Wedding Day Timeline Template {Why You only Need a Photograph for 6 Hours | Advice from a professional wedding photographer}

Its time to start planning your wedding timeline and you have no idea how long you'll need for what and if you really need your wedding photographer for 12 hours, 8 hours or even less? 

While I'm not wedding planner I have been in the wedding industry for 8 years and I've come to find 6 hours being the perfect amount of time you actually need your wedding photographer to be there working. Granted, this is how I work as a photographer, so this really may not fit the photographer you hired, but it might!

What you need and don't need your wedding photographer to capture:

So, first some thoughts about what I feel like a wedding photographer needs to capture and doesn't need to capture, again these are my personal preferences and something you may disagree with, and that's totally cool. ;)

  • Your photographer does not need to be there the moment you roll out of bed. And really s/he doesn't need to be there until 60-30 minutes before you are actually ready to hop in your dress
  • You really don't want 1001 photographs of your guests dancing after cocktail hour, dinner, and toasts have been served. Keep time your photographer is there photographing any open dances for less than 30 minutes. Trust me on this one, no one wants to see their drunk dancing. ;)
  • Your dinner hour can include things like speeches and cake cutting while your guests are finishing up dinner!
  • My favorite of all is actually entering your reception with your first dance!
  • If you don't have enough time before the wedding for bride and groom photos, you can always sneak way during the dinner time to grab a few photos at sunset. (See a sample here
  • Leaving the reception isn't always the greatest thing to get photographed because of the hours you pay your photographer from the last event until you leave. So instead of having an epic send off from your reception, what about one from your ceremony?

Amount of time you need for specific things for your wedding day:

Now to the goods, you really want to know how long your photographer may need for certain photos, and how long certain events usually take, well I'll save you some time from scrabbling online to find it! Again keep in mind this has been my experience with American weddings, all cultures, traditions, and even tastes may have different lengths or events to add. Also these time suggested always include two photographers, because we can be in two places at once! 

  • Getting Ready photos (this includes girls and guys getting dressed, final touches on hair and make up): 20-30 minutes
  • Wedding Party Photos: 15 minutes
  • Bride and Bridesmaid Photos: 10 minutes
  • Groom and Groomsmen Photos: 10 minutes
  • Just the bride or just the groom photos: 10 minutes
  • Bride and Groom photos: 20 to 90 minutes (this could include a first look which I'd suggest accounting for at least 30 minutes for a first look and portraits after)
  • Detail photos (grooms and bride's attire details, invitations, dresses, shoes, jewelry, flowers, etc.): 30 minutes
  • Ceremony Details: 15-20 minutes
  • Ceremony time: 30 minutes (on average, Catholic masses or other religious ceremonies may take longer)
  • Family Photos: 10-40 minutes 
  • Cocktail Hour: 60-90 minutes
  • Reception Detail: 15-20 minutes
  • First Dance: 5 minutes
  • Cake Cutting: 5-10 minutes
  • Father/Daughter & Mother/Son dances: 5 minutes each
  • Speeches: 10 minutes
  • Bouquet/garter toss: 5-10 minutes

And here are two sample schedules of a weddings that require just 6 hours of wedding photography coverage! Keep in mind that these ceremony and receptions took place in the same area, you'll need to keep in mind travel time to any different locations or locations for photos. I've included two types of schedules, one with a first look and one without. If you aren't sure about first look head on over to my blog posts about them here.

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First a Wedding with a First Look:

♥  215 Photographers Arrives and photographs details like dress, shoes, invitation,  etc. 

♥  245 Bridesmaid, groom, and groomsmen getting dressed. Last minute touch up make up and hair

♥  3 Bride gets dressed

♥  315 Groom departs for first look

♥  320 Bride departs for first Look

♥  325 First Look and Bride and Groom Portraits

♥  410 Bridal Party Photos

♥  420 Groomsmen Photos

♥  430 Whole Wedding Party Photos

♥  440 Immediate Family Photos

♥  505 Tucked away before guests start to arrive

♥  505 Photographers capture ceremony details

♥  525 Bridal Party lines up for ceremony

♥  530 Ceremony 

♥  6 End of ceremony guests to cocktail hour

♥  610 Extended Family photos

♥  630 Photographer photographs reception details and cocktail hour

♥  645 Grand Entrance

♥  645 First dance

♥  655 Welcome Toasts, Prayer, 

♥  700 Dinner

♥  720 Bride and Groom sneak away for sunset pictures

♥  730 Speeches

♥  740 Parent dances

♥  755 Open Dance

♥  800Cake cutting

♥  810 Bouquet/garter toss

♥  815 Photographers leave

A Wedding without a First Look:

♥  330 Photographers Arrives and photographs details like dress, shoes, invitation, etc. 

♥  4 Bridesmaid, groom, and groomsmen getting dressed. Last minute touch up make up and hair

♥  415 Bride gets dressed

♥  420 Bridal Party Photos

♥  430 Groomsmen Photos

♥  440 Tucked away before guests start to arrive

♥  440 Photographers capture ceremony details

♥  455 Bridal Party lines up for ceremony

♥  5 Ceremony 

♥  530 End of ceremony guests to cocktail hour

♥  540 Extended Family photos

♥  6 Whole Wedding Party Photos

♥  610 bride & Groom Photos

♥  640 Photographer photographs reception details and cocktail hour

♥  7 Grand Entrance

♥  705 First dance

♥  715 Welcome Toasts, Prayer, 

♥  720 Dinner

♥  740 Bride and Groom sneak away for sunset pictures

♥  750 Speeches

♥  8 Parent dances

♥  810 Cake cutting

♥  820 Bouquet/garter toss

♥  830 Photographers leave