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How Many Hours Do You Need a Wedding Photographer For?

6 February 2020

Choosing a photographer for your wedding is one of the most important wedding related decisions you will make. Before you begin your search, the big thing you need to determine is how many hours you need your photographer to be there. While they don’t need to be there from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, they will be with you for the majority of the day.

If you are having an average wedding all at one venue with 100 – 150 guests, you have a normal-sized family with about 4 – 5 siblings between you and your future spouse, a First Look, ~30 minute Ceremony paired with a 60 minute Cocktail Hour, 8 hours of photography coverage is usually enough.

In order to determine how many hours of photography coverage you truly need for your wedding, you need to take into consideration a few factors.

 

Bride and Groom celebrating after their ceremony in front of a large floral arch at Chateau de Bouthonvilliers in France
Bride and Groom celebrating after their ceremony in front of a large floral arch at Chateau de Bouthonvilliers in France
Bride and Groom celebrating after their ceremony in front of a large floral arch at Chateau de Bouthonvilliers in France

Photography Coverage is Continuous

The first factor to understand is that wedding photography coverage is continuous. Most wedding photography collections are for 6, 8, 10, or 12 hours. My most popular collections are 8 & 10 hours! So if you are planning on having your photographer around for 8 hours, they will be there for 8 continuous hours from start to finish i.e. 12p – 8p, not 12p – 3p and 5p – 10p. The second scenario would be 10 hours of wedding photography coverage.

The next few factors to consider are all related to the logistics and what you desire for your wedding day. Ask yourself the following questions:

 

How Important is Photography to You? What Do You Want Covered?

Do you want every moment of your wedding day covered? Traditionally, your photographer will be with you for the last hour of your getting ready process to an hour into your reception / open dancing unless you are having a special exit.

– Do you want Getting Ready portraits?

– Will you be having a First Look?

– How Do You Want to Spend Your Cocktail Hour?

– Do You Have a Large Family or Bridal Party?

These are important questions to answer with your soon to be spouse. Getting Ready portraits are the perfect time for your photographer to capture your hair and makeup as it is completed, photograph your wedding dress, shoes and any details you may have. If you will not be having a first look, you may save time at the front end of your timeline but may have to add additional time to the backend of your timeline for bride & groom portraits.

Is a First Look important to you? If you choose to skip a First Look, ensure that you have enough time later in your schedule for Bride & Groom Portraits. How long do you want to spend at your Cocktail Hour, are you okay spending it finishing all of the remaining portraits? Larger families and bridal parties will require additional time for portraits to be completed.

Cocktail Hours are normally reserved for all remaining portraits, especially if you do not have any portraits before the ceremony and for any extended family members who may not be able to arrive before the ceremony in addition. Also, this time is also usually spent as an additional portrait time for the bride, groom, and bridal party. Keep in mind, Cocktail hour does not have to be “one hour.” Some couples have chosen to have an extended it in order to complete all portraits and still have time to socialize with guests.

Bride in Galia Lava gown opening a necklace gift at Zingerman Cornman Farms Wedding
Bride in Galia Lava gown opening a necklace gift at Zingerman Cornman Farms Wedding
Bride in Galia Lava gown opening a necklace gift at Zingerman Cornman Farms Wedding

Ceremony

Will you be having a long or short ceremony? If you will be having a religious ceremony, possibly in a church, you will need to budget upwards to an hour for your ceremony vs 20 – 30 minutes for the average ceremony.

First Kiss at St Patricks Cathedral NYC Catholic Church Wedding of Bride and Groom

 

Special Events

Will you have any special events other than your ceremony happening during the day?

– Special Exit? (Sparkler/Bubble Exit)

– Several Speeches?

– Longer Cocktail Hour?

Will you have a special exit like a sparkler/bubble exit?  If so, you can “schedule” your exit at an earlier point in your reception just so your photographer can capture it. Then you and your guests can return to the reception. This way your photographer does not need to stay for a 3 – 4 hour reception. After 30 – 45 minutes of dancing, the reception portraits are all similar.

How many guests are you expecting? If you are expecting ~150+ guests you will need to budget more time for logistics like serving dinner or transitioning between events.

How many scheduled speeches will there be during the reception? Also, do you want or need to have a longer cocktail hour? Maybe you need to accommodate for additional time needed for portraits or traveling between the ceremony and reception locations. Cocktail Hour serves as a buffer between the ceremony and reception so it can be as long as you need it to be.

Michigan State football mascot at a Zingerman Cornman Farms Tent Recption
Bride in a Galia Lavah gown at a Zingerman Cornman Farms Tent Reception
Perdue Football mascot at a Zingerman Cornman Farms Tent Recption

 

Travel Time

Lastly, the most important factor to consider is travel time. Will your entire wedding day from getting ready to the ceremony to the reception be spent at one location? Or does your schedule need to accommodate for travel time and potential traffic between locations? Once you begin to factor in travel times and multiple locations, most couples will need 10 hours of photography coverage.

Summer Wedding Portrait of Couple sitting on a white scooter. Bride is leaning on Groom's Back

 

Hopefully, this wedding planning guide covered all of your questions regarding how many hours of wedding photography coverage you need.

Click here to check out all of my other Wedding Planning Tips. 

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