How many hours of wedding coverage do I need? – Heaven's Storm Photography

July 2, 2019

How many hours of wedding coverage do I need?

You’re planning your wedding and have found the photographer of your dreams! But what package do you want from them? Will you want photos of the whole day, from getting ready to leaving the reception, or would just half the day do? Do you need to add on extra hours? This seemingly simple concept can easily become confusing.

Every wedding and every couple are different, and the amount and type of coverage you need for your big day depends on a variety of factors, but there are a couple things you should definitely keep in mind:

Photography Coverage is Continuous.

When you book a wedding photographer, that means they’re going to photograph your day without breaks. For example, if you have eight hours of coverage, that’s eight hours from the time they arrive at the venue. A photographer won’t pause between events or segment their coverage unless you make special arrangements.

Every wedding is different, but most weddings can be broken up into getting ready, the first look, the ceremony, family portraits, bridal party, Bride & Groom portraits, and the reception. Let’s take a look at how long on average each part of the day will take.

Getting Ready

Getting ready pictures entail a few different things. If you have special robes or matching outfits, last minute hair and makeup fixes, Bride getting into her dress, and bridal portraits. For the gentlemen, them getting into their suits or tuxes, adjustments of ties, vests, or cuff links, and the guys hanging out before the ceremony.

For the bride and bridesmaids, this translates into about 45 minutes. For the groom and groomsmen, about 30 minutes.

detail picture of brides bouquet and invitation

Bridal Details

One of my favorite things to capture is details. Most brides spend so much time in all the little details, so I want to capture them so they will always be remembered! Details are the first thing I photograph when I arrive at any wedding. Things like the dress, invitation, flowers, rings, jewelry, or anything else that is special.

For details, I like to have 30-45 minutes to be able to properly capture them.

The First Look

Some couples choose to have a first look with your partner before the ceremony. Your first look should be an intimate, special moment, but it also shouldn’t take long, especially if it’s just you, your soon-to-be-spouse, and the photographer. I try to keep parents or the wedding party from hanging around and causing distractions or taking away from the moment.

For the first look, allot 30 minutes.

bride and groom standing together at decatur conference center

Bridal Party Pictures

Bridal party pictures can be taken before the ceremony in their entirety if you have a first look. If you don’t, then we will allot time a little differently. If there is no first look, then bride and bridesmaid and groom and groomsmen pictures will be taken separately. Then after the ceremony the entire bridal party pictures will be taken.

If you have a first look and can do entire bridal party before the ceremony, plan for 20 or so minutes.

If you don’t do a first look and do bride/bridesmaid and groom/groomsmen separately then entire bridal party after ceremony, plan for 20 minutes for each group.

bridal party at ravina on the lake in peoria


The length of your ceremony is entirely up to you and depends on what traditions you choose to include. Regardless of the length of your ceremony, consider adding 15 to 20 minutes of buffer time, just in case something happens or the ceremony runs a little long.

ravina on the lakes, peoria il wedding ceremony

Family Formals

After the ceremony is over, guests will head to the reception venue, leaving the couple, the wedding party, and family members to hang around for formal portraits. How long these portraits will take depends on the number of people being photographed and whether you have a first look because, if you choose not to have a first look, couple portraits will take place after the ceremony as well. 

For family formals, you need to allot at least 30 minutes but more if you have a large extended family.

Bride & Groom Portraits

Regardless if you had a first look or not, I always take more portraits of the bride and groom after the ceremony. The moments after you a married are very special and usually full of emotion! If you have to do entire bridal party along with bride and groom pictures you will need more time.

If you are having entire bridal party and bride and groom photographed, you will need at least 60 minutes.

If you are just doing bride and groom portraits after the ceremony, allot 30-45 minutes.

couple walking along peoria riverfront


Like your ceremony, your reception will last for a specific amount of time, depending on how long you have your venue. However, your photographer doesn’t need to be there for the full four or five hours, just long enough to capture all the big events, like the first dance, parent dances, toasts, and cutting of the cake, as well as a few shots of everyone grooving on the dance floor.

The amount of time for reception coverage can vary, but usually 2-3 hours is enough to cover all the formalities and a few open dancing songs.

For all of my couples, I send out a questionnaire 2 months before the wedding asking about everything regarding the wedding day. I then sit down and put together a timeline for them to make sure we capture everything that is wanted.

Ravina on the lake, peoria il, wedding reception

If you have any questions about how much coverage you need, you can contact me and I can help you decide!

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