How Many Hours Of Wedding Photography Do You Really Need? Bride And Groom Walking At Sunset
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How many hours of wedding photography do you actually need?

Last updated on February 7th, 2024 at 08:10 pm

How many hours of wedding photography do you need?

How many hours of wedding photography do you need? Normally this is one of the main things couples are wondering when looking at wedding photographers. As with most things wedding related there is no cut-and-dry answer. However, with that being said here are 4 important things to consider before talking with your photographer.

How Many Hours Of Wedding Photography Do You Really Need? Bride And Groom Walking At Sunset

What are the first thing and last things that you want to be photographed?

For most couples, the photographer is the second vendor that they book right after their venue. since they are so early in the planning process most couples have no clue what the actual timeline of events on the day will look like, making it difficult to know how many hours of wedding photography they actually need. This is why I ask every couple I meet with what are the first and last things they want to be covered.

For some, getting ready photos are essential while for others, that is just not a priority. At the other end, some couples are wanting a big exit or a last dance, while others only want the first dances covered. By knowing the book-ending events, your photographer will be able to guide you to the right number of hours for you.

When is Sunset?

Almost every couple I meet with really wants a beautiful sunset photo, and depending on the time of year, this means you might need more coverage. In Montana and many of the northern states, sunset during the summer months is after 9 pm. Logistically if you are wanting to getting ready photos and sunset photos you are looking at 8 hours of wedding photography minimum. Here is a helpful tool to see what sunset will be on your wedding day.

Will you be holding the wedding at multiple locations?

Many times couples forget to consider travel time when looking at how many hours of wedding photography they will need. Even when your photographer is not shooting, they are still on the clock. This means you need to have a good idea of how many hours of travel will take.

This past summer I photographed a wedding where the ceremony was an hour and a half away from the reception, because of this the bride needed to add 2 additional hours to their timeline to make sure everything was covered.

The more the merrier

One challenge I see many couples run into is they are worried the photographer will leave before an important moment.

I remember one wedding where the family arrived an hour late for the getting ready photos. This pushed back the whole wedding day timeline giving the bride and groom a fair bit of anxiety that I would leave before everything was finished. Thankfully, however, we had built in enough buffer time into the day of the schedule to accommodate for this. But it doesn’t always work out this well.

Hours Of Wedding Photography // Sunset Photo Of Couple In Bigsky Mt

This is why I include unlimited full-day coverage in each of my wedding collections. You never know when things will get delayed or when the most meaningful moment will happen.

A few years back I photographed a wedding for 12 or 13 hours straight. This wedding was the last celebration this couple would have with family and friends before they moved across the country. As the bride and groom were getting ready to leave one of the groomsmen came up to the couple in tears to tell them how much they meant to him.

From what I heard later, this friendship had been rocky and this moment was a big turning point in the friendship. If I had been at the wedding for any less time I would have missed this photograph that both the bride and groom treasure to this day.

A sample day of schedules for differing hours of wedding photography:

4 Hours of Wedding Photography

Normally I would only recommend this for small weddings and elopements.

  • 4 pm final getting ready photos
  • 5 pm Ceremony
  • 5:30 pm Group photos and portraits
  • 6 pm Cocktails & Apps
  • 6:30 pm First Dances, speeches
  • 7 pm Dinner
  • 7:30 pm Sunset photos if desired,
  • 8pm photographer leaves

6 Hours of Wedding Photography

At this point, you are able to get most of your wedding day covered while limiting reception photos or forgoing getting ready photos. Keep in mind this is a very tight schedule with little room for things to go long. Because of this, I recommend forgoing getting ready photos if you only want 6 hours of coverage.

Hours Of Wedding Photography // Reception Photo Of Couple Dancing With Young Girl
  • 2:00 End of Bride and Bridesmaids Getting Ready
  • 3:00 Groom and Groomsmen Getting Ready
  • 3:30 Ceremony Details/Guests Arriving (If you want more reception photos have the photographer arrive here)
  • 4:00 Ceremony
  • 4:30 Family and Couple Portraits
  • 5:30 Reception Grand Entrance
  • 5 :45 Dinner
  • 6:15 Speeches
  • 6:45 Cake Cutting
  • 7:00 First Dance and Parent Dances
  • 7:30 Bouquet and Garter Toss
  • 8:00 Photographer Departs
  • 8:30 Potential sunset photos depending on time of year
  • 9:00 Photographer Departs is forgoing getting ready photos.

8 Hours of Wedding Photography

921Brittanysawyerⓒcharlesmollphotography Charles Moll Photography Bozeman Wedding Photographers

If you want more getting-ready photos or reception coverage you can shift this either way.

  • 2:00 End of Bride and Bridesmaids Getting Ready
  • 3:00 Groom and Groomsmen Getting Ready
  • 3:30 Ceremony Details/Guests Arriving (r arrive here)
  • 4:00 Ceremony
  • 4:30 Family and Couple Portraits
  • 5:30 Reception Grand Entrance
  • 5 :45 Dinner
  • 6:15 Speeches
  • 6:45 Cake Cutting
  • 7:00 First Dance and Parent Dances
  • 7:30 Bouquet and Garter Toss
  • 8:30 – 9:30 Potential sunset photos depending on time of year
  • 10:00 Photographer Departs

10 Hours of Wedding Photography

In my mind, if you are booking someone for a fixed time this is the ideal number of hours for wedding photography. You are able to get the majority if not all the getting ready photos and the majority of the reception. Couples worry these times are filled with just hair and makeup photos or drunken dancing, however, during these 2 times, I tend to see the most meaningful moments happen.

727Brittanysawyerⓒcharlesmollphotography Charles Moll Photography Bozeman Wedding Photographers

10 hours is also ideal if you are having a full church ceremony since these tend to go longer and include more travel time. I have not built a day of the schedule for 10 hours because realistically it will cover all the wedding day events in most situations besides very late receptions or anything before getting ready photos.

Unlimited hours of wedding photography

After seeing the amount of stress it causes couples to have limited hours of photography, I began including unlimited coverage in my full wedding collections. The reason behind this, there are too many important memories to be limited to a set number of hours. Imagine grabbing breakfast with friends early before getting ready for photos or going on a hike with your best friends and having these moments documented. For me, the best part of my wedding day was getting breakfast with my groomsman before the wedding. I would have loved to have a couple of photos of all of us together and not have had to worry about taking the pictures myself.

For other couples, this might be a late-night dance party or even a portrait session under the stars. With a limited amount of hours, these times are usually left unphotographed and forgotten.

If you are still looking for a wedding photographer I would love to talk with you more about your wedding day!

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