Ceremony lighting is really important, and can also set the stage for your portraits! Getting married outdoors at 12pm will be extremely harsh and you and/or your guests will be squinting. We suggest planning an outdoor ceremony 2 hours before sunset if you ARE doing a first look, or 3 hours before sunset if you are NOT having a first look. This ensures your portraits will be in some of the best light of the day, no matter if your portraits are before or after the ceremony.
For a church ceremony we would recommend about 3 hours before cocktail hour if you are not doing a first look. This would account for a one hour ceremony, receiving line, family photos on-site, and bridal party photos off-site. Traveling to a secondary location for portraits would gain you more variety and you can still make it to cocktail hour! Keep in mind this is an estimate. If the distance between locations is kind of far, we would need to adjust. A lot of our clients worry what their guests are going to do for two hours but most of the time people are checking into a hotel, they can get settled, grab a light lunch, or just chill before the party starts! You don’t want to regret not having enough time for photos because you can’t get that back. I attended a wedding with a timeline like this and I survived without even complaining, haha!
If you are not doing a first look and you want to keep it closer to the reception start time, we would likely add an hour to the getting ready portion of the day to photograph just the guys and just the girls separately.