Wedding Day Photos: How Do I Fit Everything In?

Wedding Day Photos: How Do I Fit Everything In?

Everyone knows how quickly a wedding day can go from perfection to disaster. Most of these issues occur because of your timeline. Hi, my name is Jennifer, and I own J Renee Photography in Wichita, KS. I am a professional wedding photographer, and I have photographed weddings for 20 years. I am here today to help new brides understand what a timeline is and how it can affect their wedding day and photography. My wedding couples often come to me and think they only need a photographer for a few hours. When a wedding client books with me, I ask how many hours of coverage they think they will need, and five to six hours is typically the response I receive. Today, I am going to show you why that is not the best option!

A wedding is a complex event that requires many hours of planning to execute. Every bride wants to make sure that every detail is photographed thoroughly. Wedding photography is the only thing that remains after the wedding cake is long gone and the guests have gone home. Therefore, photography should be one of the most important things to consider for your timeline.

Pre-Ceremony Detail Shots

Consider what is important to document on your day. You put a lot of money into the details of your day. Pre-ceremony, getting ready photos will include pictures of items such as your shoes, dress, garter, bouquets, rings, gifts, jewelry, and invitations, plus the same photos of the groom’s details. These photos also may include pictures of the decorated ceremony site and reception area. Having these items together in a box when your photographer arrives will help speed up these pictures. Another pro tip is to have your florist include extra scraps from your bouquet in this box to stylize these photos. These photos complement your wedding portraits in the album, and you can estimate about an hour and a half to document the items properly.

Getting Ready

Getting ready photos will include portraits with your bridesmaids, pictures of you getting your makeup and hair done, and putting your dress on. They will typically also include your pre-ceremony bridal picture. Often, this is also the time to take portraits with the bride’s family and bridesmaids. Normally, hair and makeup can run for two to three hours, so you need to plan for at least 30 minutes of photography for these photos and another hour and a half for individual portraits with bridesmaids and family.

If the groom is getting ready at the same time as you, you may consider hiring a second photographer to capture his portraits with his groomsmen, his family, and his getting ready process. Having only a single photographer will limit the number of photos unless you arrange additional time for the portraits of both the bride and groom. Plan for three to four hours for a single photographer and two to three hours with two photographers. This time is in addition to the time for detailed photos.

First Look & Formals

Before the ceremony, you may want to do a first look or family portraits. You will want to dedicate 30 to 45 minutes for the first look. Not only will you need time for the pictures, but you will want a few minutes to enjoy your soon-to-be spouse before the hustle and bustle of the wedding day. If you choose to do formal family portraits before the ceremony, the timing will depend on how many people will be there. If both sides have large families, the formal portraits can take up to two hours or longer. It will help to list the family members you want to have portraits with and designate a person to help organize people during this time. This list will also help ensure your photographer doesn’t miss an important picture with someone you are close with.

Plan for one to two hours to capture formal portraits before the ceremony. The benefit of doing formal photos before the ceremony begins is that you won’t have to chase down people amid the excitement after the wedding. They can continue to the reception immediately following the service. Additionally, if you include bridal party portraits before the event, you may need to adjust your timeframe to two to three hours of coverage, depending on the size of your bridal party.


You made it to the ceremony! Congratulations! It’s time to get married and put the stress of the day behind you. Another pro tip I can offer is that it’s great to have two photographers, as this gives you different angles of the ceremony and people during the service. Having more than one photographer will allow you to get ample photos of the groom while you walk down the aisle. I highly recommend having two photographers capture different views of this momentous event and planning 30 minutes to an hour or more for ceremony coverage, depending on how long your service is.

Bride and Groom Portraits

After the service, your photographer will start with bride and groom portraits. These photos are great because the stress of the wedding day is over, and you can both relax. These are the photos where your photographer will get creative. Plan on taking 30 minutes to an hour for these pictures. Take your time to make sure you get some great images of just the two of you for your album.

Whew! Half the day is over! As you are starting to see, this timeline easily exceeds the six hours of coverage initially requested. Let’s continue and get the party started with reception coverage.

Reception Coverage

It’s crucial not to have your photographer or videographer leave before essential events take place during the reception. Your reception coverage will include the entrance, toasts, cake cutting, first dances, mother/father/dollar dances, games, garter toss, bouquet toss, and table shots. Your photographer and videographer will work with the DJ to make sure everything is covered. Receptions typically need three to four hours of coverage.

Wow, what a day! Most brides and grooms do not realize how much photo coverage is needed during a wedding day. You will need between 10 and 12 hours of coverage to capture everything for a typical wedding day. A professional photographer will meet with you before the wedding to ensure everything you want is within your timeline. I hope this timeline will help you plan your wedding day more realistically! For more tips and tricks for your wedding day, make sure you follow my blog. Congratulations, you made it!

Leaf accent icon

Jennifer Graham

Hi, my name is Jennifer Graham, and a professional wedding and portrait photographer in Wichita, KS. I am an MS Warrior, a mom of two boys, and I love tacos. Doesn’t everyone? If not, they should! I have received several awards from Expertise, The Knot, Wedding Wire, and Wedding Rule, and I have been published on the cover of Curated Quilts, featured in Voyage KC Magazine, and featured in Shutter Up Magazine! My photography career began 20 years ago in film, and I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Photography in 2015. My style is very artistic and editorial, and I love to create something epic and bold! When I am not photographing weddings, you can find me at rock concerts, traveling to exotic places, or looking for the best street tacos around. Website:, Facebook: @JReneePortraits, Instagram: @jreneeportraits, Pinterest: @JReneePhotography.
December 15, 2021

Stay Connected

How To Pick Out the Members of Your Wedding Party

6 Reasons To Write Personalized Wedding Vows

5 Wedding Photography Trends & Why You Should Avoid Them