The perfect wedding day timeline

The average wedding photo package is a 6-8 hour block of time on the day of, but if you've got a longer timeline or are thinking about adding extra hours for coverage (a common choice among couples), here's what can be accomplished if you get the timing just right.

Photos getting ready, 1 hour

For most brides, the process of getting ready for the ceremony is an exciting and memorable event. This is the time when she can hang out with her friends, enjoy some quality girl time and generally feel a sense of calm before the whirlwind begins. Photos taken during this period are a great way to capture those moments of anticipation, as well as capturing all that hard work you did to get yourself looking perfect!

The best place to take these photos is somewhere quiet and private so that you don't feel rushed or hurried by anyone else on your wedding day.

First look, 20-25 minutes

It's a good idea to have a first look for many reasons. First, it allows you and your groom to see each other before the ceremony. You get together as a couple and spend some time together before your guests arrive, which can make things feel less chaotic later on!

Also, if you're having second thoughts about marrying your partner (or vice versa), then seeing them beforehand may help you run the other way. We're totally kidding.

During the ceremony pictures, 15-30 minutes

During the ceremony, your photographer should be snapping pictures of all of the important moments:

  • The bride as she walks down the aisle.
  • Her father(or mother) giving her away and handing her over to you.
  • Bride and groom seeing each other for the first time at the altar.
  • The vows (if you're saying them).
  • The exchange of rings.

Photos of the couple and their bridal party, 30 minutes

  • Make sure to get photos of the bride and groom with each other and with their bridal party.
  • Take photos of the bride and groom with their parents.
  • Ask the bride and groom for a list of people they want to be in photos with them (grandparents, etc.).

Cocktail hour, 30-45 minutes

Cocktail hour is a time for the bride and groom to have a few moments to themselves and take pictures, but it's also an opportunity for guests to mingle and enjoy drinks and appetizers.

If you're looking for some ideas on what type of fun activities can take place during this time period, check out our blog post on how to host an outdoor cocktail hour or our list of favorite drink-themed wedding games!

First dance, 15 minutes

The first dance is probably one of the most important parts of your wedding day. This is the time when you get to slow down and let your true emotions shine through.

This is also a great moment to share a dance with your parents.

Reception toasts/speeches, up to 30 minutes

If you're not sure what to do, remember that your speeches should be short, funny and heartfelt. If you're not a natural public speaker (or even if you are), it's best to keep in mind that no one is expecting a performance from you—they just want to hear what's on your heart.

Dinner, 45 minutes

Dinner is a great time for guests to mingle and eat. It is also a great time for the couple to relax and enjoy the party, knowing that all their hard work has paid off. You can also plan entertainment for dinner: an acoustic guitarist or singer who can play mellow versions of popular songs.

Cake cutting and Dance party! 2+ hours!

After all the hard work and planning, this is where you let loose and have some fun. The cake cutting should be the last thing you do before the reception ends, so make sure it's not too late in the night when it happens. Many couples choose to dance into the night—and why shouldn't they? It's your wedding day, so dance like nobody's watching!

We recommend at least 6 hours for wedding photography

The best wedding photographers in the business are masters at their craft. They're also good listeners and know how to adapt to the needs of individual couples. That said, we recommend allowing at least six hours for photography. This includes time for the ceremony and reception.

Photography is a very personalized service (and one that many couples plan at the last minute), so it's important that your photographer can listen carefully and adjust accordingly if necessary.

In conclusion

Planning a wedding is no small feat. We know—we’ve done it ourselves! On top of all the other details you need to take care of, it can be overwhelming to figure out what time to leave for your ceremony and how long each section should last. Hopefully we’ve helped you get a better idea of where to start on a timeline that’s right for you. The most important thing is finding the balance between maximizing your time with your photographer and still enjoying every moment of the day. After all, what’s the point of spending so much time planning if you don’t have any fun?

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