One question that everyone asks when they are searching for their perfect wedding photographer is "How many hours do I really need"? Most wedding photographers have a couple of different wedding packages based on different hours of coverage. Most couple's think that they will need coverage around 12-14 hours, but that is rarely the case. Depending on the logistics of your wedding, 8 hours is usually enough time to capture every single aspect of your wedding day. Let's break it down below so you can decide what will be best for your needs.
Getting Ready Portraits: 1 1/2 hours
Most couples will want some part of the getting ready process covered. You will want your wedding attire photographed and possibly you will want some photos of your hair and makeup getting done or just of you and your spouse relaxing with their best friends. You won't really need or want your photographer to be there from the beginning. No one wants photos of themselves completely undone and usually your wedding party will start their hair and makeup before you. I always recommend having your photographer arrive once your hair is done and your makeup is getting started. This will allow you to feel comfortable and not feel like you are completely undone for these photos. You will want to plan on having about 1 1/2 hours for this part of the day.
First Look/Couple Portraits: 1 hour
Regardless of if you are planning on having a first look or not, this time frame will be the same. Your couple portraits are really going to be the portraits that you are going to use and hang up in your house after the wedding. They are the ones that you will post on social media and share with your friends and family. You will want to allow at least 1 hour for these. Also, keep in mind that you may need to allot more time if you are planning on traveling to another location for your couple portraits.
Ceremony: 30 minutes to 1 hour
You will obviously want your wedding photographer present for the full ceremony. Ceremonies can range in length but the standard ceremony length is between 30 minutes to 1 hour. 30 minutes is the standard for a basic wedding with maybe one special moment like a sand ceremony. However, if you're having a catholic wedding, then you will be looking at a ceremony that lasts at least 1 hour and possibly more if you are having a mass.
Wedding Party Portraits: 45 minutes
Your wedding party portraits are something that you will cherish! These will be the photos of your favorite friends who you chose for your wedding party. You will more than likely want a quick photo with each of them as well as a few group portraits. You will want to allow abound 45 minutes for these.
Family Portraits: 30 minutes
Just like the wedding party, your family portraits are also ones that you will cherish. Your family members will also cherish these images! They are so excited for you and want to have a reminder of this time. As long as you provide your photographer with a list of your family formals and notify the family members who want for the portraits to be present, then the process goes fairly fast. 30 minutes will be enough time for about 15 different family formal combinations.
Reception: 2-4 hours
The reception is when all of the main events occur. You will want to make sure that you have your wedding photographer present through all of the special events (cake cutting, first dance, parent dances, bouquet/garter toss, etc). However, once these special events are done then you can have your wedding photographer take off. I always tell my couples that photographing the 1st hour of open dancing will be sufficient. You will have plenty of images of everyone dancing before everyone gets hot and sweaty. Plus you will only want so many images of your guests dancing. If your photographer photographs 4 hours of open dancing the you could potentially have hundreds upon hundreds of images of your guests dancing, which is more than likely not something that you will need.
Send Off: 15 minutes
If you are planning a sparkler exit or some other send off, you may want your photographer to be present for that! The send off will happen at the end of your reception but there is a way for you to still get those send off photos without having to have your wedding photographer stay to the very end. It's called a controlled exit and this is where we would bring out your wedding party and immediate family and do a little "mock" exit before the end of the night. This allows you to get those images, it allows your wedding party to have a practice run, and it will help you from having to add hours onto your wedding photography package.
One last thing to keep in mind is the driving distance. Is there a lot of drive time between your ceremony and reception or getting ready location? This is one little aspect that a lot of couples will overlook which can dramatically alter your timeline!
Wedding Wednesday is a blog series that occurs every Wednesday and answers the questions you have about wedding photography. Have a question you would like to have answered or something that you wish you would have known before your wedding or are you a wedding professional who would like to contribute? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.