How Many Hours Should You Hire a Wedding Photographer For?
Every single wedding is different, some are big and some are small. How many hours you should hire a wedding photographer for all comes down to what you want captured, locations, travel times and how long your wedding runs. As a wedding photographer, I like to help couples to select the package that works best for them. I do this by looking at their schedule and asking them what they want captured the most, (along with what they're hoping to pay). To help all the lovely brides and grooms out there, this post give you a better idea about how much time you can expect to spend on each aspect of your photography.
Groom Preparation Photos
Grooms tend to take less time to get ready, they don't need hair and make-up done and most are pros at getting into a suit! They also leave earlier than the bride to get to the ceremony, so I like to start with the guys on a wedding day. Often we can spend up to half as much time with them to get all of the photos they want, I love to have 60 minutes for this but it can be done in 30 minutes. With a large family and/or bridal party - or with a few extra special photo ideas this can stretch out a bit.
Bridal Preparation Photos
Its a bit of a cliche, but one that definitely rings true on your wedding day; girls take longer to get ready than guys. Hair and make-up (especially when done by a pro) takes time to get right, and beautiful, elegant bridal gowns can be a bit of a struggle to get into. (I've spent many a minute helping brides and bridesmaids wrestle with difficult zips and clasps). I love to photograph the little details of bridal preparation, the make-up, champagne, shoes and dresses. For this reason I recommend 60 minutes, but prefer 90 minutes to take bridal preparation photos. As with the groom preparation, if you have a larger family and/or bridal party or want a little extra time to get a few more stylised portraits I'd recommend stretching the time out a bit.
Optional: Bride Reveal Portraits
It's becoming quite the trend these days to do a secret bride reveal portrait session before the wedding ceremony. It's definitely not everyones cup of tea, but for some it's a great way to rearrange time so that there's minimal gap between the ceremony and reception. And for others, it's a great opportunity to make a public moment very cute and private with some gorgeous alternative shots. The time spent on a bridal portrait reveal really comes down to the purpose of it. If you are having bridal reveal portraits so that you can shorten the gap between the ceremony and reception with less photography I'd recommend minimum 60-90 minutes. This way you not only get some cute-as-a-button bridal reveal portraits, but you also have time to take some of the more traditional portraits with and/or without your bridal party and family. If you're doing the reveal just for the sake of making a public moment private and personal, you can spend as little as 10-30 minutes on this section of the wedding and get more of the portraits done later.
The average ceremony these days lasts only 20-30 minutes, but others can take an hour or longer if they're more traditional. This comes down completely to what you want your ceremony to be. After the ceremony, photos such as certificate signing, a group photo of all of your guests and photos of you taking the time to be congratulated as you walk back up the aisle are what can add to your time frame. Generally, I suggest adding roughly 40-60 minutes onto your ceremony time - just so you know you're covered. 20-30 minutes for me to arrive early, get set-up, take shots of guests arriving, your decor and the groom waiting in excited anticipation. Then 20-30 minutes following to cover the certificate signing, announcement, guest hugs & congrats and potentially a group photo too!
This is possibly one of my favourite times during wedding photography, and the time your wedding photographer can really shine. The time to capture family portraits, bridal party portraits and natural, romantic portraits. Time to take advantage of all the beautiful locations at your ceremony, reception and surrounds. So that guests don't feel like they're "having to wait around for photos" I always suggest starting with the big groups first, such as family. Then letting them head to pre-drinks while we shoot the bridal party portraits, and then even letting them head on while we get a few more quiet romantic portraits with just the 2 of you. Ideally I like to have about 90 minutes to shoot portraits - and this can stretch out as long as you like! If you have a large family, want to use several different locations or just want a larger collection of photos this is when I recommend adding a little more time between the ceremony and reception. Another option is to duck out for a few extra 'magic hour', sunset and/or twilight portraits during the reception, or to get some extra portraits before the ceremony with a bridal reveal.
The reception is the time to let your hair down and celebrate what an amazing day this is! Key moments include cake cutting, the first dance, speeches, throwing the bouquet and leaving the reception. And let's not forget, a great chance to get some candid portraits of the guests who are sharing this day with you!
For some, capturing the whole reception becomes too expensive or overwhelming - and in this case I recommend spending just 30-60 minutes with your photographer at the reception venue. That way you can capture "faux" cake cutting & first dance photos, as well as little detail shots of your gorgeous decor and set-up you've spent all that time planning. All while saving money by not paying to have your photographer stay an extra 3-6 hours. For those who want the photographer to stay longer to capture all of the important details - you should ask your reception venue for a running order of the night/day. That will give you the best idea of how long you should keep your photographer at the reception to capture everything that's important to you. I generally recommend trying to have the speeches, cake cutting and first dance done by 9 or 9:30pm so that those with kids or your older guests don't miss out on these important elements when they need to leave earlier.
The final consideration in your schedule, travel times! A lot of people forget to factor in the time it takes to travel between locations. 10 minutes here or there can really add up though, and will either cut into your photography time or cause you to run late. Once you know roughly how long you want to spend on photography for each section of your day I recommend adding travel times in-between each location. Adding all your times together will give you a great idea of how long you should hire your wedding photographer for. Don't forget to factor in the time that it takes to get in and out of the car, as well as park.
I hope you found this post useful! And as always, I'm more than happy to help my brides and grooms with the scheduling of their day and in choosing the photography package that suits them best. For more information please check out my wedding page or contact me. I've also written this handy blog post full of tips for scheduling your wedding day. xx