groom are much more relaxed, and having it somewhere else allows for variety of scenery at a better time of day.  Our Benefits of Next Day Bride & Groom Couple’s Session page covers this topic in detail. 

Wedding Reception

Ideal Time Frame: Varies
Best Time of the Day: Nighttime
Location: Reception Location

Notes: How much time to allocate depends on what sort of wedding reception you have planned.  If planning nothing more than a dinner where there might be a few words said, and toast, and cake cutting ceremony plan for an hour.  If having a lavish, traditional wedding ceremony with extras, it could last three hours.  Generally, 2-2.5 hours is sufficient time for a standard traditional ceremony.

In addition to photographing the moments that generally transpire during reception, we also take what we call “Table Shots”.  No, they’re not photos of people doing shots on tables, though that can happen.  At the opportune moment – when people are eating is not one of them – we go from table to table and take photos of the guests. The photography style depends on what you are looking for.  We can either take more candid photos of your guests as they hug and smile and react to what’s happening or we can take more formal photos.  For the latter, it takes approximately 3-4 minutes per table.  We can also take both if that’s your wish. 

An ideal timeline is one step in getting great photos. A great photographer helps too! Visit our How to Choose a Wedding Photographer page to find the right one.


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