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  • Writer's pictureStephanie

How much time do I need for pictures on my wedding day?

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

This is a really great and important question - with no specific answer! So many factors play into how much time you'll need for photography coverage. As much as I would totally love to offer one package, one price, and whatever coverage you want, every wedding is so different that I want to make sure I'm hanging out taking photos for what YOU need and want!

Where do we start? Well, the flow of your day, size of your wedding, and budget are three main factors.

It's my job to help you figure out the perfect schedule for your day! So let's talk about how that works. It's easiest to hop on a phone call, meet up, or zoom to walk through the vision for your day together - because I will have a lot of questions for you, and trying to accomplish it over email or messaging might take a while! :)

One of the big first questions is: should we do pictures BEFORE the wedding with a First Look for the Bride & Groom? Or, we don't want to see each other before the wedding and want to take most of the photos after the ceremony.

Let's get real about this topic for a moment, because opinions really vary.

Should we do our pictures before or after the wedding?

It is your wedding day, so of course this is really up to you, but I strongly recommend that the bride and groom see each other before the wedding and take your main group and formal photos before the ceremony. Through experience, I have found that waiting to take photos until after the wedding creates a hectic atmosphere and results in fewer photos, rushed wedding party members, hurried family members, and anxious guests (who are kept waiting for an extra long period of time). Your makeup has been on for hours, you may have cried during the ceremony, the wedding party is, well, ready to party, and family members just want to get to the reception and mingle. This takes away from the amount of time and calm atmosphere we need to give you the creative photos that you're hiring me to take. If you are concerned about the bride and groom having to see each other before the wedding, we can create a "First Look" moment for the two of you, a private, special moment before the start of photos where you will see each other for the first time on your wedding day. We can take photos of this moment, or not, whatever you prefer. Getting photos done ahead of time and having a special moment for the two of you beforehand, in our experience, makes the day go more smoothly and allow everyone to be more relaxed and just enjoy!

Honestly? Talk to me and let me guide you on what is best logistically for your day. Some wedding days it might work out fine, depending on the time of year, and the time of your ceremony. We just need to go through all the logistics, timing, and also what package works with your budget. Sometimes not seeing each other before the wedding adds more time to photos, which may stretch a package past your budget. Some timelines just don’t allow for it.

Another thing to think about: if you don't want to see each other before the wedding because you want a genuine reaction from your groom... Most reactions I have seen are better when it’s the bride and groom alone, versus in front of a crowd full of people and him trying not cry or look silly in front of his friends and family and even strangers. Most grooms... just stand there. Guys (sorry guys) are more likely to have a real reaction to seeing you when it's in private, not in public. Plus, this frees you both up emotionally and timewise to simply enjoy the rest of your day together.

And finally, most brides are so nervous already, that seeing each other first really helps calm you down. Plus, if you’re having a late-in-the-day ceremony, and you don’t do a First Look, you’re basically spending the entirety of your wedding day... not together.

These are all things logistically that most brides simply don’t know or think about - and it's my job to help! :)

Here are the rest of the things to take into consideration as we plan your schedule for the day:

First, I start with the ceremony time and work backwards through group photos.

Things like the size of your wedding party (this includes bridesmaids, groomsmen, ushers, flower girls, ring bearers, candlelighters, junior attendants, etc.), how many young children are involved, the size of your immediate families (mom and dad, brothers and sisters, their families if they are married/have kids, and grandparents are included here), and if you want extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, or other special family members) included - all of these affect the time needed. I also try to include host couples and any other wedding day helpers here too, like personal attendants, guestbook attendants, program attendants, and musicians or pastors if you want photos with them.

The larger your groups, the more time we need.

The order for pictures generally goes as follows: Bride & Groom First Look, then Bride & Groom photos; Bride & Groom with Wedding Party; then Bride & Groom with Family last. The logic here is your parents are probably pretty involved in helping to set up the day, so this allows them to do any last minute activities and then get dressed and ready. Also, this allows any elderly/frail grandparents to be the last photos closest to the start of the wedding, which means they aren't having to sit around all day waiting to get their photo taken.

Some couples exchange letters or gifts prior to or during their First Look, so photos for that adds a little time. We will always plan a First Look prior to photos so the two of you can have a private moment together before everything else starts to see each other for the first time on your wedding day. If you think you might shed a tear during this time, plan a moment to retouch your makeup, as well.

Wedding Party poses generally include the following:

  • Bride & bridesmaids (both standard and fun posing)

  • Groom & groomsmen/add ushers (both standard and fun posing)

  • B&G with children (flower girl, ring bearer, etc.)

  • Entire Wedding Party (with/without ushers, with/without children)

  • B&G with ushers

  • If time: Individual shots of B&G with each attendant, bride with men/groom with women

Family poses generally include the following:

  • Bride with her parents

  • Bride and groom with bride's parents

  • Bride and groom with all of the Bride’s immediate family (parents, siblings, siblings' families if applicable)

  • Groom with his Parents

  • Bride and groom with groom's parents

  • Bride and groom with all of the groom's family

  • Bride and groom with both sets of parents

  • Bride and Groom with bride's Grandparents, with groom's Grandparents

  • Bride & Groom with officiant/pastor/priest/JP

  • Bride & Groom with host couple(s)

  • Bride with Personal Attendant(s)

  • Bride & Groom with other wedding helpers (i.e. guestbook, gifts, musicians, etc.)

Are we at a church? Outdoors? Can we do also do photos outdoors at your church? What season is it? Will be it sunny, snowy, etc.? Are there multiple locations involved, adding travel time? These are also factors to account for.

Next, we talk about the flow of your day. If you are changing locations between your ceremony and your reception, include that time. If you are on a party bus and going bar hopping, or want to go to a park, downtown, or other outdoor location for more photos, or want to go to multiple locations between the ceremony and reception, include that time.

How about your reception? Are you serving dinner, doing your cake cutting, having toasts/speeches, having a dance? Or something else? Don't forget time to mingle with your guests!

Do you want photography coverage of your dance? Just the spotlight dances (bride + groom, bride + dad, groom + mom, wedding party, other special dances, plus any bouquet toss/garter toss, games, etc.) which is usually the first half hour or so, or more coverage of more dancing?

Reception photos I typically take include:

  • Bridal party entrance

  • Reception details such as centerpieces, head table, decorations, guest book, favors, gift table, other details

  • Bride & groom getting dinner, photos of food, and a shot of the Bride & Groom eating their 'first married meal'

  • Wedding cake (before/after being cut)

  • Bride and groom posed with the cake

  • Cutting the cake, feeding cake

  • Toasts, Bride and groom toasting

  • Bride and groom at head table kissing

  • Special dances: First dance, Parent dance, Bride and father dance, Groom and mother dance, etc.

  • Parents dancing

  • Wedding party dancing

  • Candids of guests/ bridal party as conditions permit

  • Bride throwing the bouquet, catch of the bouquet

  • Groom and garter, catch of the garter/other

  • Guests dancing, General dancing shots

Back to the top of the day - Do you want photos of you getting ready, such as putting on your dress, shoes, veil, jewelry, etc.? I like to include the details of your day here too - photos of your dress hanging up before you put it on, your invitation with your jewelry and flowers, shoes, etc. Prior to that, do you want me present for your hair and makeup?

And - I always like to include a little padding in my schedules in case things run late, too. It's a wedding day, things happen, it's to be expected. :) The last thing I want is everyone to be stressed because we ran behind and ran out of time for pictures!

I'm also open to custom packages if you find that the packages available don't work for your day, let's discuss!


So, taking all of that information into consideration, here are some examples of real wedding day schedules I've built for my clients! Take a look to see how different each day is based on scheduling, locations, size of wedding party, etc.

Amy & Brian - 5 hours 1:00 pm - Photographer arrival, set up lights in church 1:20 pm - Bride getting ready, detail shots of dress/jewelry, etc, groom getting ready, etc. 2:10 pm - Bride & Groom First Look 2:15 pm - Bride & Groom 2:50 pm - Bride & Groom with Wedding Party (1 Best Man, 1 Matron of Honor, 1 usher) 3:15 pm - Bride & Groom with Family (Parents, siblings/families, extended families, pastor, musicians, etc.) 3:45 pm - end of group photos 4:30 pm - Ceremony 5:00 pm - end of ceremony, dismissal & exit 5:15 pm - Dinner at church 5:45 pm - Cake & Toasts 6:00 pm - coverage ends

Lauren & Justin - 6 hours

8:30 am - Photographer arrival

Final Getting Ready photos

8:45 am - Bride & Groom First Look, and photos

9:30 am - Bride & Groom with Wedding Party photos (5 bridesmaids, 5 groomsmen)

10:15 am - Bride & Groom with Family (parents, siblings/families, grandparents, special wedding helpers, etc.)

10:45 am - end of group photos

11:30 am - Ceremony

12:30 pm - Lunch served

1:30 pm - Cake cutting

1:45 pm - Toasts

2:00 pm - Dance; Yard games

2:30 pm - Photography coverage ends

Annette & Gary - 7 hours 12:45p Photographer Arrival/Set up equipment in church sanctuary

1:00p Getting Ready photos/details

1:30p First Look, Bride & Groom - followed by Bride & Groom photos (indoors/outdoors weather permitting)

2:15p Wedding Party with Bride & Groom photos (4 BM, 4 GM, ushers, flower girls, ring bearers)

2:45p Family with Bride & Groom (children, parents, personal attendant, wedding helpers, additional Family)

3:15p END of group/posed photos

4:00p Ceremony

4:30p End of Ceremony, dismissal

5:00p Exit from Church (bubbles)

transfer to Reception; quick outdoor photos near Gazebo

5:30p Wedding Party Entrance to Reception

Dinner Served

6:30 pm Cut Cake

6:45 pm Toasts

7:00 pm First Dance, spotlight/special dances

7:45 pm - Photographer departure

Allie & Austin - 8 hours

12:30 pm - Photographer Arrival & Setup

1:00 pm - Getting ready photos - Church

1:30 pm - First Look then Bride & Groom photos

2:15 pm - Bride & Groom with Wedding Party photos (3 attendants each, 2 ushers, flower girl)

2:45 pm - Bride & Groom with Family photos (parents, siblings, grandparents, host couples, other special helpers)

3:15 pm - end of formal photos

4:00 pm - Ceremony - 30 to 45 minutes

- Receiving Line

- Exit

to Lake Hastings for photos

6:00 pm - Reception Entrance

6:30 pm - Dinner

7:30 pm - Cut Cake

8:00 pm - Dance begins

8:30 pm - End of Photography coverage

Sydney & Alex - 9 hours

11:00 am - Photography Coverage begins - Hair - at church

11:30 am - Photos of dress, details/jewelry/shoes/program, both Bride/Groom getting dressed, etc.

12:20 pm - First Look picture with bride & dad

12:30 pm – Bride & Groom note exchange, First Look

- Reactions to reading each other's notes before first look

12:45 pm - Bride & Groom photos (possibly some outdoors if time/weather permit?)

1:30 pm – Bride & Groom with Wedding Party photos (6 Bridesmaids, 6 Groomsmen, 4 Ushers, 3 Flower Girls, 2 Candlelighters) (possibly some outdoors if time/weather permit?)

2:15 pm – Bride & Groom with Family photos (Parents, siblings/families, grandparents, host couples, personal attendants, guestbook attendants, etc.)

2:45 pm – end of all group photos

3:30 pm – Ceremony

4:15 pm – end of Ceremony, ushers dismiss guests

4:40 pm – Bride & Groom exit from church (ribbons), load Party Bus (Photographer follows)

Transfer to Kearney (50 min)

5:40 pm - arrival at Reception

6:00 pm - Wedding Party Entrance

6:10 pm – Dinner served

7:00 pm - Cut Cake

7:15 pm – Toasts/Speeches

7:30 pm – Dance begins

8:00 pm - Photography Coverage ends

Tess & Nicholas – 10 hours

12 pm – Photographer arrival/Getting Ready photos

1:15 pm – Bride & Groom First Look, followed by photos

2:00 pm – Bride & Groom with Wedding Party photos (5 attendants each, 3 ushers, 2 ring bearers, 2 flower girls)

2:45 pm – Bride & Groom with Family photos

3:15 pm – end of group photos

4:00 pm– Ceremony

4:30 pm– end of Ceremony, receiving line, exit

5:00 pm – photos in groom’s cornfield

5:25 pm – Reception Arrival & Entrance

5:30 pm – Dinner Served

7:30 pm – Cake, Toasts

8:30 pm – First Dance

10:00 pm – Coverage Ends

Ashley & Joel - 12 hours

9:30 am - Photographer start --> Bride's Makeup & Hair, Main Street Styles, Blue Hill, Nebr

10:45 am - transfer to Nelson, Nebr/30 min

--> Photographer set up lighting at church

11:15 am - at Mom & Dad's: detail photos, dress photos, get dressed, eat lunch

12:40 pm - First Look with Dad - backyard

12:45 pm – transfer to golf course

12:50 pm - Bride & Groom First Look, photos with Golf Course, Grandma's bench

1:00 pm - to St. Joseph Catholic Church, followed by Bride & Groom photos at church (indoor/outdoor)

1:40 pm – Bride & Groom with Wedding Party photos (5 Attendants each, 2 Ushers, Jr. Bridesmaid, Flower Girl, Ring Bearer, 4 Honor Attendants, etc.)

2:30 pm – Bride & Groom with Family photos (Parents, siblings/spouses & children of siblings, grandparents, 4 host couples, 3 personal attendants, 3 guestbook attendants)

3:15 pm – end of group photos

4:00 pm– Ceremony

4:45 pm– end of Ceremony, receiving line

5:00 pm - Exit - streamers/maracas, load Party Bus (photographer follows party bus)

5:15 pm – Wedding party photos – gravel road/bridge; Downtown Nelson; at The Den Bar

{5:30 pm – Guests at Cocktail Hour}

6:30 pm – Wedding Party Arrival & Entrance at Nuckolls County Fairgrounds {DJ will announce entrance}

6:45 pm – Dinner served

8:00 pm – Cake Cutting, Toasts/Speeches

**SUNSET PHOTO outside

8:30 pm – First Dance; Bride & Father; Groom & Mother; Bride & Grandpa; Wedding Party {**No bouquet & garter toss, no dollar dance}

9:30 pm - Photography coverage ends

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