how many hours of photography do you need for your wedding day

your wedding photography

behind the camera with marcel vanderhorst photography

How much time you’ll need for photography is one of the most crucial considerations you’ll make while organising your wedding. After all, one of the few tangible items you’ll still have from the big day is the photos. But it might be challenging to determine how much time is the ideal amount with so many options available. In this post, we’ll look at the variables that affect how many hours of photography you need for your big day and provide some advice to help you and your partner come to the best decision.

the importance of photography

Your wedding day is one of the most important days of your life, and you’ll want to remember it for years to come. It is your legacy, a way of reflecting on your relationship, a time when you’re looking your best and in some cases the last photographs of some family members ever taken. Photography (or videography for that matter) is the perfect way to do that, as it captures all of the emotions, details, and memories of your big day. Not only will you have photographs to look back on, but you’ll also be able to share them with friends and family who couldn’t be there to celebrate with you. It is your ultimate investment in the memory of the day including those moments you may not even be present for or is happening in the background.

But with so many options available, it can be difficult to know how much time you’ll need for photography. The answer to this question will depend on a variety of factors, including the size of your wedding, the location of the ceremony and reception, and the type of wedding you’re looking to put together.

How much time do you need?

So, how much time do you need for your wedding photography? The answer will vary depending on your specific needs and preferences, but as a general rule of thumb, 8 hours will fit about 80-90% of standard wedding timelines.

This time can be split between getting ready photos, the ceremony, formal photography, and reception coverage. If you’re having a destination wedding or a wedding in multiple locations, you may need to add additional time for travel or if you have multiple cultural events/traditions taking place.

If you’re looking for a more photojournalistic approach, you may need more time to capture candid moments throughout the day or even consider a second photographer. And if you’re planning to have engagement or post-wedding photography, you’ll need to factor in additional time for these sessions.

factors to consider

When determining how many hours of photography you need for your wedding, there are several factors to consider. These include:

  • The size of your wedding: A larger wedding with a larger wedding party or hundreds of guests will require more time for photography, as there will be more faces to capture and more moments to document like during the getting ready portions of the day and the reception.
  • The location of the ceremony and reception: A destination wedding or a wedding set in multiple venues will require more time for travel to be factored in and set-up of equipment in some cases. This may include having off-site photography sessions in-between the ceremony and reception at a special location. 
  • Pre-wedding and post-wedding photography: If you’re planning to have tea, naturalisation ceremonies or post-wedding photography (common in Europe or for post reception photo shoots), you’ll need to factor in additional time for these sessions and if they require any travel.

key moments

The next factor to consider is what parts of the day are most precious to you. Is it capturing the getting ready part of the day, where the energy is exciting and nervous? Or is it the lit dancing from Uncle Rod after a few Moscato’s while the guests cheer him on?  Or are they both important? Sometimes I get feedback, that the getting ready part of the day isn’t needed or desired (or at least the groom coverage).

getting ready

I often get feedback that some grooms don’t want to be photographed whilst getting ready. They might be nervous in front of the camera, have social anxiety, or the location might not be balanced aesthetically with where the bride is getting ready. This is completely normal. If you don’t really want it captured, then don’t, focus on the ceremony and reception instead. 

The issue of whether to have both partner’s getting ready times photographed or not due to time or location constraints, can be negated by getting ready together or even on the same property. This is happening more and more lately as I see more same sex weddings and the need to keep tradition diminishing, even with heterosexual couples. It also has the benefit of being better value and utilising more coverage towards the reception or onsite photography (couple’s session) and also if you are renting a hotel or AirBnb, this also saves money.

  • The time I normally allot for groomsmen getting ready is 30-50 minutes for 1-3 wedding party members, 10 minutes to shoot some detail photographs such as the rings or any accessories, 10-15 minutes getting the last bits of the outfit on and the remaining time hanging out or portraits. 
  • For larger wedding parties of 4-6 members, at least 60 minutes will be needed as the nature of this period is quite chaotic with so many bodies about, there is always someone that can’t tie a tie or is missing a shoe. You need to allow for time to pin on the buttonhole flowers, fold your pocket squares and get photos with each member of the wedding party.
  • For bridesmaids getting ready, I would at least go for 60 minutes, even with a small wedding party presence. The dress often will take time to put on and tie up, there are often more accessories to photograph (and put on) and it is best to allow a small buffer for makeup completion and touch ups. For larger wedding parties of 4 or more, I would put 90 minutes on the run sheet. You will be amazed how fast this time goes, it will feel like 15 minutes to you.
  • If you are getting ready together for instance, if it is just the two of you, then 30-45 minutes will suffice, a few minutes for detail shots, you helping each other into the final pieces of your outfit and then 15-20 minutes for portraits. Extend this 15-20 minutes if you have some others present like a small wedding party or any family members you’d like a portrait with.
  • I often request that I head off at least 10 minutes before the bride does so I can be in place before your arrival. With city weddings, that time will need to be extended due to parking. If a video crew is present, they will need around 30-40 minutes to setup before the scheduled processional time.

pre ceremony

The pre ceremony time can contain a number of different events or items to be captured by your photographer. 

  • You may want to have captured some styling of your ceremony space before guests arrive, there will be a need to build sufficient time into your timeline for the photographer to leave the getting ready location and then photograph the space. This is of course negated if you don’t opt for getting ready coverage. This will need to be detailed to the photographer before the day so they know that it is important however. 
  • First looks (or first touches) are getting more common, as this is a great way to see each other before the ceremony, especially for individuals that are highly charged emotionally. That way the tears are out already before the ceremony, then you can have your couple’s shoot session before you get married and get straight to the party. This can be achieved in both summer and winter as you can go for a sunset shoot later during the reception or before the light runs out during the cooler months.
  • It is possible to do away with a separate coverage for one partner as they can be photographed already dressed at the venue. Just a few portraits with their wedding party and then some solo ones as well to round out the coverage. 
  • The time you could assign to the above scenarios can range from 15-30 minutes.  

the ceremony and family photos

Most western officiated services go for around 30 minutes, with only 5-7 minutes for the actual legal part. Some ceremonies I have photographed have ranged from 10 minutes to 60 minutes, but in the most part 30 minutes for the official part is often needed. This will contain the processional (if you’re having one), the couple’s story, the legal obligations, the signing and then the announcement. 

I suggest to my clients that they build in a 5-10 minute period after the ceremony to greet their guests. On most occasions you would have not done that yet and it is a time for them to congratulate you both and dish some hugs. If you were to have an all-in group guest photo, that would have to be first so that everyone is present and doesn’t vanish to the bar. The best practice here is to notify your officiant of the order of events post ceremony so they can announce them to the crowd. Group photos do come with a warning though, a minority of guests will groan at the prospect of a group photo (even though they know it is for you), some will hide behind others and for bigger groups this will burn around 10 minutes trying to get everyone to fit inside the frame.

The family photo session when well mapped out beforehand should not take more than 15-20 minutes. It takes on average a minute or so per group to get everyone setup and in place. I usually suggest limiting this to around 8-10 photos so that you can get to the celebrations faster and any other additional groups such as friends or work colleague photos captured off the cuff at the reception. I do map out a template to follow so that way everyone is made to be present and no one is missed.

official wedding party and couple portraits

This period of the day is where you get to have some alone time with your photo & video team to get those beautiful and fun photos you most likely fell in love with on their website. There are so many variables at play here, from how many in the wedding hype squad, to the time of year and day, if your venue only allocates a certain amount of time (yes that does exist), the weather, transit to and from the photo location and how much time you actually want to dedicate for it.

As a rule of thumb, one hour is generally the typical time range for just about any case. If you do feel you’ve had enough at the half hour mark, you can just go mingle with your guests. If you have a big wedding party of say 6-10 members, you will use around 20-25 minutes of that time (which will feel like 5) and the rest can just be allocated for just you and your partner. 

If your photo location requires travel to and from or in between your venue, you will need to allocate not only the actual drive time, but also adequate padding for getting everyone involved in and out of vehicles and time to walk to the location. An example that might need careful planning is if you decided to have photos at Carlton Gardens and Melbourne’s Parliament House (a very popular combination), if for instance you were getting married on a Friday, your shoot session is between 4-5:30pm on a day the football is on, you can nearly triple your drive time and looking for a parking spot. In busy periods during peak wedding season, there might already be six to eight other couples getting their photos done at the same location, so the common available parking might simply not be available causing you to maybe consider looking for another location or reversing the order of the locations. If it can be done on foot you will get more photo time in many cases.

For city shoots where there are variables on traffic and parking, two hours will need to be allocated. With all the transport related considerations this will bring your actual photo time down to the hour needed to get a good range of photos. While limousines have the luxury of parking anywhere as they can have a driver be present with the car, please consider where the media team will park and how they will transit there.

If you are having a celebration with no wedding party, often as little as 20-30 minutes is enough for the photographer to work their magic. 


When it comes to reception coverage, have a think about how you want to pace out your formalities. Some recent weddings I’ve attended have actually discarded all the standard formal events like a cake cutting and first dance, and instead opted for a more relaxed vibe. However, I suggest that if you choose a more traditional approach, try scheduling the big moments to be earlier in the reception. Guest attention will waver as the drinks keep flowing and the oldies or parents with babies want to head home.

When we talk about reception formalities, this typically encompasses the introduction of the couple, cake cut, speeches and first dance. If you have a shorter coverage, it’s not uncommon to schedule the cake cutting and the first dance straight after your entry announcement. If you have opted for a longer coverage to capture all of those events, you can spread them out a bit, speeches before mains, cake cut and first dance afterwards (or bundled together, there are no rules here). 

At many venues I have worked at, they often have what they call a ‘Bridal Suite’ or a ‘Bridal Retreat’ (they really need to change that name hey). This is where you and your wedding party would hang before being introduced into the reception. While this is designed to give you a little time out before the formalities begin, when you think about it, if you hide away for 15 minutes after your photo session and then the introductions and housekeeping by the MC takes another 15 minutes, this will eat up 30 minutes at least of your reception time, so that means you have compress the other formalities closer to each other and less time with your guests. I actually hear this complaint a lot, that couples don’t have enough time to go around to each of their guests to greet them and enjoy their company. Maybe mix it up and just walk in straight away after your photos, because let’s face it, the guests already know who you are and what they are there for. 

If your first dance is at, for example 8:30pm, I would normally wrap up a coverage at around 9pm, at this point it’s just all about you enjoying that time with your guests and dancing the night away. If the dance floor is bursting at the seams, I am known to hang back for overtime because I know you’ll love the pictures. Though rare, it’s also possible to ask me to stay on and make a payment arrangement on the spot.

My most typical range of hours of coverage at a reception hovers around 2.5-3 hours.

timeline planning for your photography package

In my practice as a wedding photographer of around 15 years and 700 odd weddings, I’ve grown to learn what timelines are most common at certain venues and with the varied cultural traditions observed from many regions of the world. I’ve created some sample timelines below that may assist you with planning your day. These might not be exactly transferable to video capture as videographer need 30-45 minutes set up time at both ceremony and reception.

1.5-3 hours

3:30 Rough Coverage start

4:00-4:30 Ceremony

4:35-4:45 Family photos 

4:45-5:30 Shoot session

5:30 Reception

Perfect for micro weddings, elopements, registry weddings, second marriages and if budget is a concern. The sample times can vary depending on the time of year or when you book at your registry/venue.

5 hours

4:00-4:30 Ceremony

4:45-5:00 Family photos 

5:00-6:00 Shoot session 

6:30-9:00 Reception until approximately 2.5 hours in

Ideal for winery or venue-based weddings with onsite accommodation or getting ready at a location nearby and with the photo shoot session onsite. Smaller or no wedding parties present.

Can apply to city weddings with no getting ready and spend more time on location for photography and a little bit into the reception. Here is an example of an urban wedding captured in around 5 hours.

8 hours

1:00-1:45 Partner 1 or groom getting ready

2:00-3:15 Parter 2 or bride getting ready

4:00-4:30 Ceremony

4:45-5:00 Family photos 

5:00-6:00 Shoot session 

6:30-9:00 Reception until approximately 2.5 hours in

Suitable for winery or venue-based weddings with getting ready locations somewhat nearby or at least one at the venue, more relaxed timeline throughout the day and secondary shoot session at sunset (for summer weddings). 

Can apply to city venue weddings also, if everyone is getting ready close by or in the same hotel, location shoot session and reception up to two hours in.

10 hours

11:00-12:00 Partner 1 or groom getting ready with larger wedding parties of 4 or more

12:30-2:00 Parter 2 or bride getting ready with larger wedding parties of 4 or more

3:00-4:00 Ceremony

4:15-4:30 Family photos 

4:30-6:00 Shoot session 

6:30-9:00 Reception until approximately 2.5 hours in

10 hours is more suitable for when there is more travel time required for church or ceremony location or between the getting ready locations (I have seen up to an hour in a few cases which is not recommended, as you are paying your photographer that high hourly rate to sit in the car and not be taking photos).

Often you will need a longer location photography session if you are shooting in the city and extra coverage at the reception 2.5 to 3 hours in. This timeline can vary 15-30 minutes each way if more reception coverage is desired which might be varied by the travel time to each location.

Also suitable for weddings where many traditions or cultural activities are observed. Often this package is booked where events and dancing are an important part of the reception and pre ceremony activities.

12+ hours

11:00-12:00 Partner 1 or groom getting ready with larger wedding parties of 4 or more

12:30-2:00 Parter 2 or bride getting ready with larger wedding parties of 4 or more

3:00-4:00 Ceremony

4:15-4:30 Family photos 

4:30-6:00 Shoot session 

6:30-11:00 Reception until approximately 4.5 hours in

These are typically cultural weddings with extra-long religious services that may involve a lunch break, extensive getting ready sections and multiple reception formalities. My record is 19 hours of coverage straight for an Albanian wedding where I covered from the early morning preparations right through to the end of the reception, followed by a post reception photo shoot. 

You may want to include extensive photo sessions at multiple locations, one pre ceremony with the wedding party, between the family photos and the reception.

In some rare cases there is a third shoot session post reception, most likely at a very specific location like at the reception or night shots in the city. 

Anything is possible to capture, it just has to be planned in advance and of course the appropriate fees paid. You will also need to be considerate of not only yourselves and your wedding party’s nourishment and hydration through such a long day, also consider that of the photo and video team. Being mentally switched on, carrying equipment and constantly being on the move ducking and weaving is very fatiguing and compounds as the day wears on. 

For timeline planning, this is normally carried out around a month before the wedding date. This is so to make sure all the suppliers have been fully booked in, you are most likely settling all the accounts of all the suppliers (including the photographer in most cases) and you will likely know the procession of events at the reception as laid out by your venue. The best way to start planning timelines is to look at when the sunset time is and work around that so you can have your photoshoot in that gorgeous light of golden hour. You then build your reception around that, work backwards through the photoshoot and family pictures, then onto the ceremony. The rest of it can be centred around what your photographer suggests based on the travel times, the size of the wedding party and how many hours booked. Of course the sunset time varies up to three hours over the year in Melbourne, which can vary your timeline dramatically, but lean on your suppliers for advice.


So, what does the coverage actually encompass in the time booked? When does the clock start and when does it finish? Is it from when the photographer leaves the house or when the first shot is taken? 

It’s universally accepted that the time billed starts from when the first photo is taken to the last one of the day. All travel and breaks in between are part of the booked time, but in most cases the downtime isn’t longer than 30 minutes, whether that is driving, the dinner break or lull periods during the reception (they do happen if the DJ or band isn’t making the crowd move).

If it’s the case where the photographer is ready to shoot but there has been a long delay such as hair and make-up running behind schedule, then the billed start time will still begin when the photographer is ready to actually shoot rather than when they start taking pictures. This means the rest of the day has to be caught up somehow so that the ceremony and reception runs on time and your paid coverage time is adhered to. Unfortunately, this may result in certain moments being excluded or rushing the couple’s shoot session and wedding party photos.

Whatever coverage time you may decide on, be sure to have decent communication with all of the wedding professionals that are involved in your wedding in the lead up, so that your day may run smoothly. Your biggest hurdle when it comes to losing time at a wedding is more often than not, the hair and makeup running behind. I have seen this run behind as long as an hour, this increases the stress levels getting the dress on, you may miss out on those glamorous solo portraits and shots with the people getting ready with you such as your parents.

Also what can slow you down is not having everyone involved in your getting ready portion of the day knowing their roles and when they have to be ready by. I still see some parents of clients walking around in their regular clothes because they think they don’t need to leave until later, so they get ready later than you do. Also if you have large wedding parties (3 or more), chaos can ensue if they are looking for shoes, dresses not tying up properly, ties not working out. I have even seen getting ready photos being delayed by florists not delivering flowers in time or to the wrong location. Make sure everyone including suppliers knows their roles and keep them informed of their expectations.

Most photographers have often been a part of numerous weddings and also largely seen many weddings from start to finish, they can offer the best advice when it comes to planning the timing of the day to synchronise best with photographic coverage you desire. If you have a venue with an in-house kitchen that is catering the event, they will nearly always have a suggested reception timing plan for you mapped out to work around the food. ‘Kitchen is king’ as they say in the industry. Go into your consultation with an open mind so you can openly talk about what is best for you and your wedding plans.


When it comes to determining how many hours of photography you need for your wedding, there are several factors to consider. The size of your wedding, the location of the ceremony and reception, and the type of photography you’re looking for, will all impact the amount of time you’ll need. As a general rule of thumb, 8-10 hours is a good amount of time to allow for photography on your wedding day if you want a full day coverage.

If you are having a venue based wedding like at a winery that does scores, if not hundreds of weddings a year, they will have a standard timeline that fits most events modelled around the pacing of the food that comes from the kitchen or of they stack two weddings a day (one in the morning and one in the afternoon). You can choose to add, subtract or swap events centred around when the food is served in most cases. Sunset time photos are also a factor to consider in the summer months. Your photographer, if experienced enough, will have the knowhow on designing a timeline around the style of wedding you are planning. For whatever happens before the photographer’s arrival, lean on the information your suppliers can offer such as the hair and makeup team. Just detail to them a time you want to be ready by and they will work out the rest. Be sure to build in some padding if that part of the day was to run behind, as this is the number one culprit for running late on a wedding day.   

However, ultimately the decision is yours, and it’s important to choose a photographer who is willing to work with you to create a package that meets your specific needs and flow of your wedding day.

about the amazing Marcel

You are looking for a photographer that is more than just that. Someone who can understand your funkiness, your creativity, your passion for each other and how to bring that out in photographs, whilst putting you at ease in front of the camera.

I understand that planning a wedding can be challenging, you mostly get only one go at it or you have never done it before. You need someone that is going to get down to the ‘why’ you love each other, tell your story and be easy to work with. I will be here for the entirety of your planning journey, you will see clearly by the time you get your photo gallery why hundreds of other couples chose to invest in me over the last 15 years. Plus I have an awesome in-house video team now to take the hassle out of the search for one.

my jams (but not limited to):

  • An unhealthy obsession for scotch (strictly neat, independently bottled, peated and cask strength….oooft)
  • Doggo AND catto lover, or anything with fur and cute
  • My Dutch heritage, but I am spiritually Italian I think. Primitivo and bucatini anyone?
  • A movie nerd. I love the filmmaking process like direction of photography, lenses, story and acting. I could talk about that stuff all day

things I say way too much on a shoot:

  • “There it is, don’t move!”
  • “Just keep being cute.”
  • To the DJ or band at the supplier table: “are you going to eat that, if not pass it ‘ere?”

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