Creating a wedding day timeline for your special day can be a bit intimidating especially if you don’t have a wedding planner. That’s why I personally create a unique timeline for each and every one of my couples so they never have to worry about how long certain things take or when the best light is etc. If you’re interested in booking me as your wedding photographer (but have no idea how many hours of coverage you’ll need) this guide will provide you with in-depth explanations of what each package entails regarding hourly wedding day coverage.

couple smiling at lyman estate wedding venue in waltham

Wedding Day Timeline Tips: How many hours should you have for wedding day coverage?

The easiest way to break it down and understand wedding day coverage is 6 hours is either going to capture getting ready (but cut out most of the reception-first dance, parent dances, cake cutting, etc) or no getting ready coverage (but captures all the formalities of the reception to open dance floor). For smaller weddings that take place all on location this can be doable in covering the main components of your day, but otherwise you won’t be able to capture your whole celebration in full.

Anything 8 hours and above will cover your wedding day in full from getting ready in the morning normally 2 hours into open dance floor. The best dance moves are always earlier in the evening when most of the guests are on the dance floor too! This way you’ll get a solid amount of great dancing shots of you and your guests having fun!

10 Hours is typically covering the full she-bang from getting ready all the way to the formal exit at the end of the night when everyone leaves. This package is for those that love dancing photos and have a specific exit planned at the end of the night (sparklers, light savers, fireworks).

black and white photo of mother and bride getting ready at the lyman estate

Since a 6 hour package is typically cutting out certain areas of getting ready or the reception, I suggest looking at the two lists below! If you want everything covered on both lists and don’t feel like you want to cut a certain portion of your wedding day out then full day photography coverage of 8+ hours is going to be the best fit for you!

What takes place during getting ready? (Bride & Groom, Bride & Bride, Groom & Groom)

Girls getting hair and makeup done

Detail shots of rings, flowers, shoes, invitations, dress etc.

Hanging out with your family & friends

Group shot of girls in their robes

Mom or VIP helping you get into your dress 

First look with your bridesmaids if applicable

First look with parents if applicable

Solo shots of you putting jewelry final touches on/Bridal Portraits

Opening gifts from your significant other if applicable

Reading a letter from your significant other if applicable

Hanging out with your family & friends

Group shot of guys with drinks if applicable

Group shot of guys with groomsmen gifts if applicable

Any VIP helping you get dressed/jacket/tie, etc.

Solo shots of you putting on shoes, cufflinks, watch etc./Groom Portraits

Opening gifts from your significant other if applicable

Reading a letter from your significant other if applicable

What takes place during a typical reception?


First Dance

Welcome Speech


Parent Dances

Cake Cutting 

Anniversary Dance Game/Bouquet Toss/Garter Toss etc.

Open Dance Floor

Formal exit if applicable- sparklers, fireworks, etc. 

wedding couple in the lyman estate library during their historic new england summer wedding

Wedding Day Timeline Inspiration: How long does each event on a wedding day typically take? Can you give us an example wedding day timeline?

I’m glad you asked! After doing weddings for 6 years the times below are a good rule of thumb for how long things typically take on a wedding day! As you can see based on how long each event takes it naturally falls into an 8 hour day.

90 minutes- 2 Hours Getting Ready (depending if you’re in the same location or not)

30 minutes-Travel to venue if applicable

30 minutes- Relaxing before ceremony/freshening up/getting in place as guests arrive

30 Minutes- Ceremony

1 Hour Cocktail Hour (enjoying cocktail hour if you did a first look, otherwise using this time for family, wedding party, and couple photos)

Typically this is how long each takes:

  • Family Photos 30-45 minutes depending how large the group is
  • Bridesmaids Group Photo, Individual Bridesmaids Shots w/ Bride + Groomsmen Group Photo + Individual Groomsmen Shots w/Groom + Full wedding party photos with both sides 30-40 minutes (some or all portions of this can be done earlier in the day at the getting ready location to save time as well)
  • 30-45 minutes- Couples Portraits (additional time if you were doing a first look earlier in the day)

15 minutes- Intros, Welcome Speech, First Dance

45 minutes/1 Hour- Dinner & Additional Toasts

10 minutes- Parent Dances

10 minutes- Cake Cutting

10-15 minutes if you want to pop out for any sunset or night portraits

90 minutes/2 hours- Capturing a solid amount of good dancing photos once the dance floor is open

black and white photo of a bride's first look with her dad at the lyman estate

What are the wedding reception order of events?

For most of the traditional weddings I photograph the following wedding itinerary occurs: introductions, first dance, welcome speech, dinner, additional toasts, parent dances, cake cutting, open dance floor, formal exit.

side by side photos of bride and groom and bubble exit at the lyman estate

Can I extend my wedding day coverage with you?

Although you cannot downgrade a package after booking you do have the ability to add on more hourly coverage leading up to wedding day (and on wedding day as well if you’d like me to stick around longer). It’s $375 per additional half hour.

wedding day timeline tips featuring a married couple at the lyman estate

The images featured on this blog are from the Lyman Estate in Waltham, MA.


I hope you found this guide explaining wedding day timelines helpful so you can pick the package that best fits you as a couple. I’d love to capture your wedding day whether in New England or a destination wedding abroad! Feel free to shoot me a message here today to inquire about availability for your wedding day. Dates fill up quick so don’t wait!

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