Bride's Guide: How Many Hours Do You Really Need a Wedding Photographer?

Updated: Jan 22, 2020

It's no surprise that most engaged couples need help knowing how many hours of wedding photography to book when they first start planning.

When it comes to wedding photography, the top questions I'm asked are related to TIME.

#1- How much time do I need for my entire wedding day?

#2- How much time should I save for pictures after the ceremony?

The average wedding ceremony is 30 min to 1 hour.

A typical reception is anywhere from 3-5 hours.

And what about everything before and in between?

Most brides are opting to include getting ready photos which can include those cute robes you bought for all your bridesmaids to the pictures of all the details of your wedding outfit.

The newest trend that couples are adding to their photography wish list is the First Look. If you want to stay traditional, a First Moment is also an option where you can both exchange gifts or hold hands on the opposite sides of a door without seeing each other. Many brides are also adding First Looks with their bridesmaids or parents.

Inevitably, there is one big mistake many couples make regarding time and energy on their wedding day. Keep reading to see what it is and how you can avoid it!


Here's the breakdown of how much time you need for each part of your wedding day.

Getting Ready

Add 30 min to 1.5 hours​

First Look/ First Moment

Add 15-20 min (and should start at least 30 min prior to the ceremony)

Wedding Ceremony

Add 30 min

Long Ceremony or Mass

Add additional 30 min

Chicago Cathedral

Family & Bridal Party Pictures

Add 30-45 min depending on the size of the bridal party, variety of family combinations and how many extended family members will be incorporated.

Bride & Groom Photos

Add 35-45 min (5 min break + 30 min photos)**

**This can vary widely depending on the type and variety of photos you want.

I am FAST when it comes to family photos. But no matter how fast we get through the family photos, it's exhausting! By the time the bridal party photos are complete, most couples are tired and ready for a break. The couple spends their energy smiling until their faces hurt and herding up the family! The problem is that the most important photos of just the two of them still left. Make sure to give yourselves time to have a small break before you start your own photo shoot.


The biggest mistake most couples make is not allowing enough time or energy for their pictures together.


Sunset Photos

Allow 10-15 min before sunset.

Not every wedding day gets a stunning sunset, but it's worth incorporating a few minutes into your timeline just in case.


Varies widely from 3-5 hrs. Can include dinner, speeches and toasts, first dance, parent dances, cake cutting, bouquet toss, garter toss, dancing and night photos.

The Final Exit

10-15 min

If you are adding a private last dance, you will need some time for that as well as some buffer time to allow guests to get outside for your exit. Exits don't have to be at the end of the wedding. They can also be staged somewhere during the reception or immediately after the ceremony.