How do you create a wedding photography timeline and how many hours of coverage you need for your day?

First, I am going to break down the two average timelines (one is with a first look and one is without a first look). If you are curious to know what is a first look and how to know if you should or should not do a first look, you can read HERE.

Second, I will list questions to think about so you can better understand what is important to you and what is not.

Before I begin, I want to preface something really important. Every couple is different and all couples are beautiful, regardless of their orientation or preferences.

For the purpose of THIS blog, I will be explaining what a straight couple – bride and groom’s timeline will look like. Although you may not identify the same, essentially, this timeline breakdown will simply act as a baseline and can be adjusted based on any couple’s needs.

With that in mind, let’s get started!

Charlotte Micro Wedding


The timeline below is based on 8 hour coverage with a first look. If you haven’t read my last blog, a first look is when the couple sees each other for the first time before the ceremony. It is a time where the couple is alone and can take in the moment of seeing each other before the official “I do’s”. Note, this timeline will be based on a ceremony start time of 6pm, reception start time of 7:30pm, and exit start time of 10:30pm.

2:30 – 3:15 Details

3:15 – 3:45 Getting Ready 

3:50  Bride in dress + first look with parent/siblings/bridesmaids/groomsmen (all optional)

4:05 – 4:15pm First Look

4:15 – 4:45 Couple Portraits

4:50 – 5:20 Wedding Party (separate and together)

5:30 – 6pm Ceremony/Reception Details 

6pm Ceremony

6:40 – 7:10 Family Portraits 

7:15 -7:30 Just Married Portraits

7:30 Reception begins 

10:30 The Exit


Moreover, the below timeline is based on a 7.5 hour coverage without a first look. This timeline will be based on a ceremony starting at 6pm, reception at 7:30pm, and exit at 10:30pm.

3:00 – 3:30 Details

3:30 – 4:00 Getting Ready 

4:05  Bride in dress + first look with parent/siblings/bridesmaids/groomsmen (all optional)

4:30 – 5:15 Bride + Bridesmaid / Groom + Groomsmen 

5:15 – 5:45 Ceremony/Reception Details 

6:00 Ceremony

6:30 – 6:50 Family Portraits

6:50 – 7:05 Wedding Party 

7:05 – 7:30 Couple Portraits 

7:30 Reception begins 

10:30 The Exit

Grand Bohemian Wedding Charlotte

6 Questions to ask YOURSELF to help you decide how many hours of coverage you need for your day.

  1. What time is your ceremony?
  2. What time is your reception?
  3. What time is the exit – do you want the exit to be captured?
  4. Are you doing a first look?
  5. If you are getting hair and makeup done, when will it be completed?
  6. Do you want your details captured? – invitations, dress, shoes, veil, rings etc.

From here, begin writing out all these times. Talk to your partner about what is important for you both. This day is only going to happen once. What do you want to remember forever? Everything or only certain parts?

If your photographer is anything like me, they will help you with this! Your photographer should be able to talk more in depth since every wedding is different and unique. However, it is so crucial to understand what goes into your day.

In summary, I recommend:

30 mins for details

20 – 30 min of getting ready photos

25 min of “first looks” not including your first look with partner

30 – 45 min of wedding party and individual portraits

30 min couple portraits

20 min family portraits

Ceremony and reception timeframes depend on every couple’s preference but typically a ceremony is around 30 mins and reception is approximately 3 hours.

I know timelines can be tedious but hopefully this helped! Remember – every couple, every wedding, and every timeline is different. That being said, you invest in a photographer to capture all your favorite moments… so make sure you know what those favorite moments will consist of. 

Have questions?! I am here to help! . . . Charlotte Wedding Photographer, Stephanie Bailey Photography

How to Make your Wedding Timeline