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6, 8, 10, 12....How Many Hours do you REALLY Need?

When you're in the middle of wedding planning,, You'll be faced with many decisions you never thought about before, Between discovering what flowers are in season at what time of the year, to knowing how much to budget for each category of your wedding, you're suddenly expected to become an expert on all-things wedding. Since I have some experience in this area as a bride myself, a mother-of-the-bride, and as a wedding photographer, I wanted to offer up a resource to refer to when you inevitably find yourself asking, “Wait a minute...how many hours do we REALLY need to book our photographer for?” Read on for the low-down on wedding photography coverage.



The Usual Photography Time Line


Great photography takes time...time planning, staging, posing When I plan a wedding photography timeline, I usually allot 3-4 hours BEFORE the ceremony for details, getting ready, bridesmaid/groomsmen photos and bridal portraits. If there is a first look planned this is 4 hours of time before the ceremony. Most ceremonies take 30 min. A full Catholic Mass usually takes 1 hour. After the ceremony family formal portraits take 30 minutes and newlywed portraits take at least 30-45 minutes. This is already 5 -6 hours and we haven't even started the reception! The average reception is 3-4 hours. Some go on 4-5 hours or longer.


Rushing your timeline is going to result in fewer images and possibly lower quality images. Here is a breakdown of the time needed to photograph each event in your wedding from a photographers perspective:


Another thing to think about is the time of sunset in relationship to your ceremony start time. Sunset will limit the time available for your outdoor portrait photos. If your wedding is at sunset, most of your photos will need to be done before your ceremony. This can be a challenge and definitely worth discussing with your photographer if you are not planning to do a first look.


  1. Pre Wedding Details (30 minutes) - photos of the rings, invitations, the dresses, shoes, makeup and hair in progress.

  2. Getting Ready (30 minutes) – You getting into your dress, pictures with your mom and bridesmaids, bridal portraits.

  3. First Look (15 -30 minutes) – Allow about 15 minutes to set up your first look and give you time to take in the moment

  4. Wedding Couple portraits (30 -45 minutes) – Be sure to allow for at least 30 minutes of time with just you and your partner to capture photos after your first look!

  5. Wedding Party photos (30 – 45 minutes) – You may be able to lower this time if you have a small wedding party. You should increase it if you have more than 7 bridesmaids/groomsmen on each side.

  6. Family Photos (30 – 60 minutes) – If you are doing photos with extended family (more than just parents, grandparents, and siblings), you will want to err on the side of an hour.

  7. Ceremony (Ceremony length + 45 minutes) – Allow about 15-30 minutes on either side of your ceremony for arrival, seating, dismissal, and/or a receiving line.

  8. Travel time to reception venue (if applicable) – If you ceremony and reception are at separate venues, be sure to account for travel time for your photographer

  9. Reception (Meal + 120-180 minutes) – Reception coverage is very dependent on what you want to capture and what you have planned. Average reception coverage is 3 hours. This provides time for cocktail hour candids, dinner, first dances, cake cutting, sunset photos, and open dance floor candids.

Add the minutes from my suggestions above together. Then, divide by 60, and you have your expected coverage hours that you’d like! I recommend rounding high. You will never regret giving yourself some extra time to relax on your wedding day rather than feeling rushed or behind!


Choosing between Photography Packages

6 Hours of Wedding Day Coverage Just because this is usually the least expensive package offered by photographers doesn’t necessarily mean it is only for couples with tight budgets! Six hours of coverage is plenty for small weddings and elopements but it doesn't begin to offer enough coverage for average weddings with all the usual wedding events and traditions. . When weddings are intimate, there aren’t very many people or events to manage or photograph, so things tend to move quickly. Even so, 6 hours of coverage only only works logistically even for small weddings and elopements if the ceremony and reception are in the same location.

Things to consider

  • 6 hours of coverage most likely means that there will not be much (if any) time for detail decor/design shots or photos of you getting ready

  • But, there will be coverage of all of the important moments (portraits, ceremony, family photos, first dance, & cake cutting)

  • The end of the night comes early with just 6 hours of coverage so, most likely there will not be many photos of the reception and no exits..

8 Hours of Wedding Day Coverage

An 8-hour package is usually just the right amount of time for an average-size wedding (about 100-150 people),. The additional 2 hours of coverage is usually enough for the photographer to capture the basic wedding details the tail end of your makeup/hair, you getting ready, some detail shots of the reception space, and the start of the dance party.

Key Points

  • If you have your heart set on doing a first look, or if you have more than just a Maid-of-Honor and Best Man, then we recommend at least 8 hours of coverage

  • Even though 8 hours seems like


a lot of time, this works best for weddings where the ceremony and reception are at the same location. Since the additional 2 hours gives the photographer just enough time to take a few getting ready, detail, and dancing shots. If your wedding and reception are in different locations, you need to allow 30 or 40 minutes of your photography time for your photographer needing to pack up her/his gear and drive to (and set back up at) a second location


10 Hours of Wedding Day Coverage

If you are dreaming of a picture=perfect sparkler exit, tons of romantic images of the two of you and lots of pictures of your reception retails party dancing and guests, then You'll want to book at least 10 hours of coverage. Since the photographers are on site for most of the day, there is enough time to get all of the detail and prep shots, plus plenty of extra time for a first look (if you want to do one). On top of that, nobody will have to rush through any of the wedding party and family portraits before getting to dinner and dancing.

Key Points



  • If the wedding ceremony and reception are taking place in different locations, we recommend at least 10 hours of coverage. This gives the photographer enough time to travel to the second location and still get all of the shots

  • Planning a grand exit? Unless you're willing to give up coverage in the earlier hours, 10 hours is usually not enough to have a photographer there until the very end of the reception

12 Hours of Wedding Day Coverage

There are a few reasons why 12 hours of coverage would be right for you as a couple. Aside from it being more than enough time to capture all of the details of the day, this amount of coverage is almost necessary if there is a very large wedding party (bridal parties of 12 or more).

Key Points

  • If you have a huge wedding party and family, we usually recommend 12 hours of coverage. Why? With everyone in “party mode” it means that it can be hard to get and keep people’s attention (not to mention the fact that it can be difficult to find


and get the right people in the right place all at the right time!)

  • If you're super into design and/or have the budget to make all of those Pinterest inspiration ideas come to life, it would be a bummer if all of those design details didn’t get photographed. So, if you have the wedding signs, custom cocktails, and lounges that everybody dreams of, we definitely recommend 12 hours of coverage to make sure every design detail gets the attention it deserves!



So now you have all the info you need to make a decision on how many hours of photography coverage you need. You are probably spending many hours planning your perfect wedding day, and after it's all o


ver, your photographs will be all that you have left to remember how beautiful it was. Having a realistic plan of your wedding photography needs will help you and your photographer avoid stress and truly enjoy the day.


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