How Many Hours of Photography Do I Need on my Wedding Day?

As you begin comparing photographers for your wedding day, you will probably start to notice that most photographers base their pricing on time. You know that you want everything documented from getting in your dress to the reception, but how much time will that take?

We know that this is an intimidating, and often frustrating, part of the wedding planning process, but we do this to help you! We use the time that we have to be efficient in the time we spend with you on your wedding day. It allows us to price our services well because you aren’t paying for time that you don’t need. It also gives you assurance in knowing exactly when to expect us on your wedding day. Don’t worry though, throughout the entire wedding planning process, we are here to help and make everything less stressful.

What to Expect:

To help us stay on the same page throughout your planning process, we will offer step by step guidance so that you have no worries as you plan your wedding photography.

We provide a wedding questionnaire to be completed to ensure that we create the perfect timeline for you. In that questionnaire, there are questions that influence every aspect of the wedding day, and knowing your plans ensures that we photograph your wedding day as completely and efficiently as possible. Timelines allow us space to ensure that we have plenty of time to adequately photograph each portion of your wedding day. Everyone’s wedding timeline is personally created by Erika and will be unique to your wedding day, but I will outline a couple example wedding day timelines that thoroughly cover the wedding day. Hopefully, it helps you think through what you will need.

What type of timeline best fits my wedding day vision?

The first question you will have to consider is a big one. It will require a lot of soul searching, and it is a question only the two of you can answer. We never force you to choose one way or the other. Do you want to see each other before the wedding ceremony? 

Once you decide what is best for the two of you on your wedding day, we can begin to work through the rest of the details.

Couples who DO want to see each other before the wedding ceremony

Although I was in the traditional camp and very against what we call the “first look” at our wedding, I have since grown to see the advantages of it and appreciate it’s own special place in the wedding day. I will say that every couple we have photographed who has chosen to do a first look on their wedding day are so very glad they did. It is such a precious time for the two of you to share before guests begin arriving. You can savor the moment and actually enjoy each other’s company before the wedding. Because this is a separate moment in it’s own time, we don’t feel that it detracts from the moment when the bride walks down the aisle.

Whether you choose to do a first look or not is completely a personal decision that the two of you will have to think through yourselves, but if you do decide that it is right for you, we have found that these are the main advantages:

  • You get to spend some quiet moments together as a couple to savor the moment, drink in the specialness of your wedding day, and calm your nerves as you chat privately together.
  • Because we are not rushed to get you to the reception, and you are not concerned about waiting guests, we have more time to get pictures of the two of you together. These are the pictures we find couples treasure the most after their wedding day.
  • You are able to join the party at the reception quicker.

Ok, enough of that, lets get to the sample wedding day timeline. We’ll pretend that your wedding ceremony will last about a half hour and begin at 6:30pm in Indiana in the summer. We will also assume that everything will happen at the same location. If that doesn’t fit your plans, we will add time accordingly.

Sample Wedding Day Timeline WITH a First Look

2:45 – Photographers arrive. Austin will begin with location and decor images while Erika begins photographing the wedding dress, other details, and the girls getting ready.

3:45 – Erika photographs Bride getting into her wedding dress while Austin photographs Groom finishing his final preparations.

4:15 – “First Look” followed by portraits of the bride and groom alone. This is the minimum I recommend as this time can be adjusted. The more time we have, the more images we can get of the bride and groom. This is always where I suggest giving priority. These are the images you will cherish the most. 

5:15 – Portraits of the Wedding Party.

5:45 – Bridal Party hidden away from arriving guests. Everyone prepares for wedding ceremony. If there is time, we will take a few additional portraits in a hidden location.

6:30 – Wedding Ceremony Begins.

7:00 – Wedding Ceremony Ends. Yay, you are husband and wife! Congratulations!

I usually take family portraits directly following the wedding ceremony while the other guests are getting settled at the wedding reception. We will have you provide us a list of requested shots so that we can be very efficient with these. I typically try to keep this time to no more than 20 minutes.

That leaves you about 10 minutes to regroup, bustle the dress, and touch up your makeup before being announced at the wedding reception at 7:30.

7:30 Announced at the wedding reception.

After that, we will document the wedding reception in a photo journalistic style, which is just a fancy way of saying that we will document the events as they happen. If time and the situation allows, we love to pull the couple out of the wedding reception for a few unnoticeable minutes to grab some dramatic nighttime shots.

Couples who DON’T Want to See Each Other Before the Wedding Ceremony

I have to say, I was in this camp when I got married. No one was talking me out of not seeing Austin before the wedding ceremony, so I certainly understand couples who choose this traditional approach.

Sample Wedding Day Timeline WITHOUT a First Look

Here is a sample timeline with the same assumptions: a half hour wedding ceremony beginning at 6:30pm in the summertime in Indiana. We are also assuming that everything is happening at the same location. If this differs from your plans, we will just need to add time accordingly.

2:45 – Photographers arrive. Austin will begin with location and decor images while Erika begins photographing the wedding dress, other details, and the girls getting ready.

3:45 – Erika photographs Bride getting into her wedding dress while Austin photographs Groom finishing his final preparations.

4:15 – Portraits with Groom and Groomsmen while the Bride and Bridesmaids finish final preparations.

5:00 – Portraits with the Bride and Bridesmaids

5:45 – Bridal Party hidden away from arriving guests. Everyone prepares for wedding ceremony. If there is time, we will take a few additional portraits in a hidden location.

6:30 – Wedding Ceremony Begins.

7:00 – Wedding Ceremony Ends. Yay, you are husband and wife! Congratulations!

7:00-7:20 – Family Portraits: I usually take family portraits directly following because everyone is already gathered together. We will have you provide us a list of requested shots so that we can be very efficient with these. I typically try to keep this time to no more than 20 minutes.

7:20-7:30 – Entire Bridal Party Portraits: Because we already got individuals, we will just need to put everyone together.

7:30-7:50 – Bride and Groom Portraits. This is the absolute minimum amount of time I suggest for bride and groom portraits. Remember, these are the images you will cherish the most after the wedding. Also notice that this is severely less time than we allowed for bride and groom portraits from the sample timeline with the first look.

This leaves you about 10 minutes to regroup, bustle the wedding dress, and touch up your makeup before being announced at the wedding reception at 8:30. If you compare, this is a half hour later than you would have been announced at your reception if you did do a first look, which much less time devoted to what we consider to be the meaningful portraits. At this point, your guest have been out of the ceremony for an hour. If you choose this option, and cocktail hour with plenty of drinks and great food is essential for keeping guests happy.

8:00 – Announced at reception

After that, we will document the wedding reception in a photo journalistic style, which is just a fancy way of saying that we will document the events as they happen. If time and the situation allows, we love to pull the couple out of the wedding reception for a few unnoticeable minutes to grab some dramatic nighttime shots.

I know this has been long, but I hope that it helps you work through your questions regarding how to plan your day and how much wedding photography time you will need. Of course, we are always available for specific questions.

If you would like information about how Erika Brown Photography can provide wedding photography for your wedding day, please contact us to begin the process.

© Erika Brown Photography, Indianapolis Wedding Photographers
© Website created by Erika Brown. All Rights Reserved.
 Indianapolis Wedding Photographers, Carmel Indiana Wedding Photography, Destination Wedding Photographer

  1. Ashton Kelley

    January 5th, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    Such a great post! The timeline is so important! You can never go back, so it’s so wonderful that you are prepping your clients to maximize their time. <3

  2. Molly Sanchez

    January 5th, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    SO good for your brides!

  3. Dr. Ronald G. Shapiro

    January 5th, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    Seems to be very helpful.

  4. Michele

    January 6th, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    Great info!! Every couple needs to know their timeline and the different options that you have outlined would suit anyone!

  5. Carlin Anquist

    January 6th, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    Great information! Oh and I LOVE that shoe shot on the old scale!

  6. Stephanie Sutherlin

    January 6th, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    This is such great info for brides! We write a similar post last year and it got a great response.

  7. Valerie

    January 6th, 2017 at 8:10 pm

    This is so helpful for brides! I wish I would have read this before I got married three years ago!

  8. Meg Kerns

    January 18th, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    This is a great resource for those getting ready to wed! I wish I had this post when I got married years ago!