Tips for Brides and Grooms Wedding

How Many Hours of Wedding Day Photography Coverage Do You Need?

Although it was eleven years ago, I strongly remember the stages of excitement when I got engaged:

  • Stage 2: Picking a wedding date! Yay! Still very excited!
  • Stage 3: Slight overwhelm as I start realizing all the vendors we need to hire and coordinate with and oh, I don’t exactly have experience in this area!
  • Stage 4: EXTREME OVERWHELM as I start getting in information from wedding vendors and trying to figure out what the heck we need from everyone!

One of the areas that can be filed under EXTREME OVERWHELM is how many hours of wedding day photography coverage do you need? Many wedding photographers have packages structured into hourly options, and most couples don’t really know what they need when they start their search!  

Below is a handy chart which shows some guidelines when thinking through your own wedding day. For most “typical” weddings, where a couple is getting married at a venue and having many traditional reception elements, I recommend 8 hours. Of course there are exceptions to every rule! I’ve photographed intimate weddings which required less coverage, and also weddings that needed more coverage because there were multiple locations involved.


Getting Ready + Detail Photos 90 Minutes
Bride + Groom Getting Dressed + Portraits 30 Minutes
First Look + Couples Portraits 30 Minutes
Bridal Party Photos 30 Minutes
Family Photos 30 Minutes
Details + Pre-Ceremony Photos 30 Minutes
Ceremony 30 Minutes
Cocktail Hour 60 Minutes
Sunset Photos with Couple 30 Minutes
Dinner + Speeches 90 Minutes
Reception Dancing 30 – 60 Minutes
Total 8 – 8.5 Hours

These are ideal times for each section of the day where a wedding is taking place entirely in one location. If you are having a ceremony at a separate location and getting ready at a hotel beforehand, it’s always important to account for travel time in these estimates (and since I shoot and live in SoCal…extra time for traffic!).

You’ll notice when adding up all the portrait time recommended on a wedding day, it’s about 2 hours total. Without a first look, almost all this portrait time is moved to cocktail hour. In these cases I work with my couple to make sure we’re maximizing the time as much as possible, since the couples I work with prioritize their portrait time!

You’ll also notice I don’t recommend coverage should last through the entire reception. This would mean 3+ hours of dancing coverage and you don’t really need that! 30-60 minutes is plenty of time, and for couples who want an exit shot with sparklers or bubbles, we shoot a “fake” exit before everyone heads back to the party!

I also find having more photography time means more “breathing room” time for my couples. The best thing you can do when planning your wedding timeline is to add “what if” time. I’ve encountered so many “what if” scenarios in my career, such as:

  • What if hair and makeup takes twice as long as anticipated?
  • What if someone who is needed for family portraits is running late?
  • What if the limo driver is late and this delays the ceremony?
  • What if you have a second location planned for portraits but there’s not enough parking so it takes a long time for the entire group to get together?

A really great timeline will put in time for these “what if” scenarios so when something runs behind, it’s actually not a big deal! And that way when you’re getting your own portraits taken, you can be just as relaxed and happy as Christianne + Daniel :)

Below are some other great resources to look into as you’re planning your wedding day!

The One Instance Where You Need a First Look

Ceremony Tips for Brides and Grooms For the Best Photos

Tips on Selecting a Wedding Photographer

How Many Hours of Wedding Day Coverage Do You Need - Courtney McManaway Photography - Temecula Wedding Photographer


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