Updated: May 1, 2020
Planning a wedding is hard. Let's destress and figure out how much wedding photography coverage you need by answering some simple questions to arrive at the perfect wedding day timeline for you.
1. Do you want preparation photos?
If you want all those gorgeous detail photos and the the fun pictures of you and your wedding posse getting ready together before the ceremony, then preparation photos are what you're looking for. Most photographers need at least an hour, but more like an hour and a half, in order to adequately capture all your beautiful accessories and not rush you through getting dressed. It's also not necessary for the photographer to show up at the start of hair & make-up as there are only so many photos of you getting eye-shadow put on that you need.
2. Do you want a first look?
I always advocate for a First Look whenever I can. It's a huge help to make the whole wedding day go smoother, especially if your wedding isn't a super tiny affair. I also take this time before the ceremony to do all the portraits with the whole wedding party and the official wedding couple portraits while everyone is looking their most fresh from hair and makeup before the ceremony. You also want to make sure that you aren't taking photos right up until the time of the ceremony, which is why I set aside one and a half hours for a First Look. One hour for photos and thirty minutes of decompression time for the couple before the ceremony to hide away before guests arrive.
3. How long is your ceremony?
Ceremonies are usually blocked out in 30 minute increments. Even if your ceremony isn't going to be 30 minutes long, it's best to plan that it might take up that amount of time in the day to account for people needing to get to their seats and it not starting on time. Full mass ceremonies generally run just shy of an hour, so it's a good idea to block out the whole hour.
4. Cocktail Hour
This time is pretty standard in all wedding days. As a photographer, I'm using it to take your family photos and your wedding party and couple's portraits if we didn't do a First Look. Your guests are using it to get all appetizered up before dinner, and if you only have family photos during this time you can then mingle with your guests! As the name implies, this part of the day only takes an hour.
5. The Reception
Depending on the type of dinner you're serving, the events of your reception and the number of guests you're having then two to three hours of reception coverage is all you really need from your photographer. They really only need to get through dinner and your reception's important mini-events to capture the first bit of open dance floor time to get some great party shots. So unless you have an epic send-off planned, there really isn't that much of a need for your photographer to stay for the entire time of your reception.
6. How many locations are there?
Travel takes time and on a wedding day it's more time than you think because you're coordinating multiple people and usually a bunch of stuff, too! My general rule of thumb is to account for 30 minutes of travel time between venues, but another good method is to take the normal travel time and add 10 minutes in case of traffic and for the pack-in/out of everybody and their things.
So, how many hours is your picture perfect wedding day timeline? Check out my two most common wedding day timelines below!