Wedding portraits: pre or post-ceremony – when is the best time?

June 2, 2021

When to get your wedding portraits taken? A list of pros and cons to pick the best time for you.

Planning a wedding is no joke, and it doesn’t stop once you have secured all your vendors for the day. Roughly a month to two weeks before your wedding day, you will have to come up with a timeline in order for your day to run smoothly. With so many different vendors and people being part of your day, having a solid timeline is crucial. But fear not, your photographer (or even better your event planner – if you have one) is here to help you! We are more familiar than you with the structure of a wedding day. Therefore, we can offer a lot of advice on how long each event will last and recommend when is best each of them takes place throughout the day. In my experience, one of the questions I get a lot from couples ‘when to get their wedding portraits taken?’


The most common option is after the ceremony and before the reception. This usually coincides with the end of the afternoon/beginning of the evening, and with our beloved sunset. I am pretty sure I can vouch for almost every other wedding photographer on the planet when I say that this is our favorite option.

However, another option that can be quite popular with couples is to have your wedding photos taken before the ceremony. That option isn’t always popular with wedding photographers (for good reasons) but can also have certain benefits. 

So, when to get your wedding portraits taken? Let’s go through the pros and cons of having your photos taken before OR after the ceremony.

Groom dipping bride during portrait session

Wedding portraits BEFORE the ceremony

– You get to do a ‘first look’. In short, you get to see each other in your wedding outfits just before the ceremony.

– Your makeup, hair, and outfit will look flawless as you will be fresh out of your morning prep
The two of you can share a very special moment before things get really hectic and you become the center of attention for the rest of the day.

– Seeing and spending some time with each other before the ceremony might ease your nerves a little.

– You can exchange personalized vows in intimate settings rather than doing in a room full of people during your ceremony.

– Doing your photos pre-ceremony means that you can go straight into your reception and enjoy your time with your guests/get the party started!

– You might lose some of the magic of seeing your partner (while) walking down the aisle if you have already seen them pre-ceremony.
You won’t technically be married if you decide to get photos done before the ceremony.

– Skipping photos post-ceremony also means skipping some precious downtime before heading to the ceremony and not letting that beautiful ‘just married’ feeling sink in.

– The light will most likely not be the best for photos. Pre-ceremony photos mean that they will need to happen around midday/early afternoon and at that time of day, the light can be really harsh, especially during the warmer months of the year. During those months, it can also be really hot and make the experience of having your photos taken quite unpleasant.

– Earlier photos mean getting ready earlier and getting up at the crack of dawn. A wedding day can really drag on especially if you’re planning on having your (and your crew’s) hair and makeup done professionally.
Blurry black white image of bride and groom running and laughing

Wedding portraits AFTER the ceremony

– If traditions are really important to you and you want the first time you see your partner for the day to be during the ceremony then this option is especially right for you.

– Light, light, light!! If you really want that ‘wow’ factor for your outdoor portraits, then I can’t stress enough how important it is to try and plan your photos around sunset. Although good weather can never be guaranteed, you’re quite likely to get gorgeous light and colors during the warmer months.

– You’re still giddy and bursting with excitement from those ‘just married’ feels, and it will show in the photos. A perfect time to pop a bottle of champagne open and have a little dance party with your mates!

– You get to share a special moment together and/or with your bridal crew before heading into the whirlwind that can be a wedding reception. Pick a photographer that will guide you through your photos, but also allows for some downtime so you can let everything that just happened sink in.
– Choosing to do your portraits post rather than pre-ceremony means that the first time you see each other will be during the ceremony, which is equally exciting and terrifying. Something to keep in mind if you easily get anxious and/or stressed out.

– If you’re getting married during the colder months, unless you plan an early ceremony (around midday), it might actually be too dark for photos afterward, especially if it is overcast.

– If the most important thing for the day is to spend every minute that you can with your guests, heading for photos after your ceremony and missing out on some time with them might not be your preferred option.

Let’s wrap it up.

In the end, when to get your wedding portraits taken is very personal and depends on a few things. For example:
– whether traditions are important to you;
– what month of the year you are getting married;
– whether you really want to have some epic photos to remember your day by;
– whether you want to do a ‘first look’ or not;
and the list goes on.

But as a photographer, I almost always encourage couples to plan their wedding photos for AFTER the ceremony. Even more so if couples are getting married in summer and the light is really harsh up until around 5 pm (plus, it’s stinking hot here in Perth). When planning your timeline, keep in mind that the best time to have your wedding photos is around 1 to 2 hours before sunset. I know that the light will be so much better and will make you and your photos look amazing! Plus, I truly believe that wedding portraits aren’t meant to drag on and make you feel uncomfortable. I will never make a couple do something that makes them feel uncomfortable or that doesn’t feel ‘them’. I will also allow for as much quiet time as possible so you can really let everything sink in and ENJOY the process.

However, I know that isn’t always possible and the bottom line is: it is your wedding day so you get to call the shots. I would also advise doing your wedding photo pre-ceremony if you are eloping/having a micro wedding. It’s also a good option if your wedding is taking place during winter as the light becomes scarce after 4 pm.

Bride and groom holding hand and walking towards the camera

Why not get the best of both world?

My personal recommendation would be to get both pre AND post-ceremony portraits (if and when possible). Why not have a first look (pre-ceremony) AND some portraits as the sun goes down (post-ceremony)? That way, you get to share as much alone time (plus your photographer, duh) as you can throughout the day. This will make you feel so much more comfortable heading to your ceremony, then, to your reception. That doesn’t mean your wedding photos have to go on for 4 hours (nobody wants that, not even your photographer). Instead, you could do a quick 15 or 20-minute pre-ceremony first look, as well as a slightly longer couple and bridal portrait op between the ceremony and reception.

Nervous about having your photo taken? Read my tips to make the most of your couples shoot (yes, it does apply to weddings too!)

View wedding galleries here.

Are a married couple or a couple in the process of planning your wedding day? Which options seems more appropriate for you and your day? Can you think of any more pros and cons I can add to this list? Comment below.

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