"Six? Eight? Ten? Twelve hours of wedding coverage? Gosh, that sounds like a lot of time! How many hours of wedding photography do I really need?"

If this thought has crossed your mind while shopping for a wedding photographer, you're not alone.

In this article, I'll walk you through some of the most popular coverage timeframes, what's realistic for those coverage times, and how much time each event takes based on actual weddings I've photographed, not guesswork! I'll also include a breakdown of why things are timed out the way they are so that you can make informed decisions as you plan for your photography coverage!

Figuring out what you need - Realistically

After photographing weddings for over a decade, I have found the following to be the most realistic breakdown of what's doable within those timeframes.

Please keep in mind that these are general rules. Each event is unique and every photographer works differently, so you should absolutely discuss the specifics of your event with your photographer:

6 Hours - Short day. The ceremony, all portraits, and the beginning of the reception. OR Getting ready, Ceremony, all portraits, no reception. Ideally all at the same location.

8 hours - Average timeframe. getting ready, ceremony, portraits, partial reception. Possibly time for short travel between hotel & church/venue, and church to the reception.

10 Hours - Average timeframe with breathing room. Getting ready, ceremony, portraits, a good portion of the reception. Time for travel between getting ready, church, venue, and maybe a closeby photo location.

12 hours - More flexibility in terms of timing and flow. Getting ready, ceremony, portraits, pretty much the whole reception OR you're getting a lot more breathing room throughout the day. Time for travel between closeby locations (hotel, church, venue, and maybe an offsite photo location)

Multicultural weddings that have a lot more events or days, usually require even more hours depending on coverage needs. I recommend discussing your needs with your photographer to ensure that all of your important events are properly covered!

My personal preference: 10 Hours and two photographers. For me and my team, this is our sweet spot to do our best work and, most importantly, give our couples a great experience that doesn't leave them feeling rushed on the big day.

What's most important to you?

A huge factor in figuring out how many hours you need will depend on your priorities.

What memories are you most looking forward to enjoying in your album 5, 10, or 20 years from now?

Is it your romantics?

The anticipatory moments when you were getting ready?

The family portraits?

The wild dance party shots?

Giving some thought to this will help you design a timeline that prioritizes what's most important to you and ensure you're giving it the amount of photography coverage it deserves.

Pro-tip: Truly great photography takes time! While trimming hours and saving some cash might be tempting, remember that wedding days are dynamic and unpredictable. It's not uncommon for something to run behind and photo time ends up getting sacrificed as a result. If your photographer is rushed, you could end up missing out on the full potential of their creativity or ability to set up and execute the best possible shots!


Realistic time breakdown of each event (and why)

Here's a breakdown of how much time each portion of the day takes: Again, these are general timeframes based on typical weddings and timelines from my clients' actual weddings.
Getting Ready: 2 Hours (Both for Brides and Grooms)
  • Detail shots
  • Candids of the bridal party getting ready/hanging out
  • Makeup/hair shot
  • Getting into your dress/tux
  • 20 minutes or so of individual portraits when you're at your freshest!
  • Gives the photography team time to set up shots and get creative. -Those gorgeous detail photos you see have a process behind them, they didn't just fall into place! Same thing for the epic bridal portraits!
First Look: 15 Minutes
  • Get you in place
  • Actual first look
  • Not rushed. You have a few minutes to just take it all in
  • Leaves breathing room if you're a few minutes behind
Romantics: 30-45 minutes is ideal, but as much time as you're willing to give us!
  • Variety of spots
  • You're comfortable and relaxed, rather than rushing
  • The photographer has breathing room to be creative and create something unique for you
Bridal Party: 20-30 minutes
  • It depends on the size of your bridal party (as well as their cooperation level)
  • Depends on how much variety you want
  • Bride and girls (with variations and individuals)
  • Groom and guys (with variations and individuals)
  • Whole bridal party together (with variations)
  • Ideally all at once, but sometimes we can split some off into the morning if you're trying to save time post-ceremony and have good places to do this
Ceremony: 30-60 minutes, plus some padding
  • Give yourself breathing room before and after in case you're running behind
  • If your officiant has 30 minutes to speak he/she will use all of that time, remember to account for the time you need to walk up and down the aisle
  • Allow enough time to give the sacred or ceremonial parts of your ceremony tradition the dignity and respect they deserve.
Family Portraits: 20-30 minutes
  • It depends on the size of your family and how detailed you want to get with your groups
  • Allow breathing room because this can be very time-consuming and, inevitably, someone always wanders off when they weren't supposed to.
  • I build family lists for my couples to help the process flow as seamlessly as possible for everyone. Learn more about how I create family shot lists for the wedding here
Reception: 3-5 hours of photo coverage depending on your needs/preferences
(Typical events and typical timeframes are below)
  • About 5 minutes per dance song (first dance, mother son, father daughter)
  • Cake cutting 5 minutes
  • Grand entrance 5-10 depending on what you have planned
  • Give yourself breathing room
  • Dinner 1 hour
  • Bouquet and garter 5 minutes each
  • Dancing (Timing depends on what you've arranged with your DJ)
Night photos: 15-20 minutes, maybe
  • When our couples are up for it, we try to sneak in a quick night shot or two
  • We usually scout a spot out during open dancing and grab the couple when we have an idea setup.
  • Gives you a few minutes away from the party to enjoy each other and get a few unique photos

Other crucial pieces to consider

  • Travel times between locations. Use google maps to figure out travel times, and then add padding. Remember, it takes time to get downstairs from a hotel, the car, load up the car, and then get where you need to be, parking at the next location, etc.
  • Speeches - If left as a free for all, speeches can end up taking up way more time than you anticipated. This can affect how much time your vendors need to stay onsite, or how much time you have for other planned activities.
  • Table Shots & Money Dance - Can easily become a huge time eater, talk to your planner, photographer, and MC about ways to make these types of events efficient and well-managed.
  • DJ Games & Preferences so they can provide their best service too
  • Special Performances 
  • Breathing room - Give yourself time to catch your breath, use the restroom, or catch up if things run behind. When I build a client timeline (or collaborate with the planner on a timeline) we build extra time in with each and every section of the day because something always runs a little off. Having extra time built in helps us adjust and protect the rest of the day from being needlessly chaotic and stressful for you.

I'd love to help!

I truly hope that these timeline breakdowns have helped you to get an idea of where to start in terms of shopping for your photography coverage! 

While my passion is, of course, creating great images for my clients, a huge part of that is setting them up for success right from the start! I work with each client to help ensure that all of your most cherished moments are well-documented and given the attention deserved.

I would love to discuss your wedding plans and see if we'd be a good fit for your big day. Contact us to set up a consultation.

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