This post was originally post here, on Apple Brides. I’m reposting it today – with a few updates – so that everyone who visits my site has a chance to see it as well as part of my Tips for Clients series.

I know that planning a wedding is a crazy experience. You’re expected to flawlessly throw the largest, most complicated party of your lives, while not knowing anything about the inner workings of weddings before the day you got engaged. I started this series because I wanted to provide a way for brides and grooms to navigate the system with ease and clarity. A way to answer some of those questions you’re dying to ask, but don’t know how to ask them. Got a topic you’d like me to talk about? Post a comment on any Tips for Clients post, and I’ll add it to my list! xoxo, E.


You’ve survived the first few weeks (or months) of being engaged. You’ve made some of the big photography decisions, but now you’re overwhelmed by what comes next. You’ve contacted a few photographers and are looking at their packages. Now comes the hardest part of picking a wedding photographer: picking your photography package.

When I got married four years ago, I had the craziest spreadsheets. So, I’m going to spare you the angst of doing this on your own, and lend you some of my hard-earned expertise.

Here’s what I wish someone had shared with me: there is no perfect timeline. There are a lot of variables to consider. Unless you’ve decided on a photographer who only offers all-day coverage, you’re going to have to pick a package length. And it’s not easy to do, especially when you’re so far out from the wedding day. Things change. I’ve broken down some common timelines for you at the end of the post, but here are a few points to consider when planning your timeline.

LGBT Wedding Spokane // Emily Wenzel Photography

  1. The Wedding Party. Are you having a large wedding party? It’s best to plan extra time if you’ve got more than 2 people standing next to you.
  2. Location, Location, Location. Having your wedding ceremony and reception in different places? Getting ready at a third location? If you plan on having a photographer travel from location to location, plan for extra time. Getting around in a wedding dress, with an entourage, takes a little more time than normal.
  3. The Family Photos. I strongly encourage my couples to do family photos. Grandma is going to want them on her wall. Talk to your photographer about their approach to family formals. If you’ve got a large family, you need to know that can take about 5 minutes to get each group of people organized and photographed.
  4. The Ceremony. Are you planning a religious or secular ceremony? A full, Catholic mass can take upwards of an hour to perform. A secular ceremony can be done in as little as 20 minutes. My shortest wedding ceremony to date? Five minutes. The longest? Over an hour.
  5. Chronically Late Syndrome. We all know at least a few people who are chronically late. Plan on starting your ceremony 10-15 minutes after the announced time. People might not have planned on the traffic, or finding parking. And if you know someone in your wedding party (or your fiancé) is chronically late, consider giving them a schedule with earlier times on it.
  6. What You Want. In the end, you can throw my timelines out the window and go with what you want. Maybe you’re planning a big wedding, but only want a few photos. Maybe you’re planning a little wedding, but want the whole day covered. It’s your party; you can do what you want to.

Methow Valley Mazama Ranch House Wedding // Emily Wenzel Photography

I usually only recommend this package for small weddings of less than 50 people or backyard weddings.  Your ceremony needs to be short and sweet in order for this package to work, and you won’t get much of the reception covered. For even less photography time, I recommend talking to a photographer about a custom package, like my elopement packages.

30-45: couples’ portraits
30 min: wedding party photos
30 min: ceremony
30 min: family formals
60 min: cocktail hour
60 min: dinner/lunch
60-90 min: reception (toasts, cake, dancing)


This package is best for weddings of about 80-100 people, in one location, with a secular ceremony. This package is perfect for most weddings, and it’s currently my most popular one.

45-60 min: getting ready
45 min: first look, couples’ portraits
45 min: wedding party photos
45 min: ceremony
30-45 min: family formals
60 min: cocktail hour
60 min: dinner/lunch
1.5-2 hours: reception (toasts, cake, dancing)

Catholic Church Wedding Seattle // Emily Wenzel Photography

For longer weddings, or if you want just a little more time to relax and not rush, this is perfect. You’ll have time for everything in the 7 hour package, but with a little more breathing room, so the day won’t feel rushed. It’s great for weddings with a religious ceremony, and perfect if you have to travel between venues.

1-2 hours: getting ready
1 hour: first look, couples’ portraits
1 hour: wedding party photos
1 hour:: ceremony
1 hour: family formals
1 hour: cocktail hour
1 hour: dinner
2 hours: reception (toasts, cake, dancing)


If you’re having a large wedding of more than 200 guests, using more than two locations, or just want every moment of the wedding day covered, this is what you’re looking for. If having a photographer to join you from the moment your day starts till the moment it ends sounds perfect, this is the package for you.

2 hours: getting ready
2 hours: first look, couples’ portraits
1 hour: wedding party photos
1 hour: ceremony
1 hour: family formals
1 hour: cocktail hour
1 hour: dinner/lunch
2-3 hours: reception (toasts, cake, dancing)

July Wedding Deer Park // Emily Wenzel Photography

If you’re still struggling with coming up with a timeline, let’s talk about this when we meet for coffee or drinks! I like to help my couples come up with a rough timeline early on, in order to avoid confusion and stress. It’s nice to have an idea of how the day will play out, and I feel like that puts you at ease. If you’re still unsure, it’s really easy to change your photography package before the wedding, and add that extra time if you want it.  Have more questions? Click the contact us link above or drop me a note in the comments below. I can’t wait to hear from you!