One of your first questions when planning a wedding could be “How many hours of wedding photography do we need?”. When considering how much time to book your wedding photographer for, there are several things to think of! For both traditional weddings and intimate elopements, I like to ask couples a similar set of questions. These questions go over what events they’d like to have documented on their wedding day. Even in micro weddings and elopements, some couples choose to have many of the traditional elements and events of a wedding!
These events might include, getting ready photos, first looks, ceremony coverage. They also might include family and friend photos, special dinner and dances, toasts, and cake cutting. One of the most important questions for elopements is how many locations they’d like to visit for couple portraits. How many hours of wedding photography you need is dependent on the answers to these questions.
Leading up to the ceremony and everything that follows, is the getting ready photos. Choosing to have this part of your wedding day documented can be a good decision for several reasons. This is an opportunity for your photographers to meet up with you and your bridal party and family ahead of time. It allows us all to get comfortable with each other! During the getting ready photos, we also take time to photograph all the little details. I recommend my brides have these items gathered together ahead of time. Photographing flat lays is a wonderful way to document the details of rings, flowers, vow books, jewelry and other accessories. While the time dedicated to these photos vary, I recommend at least 30-60 minutes on your wedding day!
Choosing to do a first look is completely personal preference and depends on the couple’s housing situation leading up to the wedding! When a couple is eloping, just the two of them, they don’t typically choose to do a first look. But, every once in awhile, the groom will head to a common area of a hotel to wait for the bride to get ready! On a more traditional wedding day, they are typically getting ready in separate areas which makes a first look easier to coordinate.
A first look can take place between bride and groom, grooms, and brides, or in some cases even the couple with their children. One of my favorite first looks is between the bride and her father! So when considering your wedding timeline, ask yourself if you’d like to have a first look with your future spouse, or with other important people. Janelle & Co Photo recommends fifteen minutes set aside for each first look you desire to have photographed.
Photographing the wedding ceremony is a given in nearly every booking, but the length of the ceremony can vary greatly. There are several things you need to consider for your wedding ceremony timing. First, the length of the officiant’s welcome, advice, and legal portion of the ceremony. Second, if the couple will be exchanging wedding vows. Third, whether there will be any prayer, scripture or poem readings, or musical numbers. And fourth, if there will be any additional special traditions you want included.
For an elopement ceremony, I typically recommend planning on 20 minutes. Some traditional ceremonies have taken anywhere from 20-45 minutes. I also recommend adding some wiggle room for the ceremony as they don’t always start right on time! For a traditional wedding including bridesmaids and groomsmen, plan for a 30 minute ceremony from the first person entrance, to the last person exit.
The time set aside for family and bridal party photos can vary greatly. One of the best helps I’ve found is creating a list with the bride and groom beforehand. Creating this list ahead of time allows the photos to flow more efficiently. For micro weddings with only the closest of family and friends attending, 20-30 minutes is usually enough time for these photos. For weddings with a larger guest list, bridal party, and families, 30-45 minutes is recommended. Occasionally, a very extended shot list will require more time. For my clients, I send a questionnaire with selected questions to help in this planning process.
The next question to ask is, will we have a sit down dinner we want photographed? Most eloping couples choose not to have this element of their wedding day documented. However, micro weddings and traditional weddings, this is typically a part of the day we photograph! It begins with a grand entrance welcoming the newlyweds into the reception area. My favorite part of the dinner time is listening to all of the toasts! Plan for 5-7 minutes per person who is participating in the toasts. Toasts typically begin 45 minutes after the first dinner plates have been served. Guests can finish up eating while listening to the heartfelt toasts and hilarious stories. Dinner, toasts, and cake cutting can easily take 1.5-2 hours.
Will you have any special dances? If you are planning a more traditional wedding, will you have a father and daughter dance? Will you have a mother son dance? Do you want your first dance as a couple to be at your grand entrance before dinner, or after dinner to kick off the dancing? If you are eloping, do you want to plan a private first dance in one of your portrait locations? Plan for 5 minutes per each special dance! Hiring a DJ or wedding entertainer can also help you plan our this portion of your day. We highly recommend Wildfire Entertainment and A&B Productions.
When and where will your couple portraits take place? Taking into consideration the other celebrations you want documented, how much time is set aside for your formal portraits? Some couples choose to have a separate session on another day so they don’t have to take time away from their celebration. Others choose to focus the most on their couple portraits. For a traditional wedding taking place at an outdoor venue, the couples usually take portraits for 30 minutes following the family portraits. Then, we sneak them away for an additional 20-30 minutes at sunset for more couple portraits. I recommend that clients plan to set aside a total of at least 1 hour for couple portraits. For an elopement, we are typically visiting 2-4 individual locations and photographing them for 4-6 hours as we capture them with the magnificent Tetons.
Lastly, are you planning a formal exit? What will your exit look like? How late is your exit taking place? Depending on the style of your exit, some are better in daylight hours, and others are better later in the evening. Some of my favorite exit celebrations have included sparklers in the evening, and ribbon wands in the day time!
This all comes back around to the final question. How many hours of wedding photography do we need? After receiving answers to these questions back from my couples, I create several sample timeline ideas for them. This helps them visualize their wedding day celebration more fully! For Janelle & Co Photo couples, a traditional or micro wedding timeline ranges from 6-8 hours. Some occasions require more time. Local wedding couples may also choose to have a separate bridal session, freeing up time with their guests on their wedding day. For an elopement without guests, the average wedding is 4-6 hours of coverage. Contact us for your free wedding photography consultation, and to receive sample timelines for your celebration!