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  • Writer's pictureTamara Merri

Winter Wedding Timeline

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

Winter weddings are fantastic for so many reasons. They're more of a cozy vibe, venues are way cheaper since it's off season, you can get gorgeous snowy wedding photos, and it can feel more romantic if you have candles and twinkle lights. There's so much to love about them, as long as you're prepared for the sacrifices you may have to make. Sacrifices like less daylight, which directly affects the look of your photos.

How do you ensure you'll have enough light for portraits? By creating a well built timeline.

Creating a timeline is one of the most important parts of planning a wedding. Having a great timeline ensures you allot enough time for each element of the day to not feel rushed or stressed while also planning around the best light for photos.

Creating a winter wedding timeline is even more important because it gets dark out SO DANG EARLY!! Who gave the sun permission to set at 4pm? Awful.

couple walking through snow at their winter wedding

Chances are if you're planning a winter wedding, your ceremony will be early. Like 2pm early. While in the summer your ceremony can be as late as 6pm. Click here for general timeline planning not inclusive to winter weddings.

"What time should my ceremony be for a winter wedding"

A good rule of thumb is to plan your ceremony around 2 hours before sunset. Now, this can be altered depending on a few things:

  • Do you want sunlight for your ceremony? If you want sunlight for your ceremony, it will have to be at or before 4pm, depending on where you are in the country. Where I live, in New England, the sun sets at 4:15pm on the shortest day of the year. Yikes!

  • Do you want to do your formal photos (family & couple's photos) after the ceremony? If you want your formal photos after the ceremony (and you want them to be taken during daylight hours), then you'll need to buffer in at least one hour before sunset, which brings your ceremony to 3pm at the latest.

  • Do you want your formal photos in the daylight or would you be ok with using flash? If you don't care if you have daylight for your photos, then it really doesn't matter what time your ceremony is. BUT make sure to choose a photographer who is well versed with using flash for portraits!

  • Are you willing to do a first look? If you're willing to do a first look, then you can get all your portraits done before the ceremony during daylight, and have your ceremony at or after sunset. If you absolutely do not want ceremony photos using flash, then you'll need to do it before sunset. There is just no other way.

winter wedding portrait using off camera flash

"Why is light important for images?"

Many clients think photographers are magicians. "I want a sunset ceremony, and don't like flash, so you'll be able to take our post-ceremony couples photos with natural light, right?".


When the light is gone, it's gone! If you want beautiful, good quality photos, we need light.

Photographers like to use light either from the sun (we call this natural light) or from OCF (off camera flash). Lights at the venue, like overhead/sconce lights (incandescent lights) aren't very appealing to photographers because of the lack of directional control as well as the differing white balance between the different light sources. Not to get too technical, white balance of light affects the temperate/colors of the image. To learn more about white balance, check out this YouTube video I made.

Some photographers use flash in a seamless way that it's hard to even tell. For others it's really obvious. It depends on your preference for what kind of flash you want for your day! You'll definitely want to ask your photographer to see a gallery example from where they've had to use OCF at a wedding.

Flash does offer some pretty unique photos that you wouldn't get otherwise. If you'd rather forego golden hour photos for some badass colored flash pics, do it up!!! Create a wedding gallery that excites you.

Below, The Gray's wanted a moody photo with off camera flash to have something unique! There were two flashes used here One behind them, illuminating the Chocksett Inn fireplace in red, while the other was lighting them from the left side of the frame. The lights on the wall added even more drama to really play up the moodiness of the photo.

colored gel off camera flash lighting at a wedding. couple stands in front of fireplace that is illuminated in red flash

Related Blog: Chocksett Inn Wedding


Winter Wedding Timeline Example

Below is a Timeline example from a real wedding. They wanted a candle lit ceremony and were ok with having OCF portraits. No portraits were done in the daylight.

3:00 pm - Couple arrives to venue for getting ready photos

4:11 pm - Sunset

5:00 pm - Guests arrive to venue

5:30 pm - Ceremony begins

6:00 pm - Cocktail hour begins & formal photos

7:10 pm - Wedding party introductions, couple's first dance, welcome speech

7:35 pm - Dinner

8:15 pm - Speeches

8:35 pm - Cake Cutting

8:40 pm - Father & Mother first dances

8:50 pm - Party time!

11:00 pm - Exit

If you want a first look and a ceremony during golden hour/sunset, below is an option for what your winter wedding timeline might look like:

12:00 pm - Couple arrives to venue for getting ready photos

2:00 pm - First look & couple's photos

2:30 pm - Wedding party & family photos

3:30 pm - Couple hidden before ceremony

4:00 pm - Ceremony begins (15-20 minute ceremony)

4:30 pm - Sunset / cocktail hour begins

5:35 pm - Wedding party introductions & first dance

5:45 pm - Dinner service begins

6:30 pm - Speeches & Cake cutting

7:00 pm - First dances lead to open dance floor

9:00 pm - Exit

If you want your ceremony and portraits to be during daylight, but do NOT want a first look, then below is an option for what your winter wedding timeline might look like:

1:00 pm - Couple arrives to venue for getting ready photos

3:00 pm - Ceremony begins (15-20 minute ceremony)

3:30 pm - Wedding party, family, and couple's photos

4:30 pm - Sunset

4:35 pm - Wedding party introductions & first dance

4:45 pm - Dinner service begins

5:30 pm - Speeches & Cake cutting

6:00 pm - First dances lead to open dance floor

9:00 pm - Exit

sparkler exit at wedding

Have questions about winter wedding timelines, or want to inquire for Tamara Merri Photography to photograph your winter wedding in New England? Contact me.



Tamara Merri Photography




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I'm Tamara!

I'm a Massachusetts wedding & elopement photographer. I'm the voice behind this blog and the girl behind the camera. 

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