First things first: we need to figure out when your ceremony should start and build the rest of the day around that! I do this by looking at when the sunsets on your wedding day. I usually recommend having your ceremony starting about 3 hours prior to sunset. The reason for this is so by the time your Husband and Wife Portraits are being taken, you can get the very best lighting since those photos are the most important of the entire day! We photographers like to refer to this time as “golden hour.” So let’s say the sunsets at 8:30pm. I would then recommend having your ceremony between 5 and 5:30pm.
On a very typical wedding day with 8 hours of coverage, I will arrive about 4 hours prior to the ceremony starting, and stay 3.5 hours after the ceremony ends. And I always estimate about 30 minutes for ceremonies. Even if you plan on making your ceremony “short and sweet,” they usually run a little longer than planned and by the time your wedding party all runs over to say their congratulations when it’s over, it usually all runs about that time.
Typically, if my couples really want me to capture their final send-off/exit, I will stay for 9 hours or they’ll plan a mock send-off mid-reception to keep the party going and keep the coverage at 8 hours to stay within budget! If my couples want me to stay until the very end and they also have lots of location switching throughout the day (i.e. ceremony and reception are in different locations), 10 hours of coverage is usually the right amount for them!
There are many factors that make each wedding day unique, so there could be a lot changed around for your day compared to what is mentioned above! But just keep in mind this is a great starting point to help you start envisioning how a typical wedding day flows, and how you want YOUR wedding day to flow!