Wedding day portraits – realistic timelines and locations

Hey guys! After the overwhelming support from my “getting ready” blog, I decided to write a blog about designated portrait time and location. While this is something I discuss at my initial consultation with my couples I feel with a visual it may help some of you that are still on the fence.

Portraits before the ceremony – There are a few reasons we may have decided to do portraits before the ceremony:  1 – Winter and early spring weddings benefit the most from a first look due to the early sunset times. If your ceremony starts at 2:30 pm and sunset is at 4:00 pm we will not have any daylight to photograph portraits. This means that if you choose to not have a first look, all of your portraits will be inside with flash-  the complete opposite style of a natural light photographer. It is best to schedule some time before the ceremony to capture natural light photos, at the very least photos of the bride and groom together if not bridal party and family as well.  2 – On-location ceremonies. If your ceremony is held at your venue, chances are once your ceremony ends your cocktail hour begins. Part of your planning process includes picking out your cocktail hour food and decor – you want to be able to enjoy it! Cocktail hour is also the time I photograph all of your reception details: from centerpieces and favors to your cake and custom champagne flutes. There are so many moving parts during cocktail hour (you will also have all of your guests on location as well) that it is simply not enough time to capture all of the formal, candid, and creative portraits you want and all of your reception details. Also, depending on your videographer, they may or may not require their own time with you as well and plenty of time to set up for your reception.

Portraits after the ceremony – If your timeline allows for time in-between the ceremony and cocktail hour (and the sun does not set until cocktail hour) we may have decided a first look is not necessary. This is the case for many church ceremonies that start in the afternoon (2:00 or 3:00 pm) and the cocktail hour doesn’t start until later in the evening (6:00 or 7:00 pm). One thing to keep in mind is that some venues host more than one wedding a day. If you cannot get to your venue until one hour before cocktail hour we will have to explore off-site options. If your venue allows you to get there earlier and they have plenty of grounds for photos, we can head right there. We will need two hours of portraits at our location site, the rest of the time can be used for you guys to relax and enjoy your friends and family’s company (and maybe touch up your hair and makeup, too).

Location – There are a lot of things to consider when selecting locations. At our initial consultation I have probably already given you some “go-to” locations for portraits if we couldn’t rely solely on your wedding venue. Some things to keep in mind are: transportation, timing, and who will be coming along. Over the next few months we will be solidifying your timeline and who will be needed at what location for portraits. You will also have to touch base with the off-site locations (or even your wedding venue) to make sure there are no additional permits and that our timeline works for them. Communication is key: I will help you every step along the way! Some great Long Island locations to shoot, besides your wedding venue, include:

Nassau County – Cedarmere, Old Westbury Gardens, Planting Fields Arboretum, Farmingdale College greenhouse and gardens, Old Bethpage Village Restoration

Suffolk County – Bayard Cutting Arboretum, Harmony Vineyards, Vanderbilt Museum, Peconic River Herb Farm, Islip Grange, Camp Hero


Here are some real weddings for inspiration! Cheers!

Winter wedding – afternoon first look/portraits at Planting Fields Arboretum before heading to the Heritage Club for their ceremony and reception.


Summer wedding – church ceremony then stopped at the Old Bethpage Village Restoration for portraits before heading to the Carlyle for their cocktail hour and reception.


Summer wedding – church ceremony then portraits on site at their venue, Gurney’s Montauk Yacht Club, before their cocktail hour.


Spring wedding – church ceremony then stopped at the Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport for portraits before family portraits at their venue, Larkfield Manor.


Summer wedding – church ceremony before heading over to Harmony Vineyards in St. James. We then wrapped up portraits at their venue, Larkfield Manor before cocktail hour.


Fall wedding – this one makes me laugh. The bride and groom had a church ceremony but by the time we would get out of the church it would be dark outside. After the first look at their hotel I put the bride and groom in my Jeep and drove them to Old Westbury Gardens for an hour of portraits before their ceremony.


Summer wedding – church ceremony then straight to their venue, North Shore Country Club in Glen Head for two hours of portraits before their cocktail hour.


Fall wedding – first look at their venue, Smithtown Country Club, then took all formal and creative portraits at the Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport. We then went back to Smithtown Country Club for their ceremony and reception.

Hello Friends

I'm Britt, the photographer and creative behind the lens at Britt Lee Wedding Photography!


Britt Lee wedding photography • Long island • North fork • suffolk & nassau county
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