Hourly Coverage & Your Wedding Day Timeline

One of the most important details to ensure you have a stress free and enjoyable wedding day is to have a clear and concise wedding day photography timeline…

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June 1, 2023

Mary Pugh

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Let’s talk about how to determine your hourly wedding day coverage + how we will plan your wedding day timeline!

One of the most important details to ensure you have a stress free and enjoyable wedding day is to have a clear and concise wedding day timeline. A bulk of the wedding day revolves around the photography timing. Communication with your photographer, vendors, and wedding party is key to avoiding scheduling conflict.

An alabama wedding photographers office.

As a photographer, the first question I usually receive from brides is “How many hours of coverage do I need on my wedding day?” A photographer will need at least 8 hours to cover the basics from getting ready to send off. Are there circumstances where you may need additional coverage? Absolutely, yes! There are several factors to consider when selecting your coverage time. Below is a list of factors that will need to be considered when deciding how many hours of photography coverage you will need.

Factors to consider when determining how many hours of photography coverage will be needed:

-Is there any travel time between the getting ready, ceremony, and reception locations?

-How important are getting ready candids and detail shots to you?

-Are you doing a first look with your partner?

-Are you doing a first look with anyone other than your partner (Dad, Bridesmaids, etc?)

-How large is your wedding party?

-How extensive is your desired family formal shot list?

-Does the venue have any photography rules or restrictions before/during the ceremony?

-How long is your ceremony?

-Do you and your partner want any portraits taken after the ceremony?

-Will you be having a private dinner before being introduced into the reception?

-How long will your reception be?

-What time do you plan on having your send off?

Based on the answers to the questions above, the amount of hourly coverage needed will vary wedding to wedding. Your photographer and planner can advise you on how much coverage you may need before selecting your wedding photography package.

Crafting Your Wedding Day Timeline

During our planning process, I will work with you and your vendor team to craft a custom timeline. What does a basic wedding day photography timeline even look like, you might be wondering? Here is an 8 hour wedding day timeline with no travel, a 20 minute ceremony, and first look with your partner!

Details photos and flat lays of an Alabama wedding day.

12:30-1:30 Flat lay Photos/Getting ready

I arrive and begin shooting flat lay and detail photos (invitation suite, rings, dress hanging, etc.) While I’m capturing details, my second photographer will be hanging out with you guys capturing candids of the bridal party finishing hair and makeup. Before you get into your dress, I’ll snap some fun pajama photos of the bridal party. Whoever will be helping you into your gown (Mom, Grandmother, etc.) can go ahead and get dressed during this time.

I typically like to set aside 45 to 60 minutes (or more if you have 9 or 10 hours of coverage) for this section of the day.

Bride and mother getting ready in the bridal suite of Stonewood Farms in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

1:30-2:15 Bride Dressed/Portraits

Once you’re almost fully dressed, I’ll start capturing the intimate moments as your Mom finishes buttoning your gown, adjusting your train, and enjoying a few moments together. After that, we’ll spend a few moments capturing a few bridal portraits of just you! I typically send my second photographer to capture the groom getting ready while you’re getting into your dress.

We will need 30 to 45 minutes minimum for you to get into your dress. That may seem like a lot of time, but this is always the part of the day that can take longer than expected.

Scheduling a time for first looks during a wedding day timeline.

2:15-2:30 First Looks

First looks are always some of my favorite moments of the day! Whether you’d like to do a first look with your Dad, Grandmother, Bridesmaids- It’s always an emotional part of the day and I highly recommend setting time aside to enjoy these moments together with your loved ones.

I typically set aside 10-15 minutes per first look. It does take a little time to get everyone set up without seeing each other so if you have several first looks desired, we can be sure to equate that into your timeline.

First look between a bride and groom on the steps of Stonewood Farm in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Bride and Groom portraits taken on a wedding day.
Bride and groom portraits taken during a wedding day timeline.

2:30-3:15 Bride and Groom Portraits

After your first look with your partner, we will start our bride and groom portraits! Some couples also like to spend some time reading their private vows to one another during this time.

45 to 60 minutes is usually ample time to get a variety of beautiful couples portraits. This is the section of your wedding gallery you will likely revisit the most so it’s important to dedicate plenty of time for these portraits!

3:15-3:45 Wedding Party Portraits

For your wedding party portraits, we will capture individual bridesmaids with the bride, group photos of the bridesmaids and bride, individual groomsmen with the groom, group photos of the groomsmen and groom, and the full wedding party together.

Timing can vary depending on the size of your wedding party. You can expect wedding party portraits to take anywhere from 20-45 minutes based on the size of your group.

Family Formals taken at Stonewood Farms in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

3:45-4:15 Family Formals

These are the photos parents and grandparents always cherish, family formals! We will plan your desired shot list of family formal groupings before the big day so I can easily call everyone up by name.

Timing can vary based on your number of desired family formal groupings. I have an entire blog post on family formal groupings here! You can expect family formals to take anywhere from 20-45 minutes.

Ceremony and reception details captured at an Alabama wedding.

4:15-5:00 Rest/Details

The ceremony is almost here, guests will begin arriving soon- it’s time for the wedding party to tuck away and rest! During this time, we will begin photographing all of the little ceremony and reception details you’ve worked so hard to plan!

I like to end our portraits 45 to 60 minutes before the ceremony so the bride, groom, and wedding party can tuck away. This may seem like a lot of time, but trust me, guest arrive EARLY. This also gives us time to capture details of your ceremony and reception space before it’s crowded with guests.

Ceremony at Stonewood Farms in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

5:00-5:20 Ceremony

It’s showtime! Time for the most important part of the day, becoming husband and wife!

20 to 60 minutes. Ceremony times can vary.

Cocktail hour and sunset photos during an Alabama wedding day.

5:30-6:15 Cocktail Hour/Dinner/Sunset Photos

After the ceremony, cocktail hour can begin while we snap some sunset photos. Some couples opt for a private dinner while dinner begins for guests. Some couples like to be introduced into the reception, then enjoy dinner with their guests. It’s up to you and how you’d like your evening to flow!

30 to 60 minutes.

Stonewood Farms reception on Lake Tuscaloosa.

6:15-6:30 Couple introduced at reception/First dances/cake cutting

Let’s eat some cake!

Introductions, first dances, and cake cutting can usually be done in about 30 minutes. If you are doing toasts, plan to accommodate extra time.

Stonewood Farms reception on Lake Tuscaloosa.

6:30-8:30 PARTY!

Let loose, it’s time to dance!

Reception time varies based on your desired send off time. I typically tell brides, if you want more than 2 hours of reception coverage, you will need a photography package with 9 to 10 hours.

Stonewood Farms reception on Lake Tuscaloosa.

8:20-8:30 Start line-up for exit/Send Off

Light the sparklers, toss the confetti. It’s time to bid adieu.

Plan to start your send off line-up 10 to 15 minutes before your desired exit time.

One thing I like to do when planning my photography timelines is OVERESTIMATE. If you set aside plenty of time for each part of the day, things are much less rushed and enjoyable. I do feel as a photographer, more coverage time allows for more creativity. Extra time gives us more flexibility to capture those candid in between moments that wedding days are all about.

With communication and planning, your photographer and planner can ensure you have the best day possible. As your wedding photographer, I am on your team! I’ll be with you every step of the day to capture the wedding day of your dreams. So, lets get you married!


Venue: Stonewood Farms

Florals and Planning: Glow Floral and Event Design | Allie Wright

Hair and Makeup: Morgan Blackburn

Dress: Lady in Lace

Cake: Alley Cake Co.

Band: Velvet City Sound

Videography: Lance Holloway

Invitation Suite: Whitney Hubbard