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Perhaps the most frequently asked question from brides is, “What time should we start pictures?” Or some variation of the same query. I understand the confusion. When I was planning my own wedding, I wondered the same thing. Photos were of utmost importance and I wanted to ensure that we had ample time to capture all of the pinterest-worthy moments I was dreaming of (side note: Pinterest was not yet invented back when I got married!). I work with all of my clients and their planners to create a customized timeline, but perhaps this will serve as a start for planning your day.

First a few ground rules:

1.  I really, really recommend hiring an experienced and professional planner.  They’ll deal with all the logistics on your wedding day, so you (or your families) don’t have to.

2. Plan for delays. Even the best-laid plans will encounter a few hiccups throughout the day. Maybe you’re like me- perfectionist (to a fault!!) and organized down to every last detail, but it’s hard to dictate all the many things beyond your control on your wedding day. Weather. Failed transportation. Ripped dresses.  Forgotten rings.  I’ve seen it all happen, but it doesn’t have to ruin your day. Not in the least!

3. Include transit time. Even if you’re not driving from location to location, organizing a bridal party or families and asking them to walk outside the venue takes time!

4. Plan in advance so you can enjoy your day. But when the day comes, let it all go. Your emotions will come through in your photos, so try not to stress and leave it up to the professionals you hired to make sure the day runs as smoothly as possible.  Your job is to get married and have the time of your life!

So, let’s start from square one.

This time of day is perhaps my favorite. I love the anticipation as the couple preps for one of the biggest days of their lives. It’s so important, I plan to do a separate blog post just for this! If this time is important to you too, it’s crucial to allow adequate time. I recommend 60-90 minutes. My second shooter, assistant, and I always make sure to arrive well before our scheduled start time, and when the start time comes, we’ve already scouted locations, have found the best lighting, and we are ready to shoot. We typically start with detail shots- and it takes time to stage all those shots of your meticulously planned details. We get shots of the dress hanging, the shoes, the veil, the rings, the jewelry, the bouquets, the invitation suite and any other paper goods. We get scene-setting shots of the exterior and the location. We aim to capture details of everything to really set the scene for your day. After and/or while we’re capturing details, my second shooter and I split off- her to capture the groom prepping, while I stay to document the bride. When possible, I recommend that the bridesmaids and mothers dress before you so they’re looking polished and pretty for photos of you getting into your dress.

If we have a few minutes to spare before the first look- I love to capture a few portraits of the bride, freshly made up!

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In planning your timeline, we’ll discuss when we’re going capture the portrait photos. For many couples, we do this before the ceremony.  Often times, it just makes sense logistically.  Some couples want to enjoy their cocktail hour.  Some want to calm pre-ceremony jitters. Whatever the reasoning, if you opt to see each other before the ceremony, we’ll set up a special “first look.”  Prior to your wedding day, we’ll discuss the perfect location and my team will set this up in a way that allows us to capture your emotions and reactions at that exact moment. After clicking away, we can slip away for a few moments, so the two of you can share private time together- perhaps one of the few opportunities on your wedding day.

Laura Ivanova Photography | Laura Ivanova Photography |

This is another favorite time of day for me. Portraits are my favorite, and I aim to keep them lighthearted and fun. I’d rather see you interacting with each other vs forcing posed smiles. But I’ll still guide you every step of the way! An hour is ideal for portraits for the two of you. This allows for time to walk (or drive) to different locations and allows for lots of variety.  Brides, you may find it helpful to have one friend with to help with your dress, carry your lipstick and make sure you’re looking your best.  However, I wouldn’t recommend having too many people around.  It’s typically easier to relax and feel comfortable in front of the camera without a lot of spectators.

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I recommend 30 minutes for each the bridal party and the families. Perhaps more for larger bridal parties (6+ bridesmaids and 6+ groomsmen) or larger families involving step families and lots of different combinations of people. Shot lists can stifle creativity, but for this portion of the day, I always develop a specific list with my clients. I want to ensure we capture all the important people. My assistant helps with organizing and arranging so this portion of the day flows as smoothly as possible. While I capture the portraits, my second shooter watches for fun moments happening off to the side. Again, we try to keep things lighthearted and fun- we don’t want this to be an hour of torture, but rather a way to document all the people you love most in the world! We discuss locations and logistics prior to your wedding day, and have a backup plan in case of inclement weather.  Once we determine a specific start time, if you’re worried about your attendants or families being late, tell them to be at the designated location 15 minutes prior to the actual start time- with bouquets and bouts already pinned.

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The highlight of the day. I recommend finishing photos a minimum of 30 minutes prior to your ceremony start time, so you have time to rest and relax as your guests begin arriving. This is a great time to drink water, have a snack, freshen up your makeup, and just take in the moment. Ceremony length can vary greatly, so be sure to discuss timing with your officiant and/or planner.

After the ceremony, don’t forget to factor in the receiving line, if applicable. Receiving lines seem to be becoming less and less common, but should you (and your parents) opt to have one, plan 20-40 minutes. Whether or not you have a receiving line, remember that it takes time to pack up and depart. Allow at least 10-20 minutes for gathering belongings and boarding transportation, if applicable.

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Remember those two hours of portraits we discussed? For timing/location/logistical purposes, some couples opt to do a portion of their photos after the ceremony (in which case, less time is needed before the ceremony). Some couples don’t want to see each other prior to the ceremony. Some couples want to stop by a special location en route to the reception. There are varying reasons, but post-ceremony is always a fun time to capture photos. The pressure is off and the mood is celebratory.

Logistics of this time of day vary greatly. Some couples host the ceremony and reception in one location. Some involve travel. Between myself and my second shooter, we make sure that we’re covering all your guests at cocktail hour and getting the beautiful detail shots of your reception setup (preferably before the guests arrive).  During this time, we may also ask for your rings or get any details shots we may not have had time for in the morning.  Relax and enjoy a specialty cocktail!

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We make sure to capture all the candid and emotional moments during your reception. Check with your venue coordinator and planner for specific timing. After dinner and dessert, we recommend 30-60 minutes of dance coverage, as we want to be sure to capture the important first dances, and some of your guests dancing as well. Dances typically start about 1.5-2 hours after the first course is served- more if space must be cleared for a dance floor.

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When possible, we love to sneak out with the couple for 10-15 minutes of sunset photos. It’s such a beautiful time of day and we love to utilize the gorgeous lighting.


How does this translate into a timeline? Here’s an example. Email me to discuss your specific wedding day.

12:00 or 12:30 getting ready
1:30 first look and couple photos
2:30 bridal party photos
3:00 family photos
3:30 rest and relax while my team and I prep for the ceremony
4:00 ceremony
4:30 ceremony ends
4:45 transport to reception
5:00 cocktails
6:30 dinner
8:00 first dance
8:30 or 9:00 photography coverage ends

  • Andra - This is wonderful! My clients often ask me advice on this (even though I’m not a photographer!), so it’s awesome that I have something to direction them too :) Thanks for sharing!


In April & May, I spent four weeks traveling abroad in Eastern Europe.  My husband grew up in Sofia, Bulgaria, where his parents and grandparents still live and every other year we make a trip to see them and visit his home country.  My sister-in-law and her husband also joined us from Arusha, Tanzania, so the entire family was together!  This visit was unique because after a week alone with my family in Bulgaria, three of our friends from Minneapolis joined us to visit.  It was quite an adventure! Our time in Bulgaria was spent exploring areas off the beaten path, where most American tourists would never get to visit!  I think my friends would agree that the highlight of the trip was a visit to an old Bulgarian psychic, who lives in a remote mountain house outside a tiny village in rural part of the country.  We had to hike up a mountain to see her!  And it was unanimous- her readings were spot on!  I had last seen the psychic in 2008 and her reading proved to come true, so I was eager to introduce her to my friends!  Besides for that, we spent time wandering the countryside and exploring small towns and villages, in addition to time in the capital  city of Sofia.  We had tons of traditional, fresh food and salads.  Thanks to my mother-in-law for being an amazing host and cooking us the best meals of the trip!

{This trip was part of a month long adventure across GreeceIstanbul & Cappadocia, Turkey, and Russia.}

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Want more?  Check out: Bulgaria 2012 | Bulgaria 2010 | Bulgaria 2008


Let’s take it back to the year 2000 today! I had recently graduated from high school in small town Minnesota and moved to Fargo, North Dakota to pursue my degrees in Architecture and Interior Design. I was going to be living in the dorms and was randomly placed with a international student from Japan. Luckily, the new roommate and I hit it off very well and since she was a sophomore (and I knew exactly 0 people at NDSU) I started hanging out with her and her friends. She was a member of the International Student’s Association, which just happened to have a very cute Bulgarian president! This Bulgarian president and I seemed to cross paths often. I don’t remember specifically meeting him, but we had mutual friends, worked at the same on-campus job, and saw each other at parties and events.

This randomly placed roommate turned out to be so serendipitous. I met so many international students from all over the world which sparked my love for travel and exploration. But most importantly, it led me to my now husband. After a couple years of running into this cute Bulgarian boy, we eventually started dating, eventually tied the knot, and now we will have been married 9 years in July. (HOLY CRAP!!!) As soon as we started dating we fell head over heels in love and it wasn’t long before he invited me to Bulgaria. It wasn’t exactly your typical “meet the parents” scenario. I had to fly 5,000+ miles to meet them. Of course, we were poor college students, so we had to purchase the cheapest fares ever, and if I recall correctly, we had about 15 connections to get to Bulgaria! I remember showing up at the airport, nervous as can be, jet lagged beyond belief, feeling like I desperately needed a shower. We made our way to my in-laws home, and there waiting was a sweet, little, wide-eyed girl named Florina. Flori was only 15 at the time (heck, I was only 22!). I wasn’t engaged yet, but I was pretty sure this girl was eventually going to be my sister-in-law and I was so nervous to meet her. Maybe more nervous than meeting the parents. Flori studied English and spoke pretty well, but back then communication was more limited. We bonded over painting our nails together and our mutual love of her brother!

The next time I saw Flori (and my in-laws) was at my wedding. After that, Flori moved to Minnesota to study, and eventually she met a boy too. He was from Tanzania and they fell in love. Before we knew it, we found ourselves celebrating at their wedding, 1 day before our own six year wedding anniversary! Anyone who sees Flori and Mo together can immediately see how in love they are. (Or if you’re on Facebook, you can just check out Mo’s annoyingly sappy Facebook status updates!!! ;) I’m really happy my little sis found a man who loves her so much and treats her so well. Our family time together is limited since we live on three different continents, but it was so good to be in Bulgaria in last month. I captured a few photos for Flori and Mo. Miss you guys so much!

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  • Inga - Lovely couple! But those trees are out of this world :)


What a way to kick off wedding season in Minneapolis!  Ipek and Matt were married on an unusally gorgeous spring day!  It was just one of those days that went perfectly from start to finish!  This self-declared nerdy couple lives in Pittsburg, and Ipek originally hails from Istanbul, Turkey, but they chose to celebrate their wedding day in Matt’s hometown.  Ipek’s family flew in from Turkey and it was especially wonderful to have her grandma there!  The whole entire day was flawless, and I loved all the gorgeous details and the florals from Munster Rose!  Ipek and Matt, thank you inviting me to be a part of your day!

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  • jody savage - So so lovely Laura as always. You have a true gift!!! xx

  • Jane - So gorgeous!

  • Katja Heil - Oh Laura, they are to cute! Beautiful couple, stunning location with nice light and I’m in love with the color palette! Pretty, pretty!
    Kind regards from Germany,

  • Catharine - Beautiful work Laura! x

  • Lea-Ann Belter Clara Bride {Ipek} | Lea Ann Belter Blog - […] photography by Laura Ivanova Photography […]

  • Stacy - Beautiful! What venue is this?!