Wedding Day Timelines and Photography — How much is enough?

With all the information out there available to brides for planning weddings, I find it interesting that many brides contact me for capturing their wedding day, and are still unsure about how much coverage they want when I ask them. It’s okay, they don’t have to know right away off hand. But it is important that they know before going to contract with any photographer. I thought I’d blog about it since it seems to be a hot topic lately with many of my brides.

So how do you determine what you need or want in regards to photography coverage? How much of your day do you want captured…from beginning to end, or is it somewhere in between? I’ll give you a few things to think about to help you make that determination.

Many brides want those precious, exciting moments during the getting ready process…all the smiles, giggles, nerves, anticipation, and excitement of putting on the dress. This is really it! All those little moments that fly by so quickly are captured. So how much time should you plan for getting ready? I usually tell brides I’ll come after their hair is done and when the makeup artist arrives. Remember to pad your day heavily with extra time. There will be interruptions (I’ll save those for another blog post), and everything you plan will take at least 15-30 minutes longer…trust me.

Another important consideration when determining coverage time is whether the bride and groom want to have a First Impression Session. The numbers are rising when it comes to couples choosing to have a First Impression Session before the ceremony. A First Impression Session gives the bride and groom the opportunity to have some alone time before the ceremony to get relaxed, pretty, intimate, romantic photos…no distractions from onlookers or pressure to hurry up in order to get to the reception. More and more couples are trending this way because they want the extra time for photos of just the two of them. These sessions last 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how many photographs the bride and groom want. Plus, there will need to be some “down” time before the ceremony to relax and freshen up.

If a First Impression Session isn’t in the cards, then I highly recommend planning on getting some of the bridal party and family formals out of the way before the ceremony. Time needs to be set aside and scheduled for this so that this session is complete about a half an hour before the ceremony. Post ceremony there will still be some necessary family formals and wedding party shots taken, as well as time set aside to capture more beautiful photos of the bride and groom.

Now let’s talk about the reception. How much of the reception do you want captured? All of it? Or just through the cake cutting, bouquet toss, and garter toss? Are you planning a Grand Exit? Are the special traditions or activities during your reception that you want covered? How long will your reception last? I’ve had a few 5 hour receptions that also had a 1 hour cocktail portion for a total of 6 hours. In this instance 8 hours of coverage might not be enough.

When planning your timeline and photography coverage, it is important to have a realistic expectation for the timeline of your day. The unexpected can (and often does) happen…bringing some surprises to your day…some good, and some that eat up minutes of precious time. Padding each portion of the day with a little extra time will help create a more stress free environment for you, and also help you determine how much photography coverage you need. There’s nothing worse than realizing on your wedding day that you contracted for too little photography coverage. Does it happen frequently? No, but it has happened more than I would like to have happen.

So what is the norm? Most brides opt for 8 hours of coverage. They don’t want to feel rushed, (and to be honest, neither does your photographer). They do want getting ready shots, a First Impression Session, pre-ceremony family formals, all the details, etc. It is all doable in 8 hours. Some brides opt for even more if they have a special breakfast or lunch to begin their day, a lot of travel time between the ceremony and reception venue, or a longer reception. And some brides opt for less. Whichever amount of photography coverage you choose, have a realistic expectation of the timeline of your day and you’ll know how much coverage you need. And when your big day arrives, I’ll be there to capture all those beautiful moments and turn them into beautiful captured memories!

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  • Yadira

    Stephanie: This is great information! I am personally trying to figure out how much coverage I should opt for because if it were up to me, the photographer sleeps in my house the night before to catch me up all night running to the refrigerator! HAHA! THANKS FOR SUCH WONDERFULL POST! You are on my list!

  • Great information Steph. Many people don’t realize all the details take time. Thanks for posting this.

  • angela

    steph – it’s amazing how much detail and planning go into the photography portion of the wedding. I don’t think brides give it as much thought as they do the dress, etc until after the wedding is over and they are looking at the photographs. It is then that the “oh I wish we had more pics of this” etc is thought about. this is a great article and much to think about when planning a wedding – invaluable info!!

  • Stephanie,
    This is very nicely written. I’m sure that brides will find it very helpful! Thanks for sharing. Once I get my blog up and running, I’d like to feature this piece.

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