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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.


  • Budget- If you have a tight budget, you can push all your reception activities to the beginning of the reception so everything is captured and your photographer can leave before the end of the reception. Think staged exit.

  • Time & Distance between Ceremony and Reception- If you have a extra time between the two events, you may need to add additional time. Or you might want to take your bridal party to another location for photos.

  • Highlights or Full Documentary Style- If you know you want pictures of everything, count on at least 8 hours. That way, you are not rushed and your entire wedding day from the biggest part to the smallest will be documented.

  • Large Family/Guest List- Additional time may be needed to cover more guests

  • Time of Year- You might want to move some or all of your bridal party or couples pictures before the ceremony if it will be dark when it's over.

  • Leave Breathing Room- Scheduling your wedding down to the minute can create unnecessary stress. Leave yourself time and space for things to run smoothly and naturally.

Final Thoughts

All of these suggested times are just a guide. Each wedding is different and all of my couple's spend their wedding day in different ways. Your timeline should be customized to fit your day perfectly.

Your pictures of just the two of you are the most important images of the day. These are the photos that are chosen for the album, get framed for your home, posted online and become your legacy that will be passed down for generations.

Your photographer should document your day in a way that lets your relive it over and over again, 'til death do you part.


30-90 min Getting Ready

15- 20 min First Look/First Moment

30-60 min Ceremony/Long Ceremony

30-45 min Family & Bridal Party Photos

25-45 min Bride & Groom Photos

10-15 min Sunset Photos

3-5 hrs Reception

10-15 min Exit


Want to know how many photography hours of coverage you need for your wedding?

I created a Quiz on my website to walk you through how many hours would be best for your wedding.


Ready to build a perfect wedding package?


Tiffany Hopwood Photography specializes in wedding photography in Dallas, Fort Worth and throughout Texas as well as Destination Wedding photography anywhere in the world!

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