How Long Do You Need a Photographer at Your Wedding?

You’re moving along in your wedding planning checklist. A big high-five to that!

You’ve figured out which wedding photographers light your little engaged heart on fire, but now you’ve got to make it official and book someone. 

So who’s it going to be, and… how long do you need them for? 

It’s the age-old question, isn’t it? Well, it is for engaged couples. 

How long do you need a photographer at your wedding? 

What Kind of Wedding Are You Having?

Well, friend, that all depends on what kind of wedding you’re having. 

Every wedding day calls for something a little different. You need to nail down what you are doing so you get what you need, and you don’t just fall in step with whatever Sarah down the street is doing because (and look at me) you are not Sarah. 

You are you, and that is beautiful, and your wedding will be as beautiful as you. So let’s figure out how much wedding day coverage you need so you can get the beautiful photos to prove it. 

Elopement

beautiful newlyweds posing holding hands in the desert with cactus
Photo by: Allison Slater Photography

Okay, this right here could go either way. 

Let’s set the stage – you and your beau are hitting the road before dawn. You meet your photographer at the trailhead, dress packed (but hair done), and you pack it out to your favorite remote mountain location for the most memorable wedding ceremony that you and your partner could ask for. 

Well, it will only really be memorable for you two because this right here is an elopement. And for this type of elopement, you’ll likely need a whole day of coverage. 

Then again, I could see you spending the morning at the spa, meeting your photographer at your hotel, and getting married on the beach at sunset. That might be two hours tops!

Elopements are a whole beast of their own, and if you’re going this route (and I applaud you for that), then find an elopement photographer. They know what they’re doing. 

Intimate Wedding

bride and groom in front of arch ceremony backdrop
Photo by: Alex Hoedebecke Photography

Maybe an elopement sounds appealing, but you know you want to have your day ones (i.e., family) there, and that’s just non-negotiable. 

Say hello to the intimate wedding. 

Even though you’ll be going through all of the same steps of a large wedding (you know, the whole wedding ceremony and wedding reception deal), it will likely go quicker because fewer people are there. 

See, the thing about people is when there are large groups of us, we get really excited and confused, and our ability to listen diminishes rapidly. 

The fewer people, the fewer precious minutes are wasted. So although your wedding day timeline will look similar to a larger wedding, it won’t be as long. 

Whole Shebang

happy newlyweds walking surrounded their guests
Photo by: Jack Elope Photography

This is the ode to the extrovert, and you’ll likely need more wedding photography coverage for this kind of party!

Remember how I mentioned that large groups of people don’t do well with direction? Well, that is relevant for you because you’ll have to pad each event on your wedding day timeline. 

And you know what that means? You’ll need to book more hours of wedding photography. 

What Are Your Wedding Goals?

elegant newly married with their bridesmaids and groomsmen
Photo by: Marissa Rae Photography

Once you define what kind of wedding you’re having, you’ve got to get straight on your wedding goals.

Okay, so yes, you want to get married. I hope that will be an easy one to accomplish. 

But think about what you imagine for your wedding day and subsequent wedding photos.

Do you want your photographer to capture every getting-ready moment? Are your friends going to put on a show on the dance floor, and do you want the evidence? Maybe out of all the wedding events, you’re most looking forward to that sparkler exit you’ve got planned? 

All of these will help guide you when you’re trying to decide which wedding photography packages make the most sense for you. 

So, How Long Do You Need A Photographer At Your Wedding?

If you’re going with a typical wedding (the whole shebang one) or even an intimate wedding, you’ll likely want to book at least 6 hours of coverage. 

Why?

Well, didn’t you put in months of planning for this thing? Yes. And didn’t you spend lots (we won’t specify a number… but you know) of money making this something that feels special? Uh-huh. 

So then, why would you want to feel like you have to rush through it all just because you didn’t book your wedding photographer for enough time?

That seems kind of silly when you say it that way, huh? 

The 6-Hour Timeline

the beautiful bride and groom posing holding hands under the arch
Photo by: Jenna Marie Visuals

If you’ve got a tight budget but still want legit wedding day coverage, the 6-hour timeline is your friend. 

Here’s what you’ll get: 

  • ceremony details/guests arriving
  • ceremony
  • couple/family portraits
  • reception main events

You’ll either get some limited dancing photos or limited getting-ready photos. Unless you’re planning to wrap things up pretty early, you will likely not get any grand exit photos. 

There will probably also not be any time for your wedding photographers to grab detail or decor shots of the reception. 

And if you’re planning on having the reception and ceremony in separate locations, the 6-hour timeline likely won’t fly. 

The 8-Hour Timeline

married couple holding hands next to the wood house
Photo by: Taylor Rae Photo + Film

This is a lot of people’s sweet spot. 

8 hours of wedding photography is pretty decent coverage, but it won’t get you everything

Here’s what you’ll get:

  • some getting ready shots
  • option for a first look
  • ceremony details/guests arriving
  • ceremony
  • family/couple portraits
  • reception main events
  • some dancing

This is a popular choice for a reason. It gets you a little bit of most things, and many people are pretty happy with that.

However, you may be pushing things if your ceremony and reception are at different locations. It could work, but you may have to cut some stuff out of your timeline. 

Your photographers will show up toward the end of you getting ready to catch the final details, and they’ll likely leave before your special exit. 

The 10-Hour Timeline

beautiful newlyweds kissing at the wedding ceremony
Photo by: Madison Leigh Creative

Okay, this is getting you close to full coverage.

10 hours of wedding photography is recommended if you invite the whole town. Maybe you’ve got a big family, or you’ve just got a big heart, and you want everyone to celebrate with you. 

If that’s the case, you’ll want at least 10 hours of wedding photography coverage. 

Here’s what you’ll get:

  • getting ready shots
  • option for a first look
  • ceremony details/guests arriving
  • ceremony
  • family/couple portraits
  • reception main events
  • dancing
  • grand exit

You may also want to consider 10 hours of wedding day coverage if you’d like time in between the ceremony and reception, you know… to just take a breather or have some extra time for your portraits. 

Also, if you’d like a receiving line or table visits, and you’ve got a lot of people to get through, this is your schedule. 

The Unlimited

bride and groom walking through sparklers
Photo by: Marissa Rae Photography

Don’t want to think about what’s essential and what’s not? Because isn’t it all essential!!? Go for the Unlimited (I feel like I’m talking about dated cell phone plans). 

Look, you’ve put obsessive thought (relax, I mean that in a good way) and meticulous planning into this event. If you can’t possibly choose what you’d want your photographers to miss, don’t have them miss anything!

Unlimited coverage will have your photographers arriving when you’d like (probably when everyone starts to get ready) and leaving after the gorgeous sparkler exit of your dreams. They’ll get all the hugs, the sobs, the dope dance moves, and the less than dope dance moves. 

They’re not going to miss a thing, and you don’t have to worry about how much wedding photography coverage is right for you. 

Unlimited wedding day coverage is also a good idea if you have a larger wedding party (think 12 in the bridal party or more), if you want every decor detail captured, or if you want both getting ready photos and all the dancing photos. 

Find the Right Fit for You

cheerful newlyweds sitting at the wedding table surrounded by their guests
Photo by: Alysha Miller Photography

Remember when I reminded you that you were beautiful and that your wedding would be beautiful? That was nice of me. 

Well, let’s bring it back around to that. 

Ultimately, you have to find what’s right for you. No, unlimited wedding coverage is not the right option. Don’t bend your budget backward just to secure wedding day coverage that doesn’t make sense for you. 

Whatever photo package you decide to book, you can be sure that if you love your photographer, you’ll be going home with beautiful wedding photos and memories that you’ll cherish forever.

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