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How many hours do I need? What is enough to cover all the important parts of the day? Do I need all-day coverage to make sure nothing is missed?

These are questions I’m always asked whenever I meet with a couple for the first time. Deciding on hours can be pretty intimidating when you’ve never done this before, so I don’t expect you to know what you need. That is why I walk each couple through a complete timeline when we sit down over coffee. This answers all the questions you may want to know about how many hours is enough. The answer really varies since every wedding is so different, but I just wanted to break it down for you to give you a rough idea of how many hours will be right for your day.

Summer wedding in Kansas City

Questions to ask yourself:

Are you going to have a first look? This won’t necessarily impact the number of hours, but this will impact the structure of your day. If you’re debating on having one, read this article!

How long is the ceremony? Traditional ceremonies will be 30 minutes or less. If you plan on having a Catholic ceremony or any ceremony over 45 minutes, this will impact the number of hours you need.

Are the ceremony and reception in different locations? If they are, you’ll need to factor in travel time.

Are you going to have a formal exit (sparklers, bubbles, etc) at the end of the night? Regardless of the hours, I usually recommend doing your exit no later than 10 pm. By this point, your photographer has run out of things to capture during the reception. You are welcome to continue to party, but this is a good stopping time for photography coverage.

What time is sunset? This will affect every aspect of the day including ceremony time and exit time. Since the sun sets later during the summer months, it’s more appropriate to have a later ceremony and later exit. In the winter, the entire timeline is moved up since we run out of daylight so much quicker.

Belvoir Winery summer wedding

The Basics

Now that you have the important questions answered, I want to break down the different parts of the day to give you an idea about what’s ideal in terms of photography coverage

Details: The first thing I always do when getting to a wedding is start with details. Details include jewelry, invitations, dress, shoes, flowers, etc. Ideally, I like spending the first 30-45 minutes on details. This isn’t always realistic, but I tend to do this before you have on your hair/makeup and really don’t want a million pictures of you before you have even started to get ready. I’ll essentially work on your details until you’re halfway done with your hair and/or makeup.

Hair and Makeup: I’ll usually do details in the getting ready room, so I can quickly tune in to when it’s ready for me to start photographing your hair and/or makeup. As stated before, I usually like photographing you about halfway through the process to get some of the final touches. If you need to do your hair or makeup before I arrive, that’s totally fine as well. We can always stage these pictures. It’s really easy for your hairstylist to spray your hair once more or for your makeup artist to apply setting spray just for the sake of a picture. I love these staged shots and these are the ones you’ll treasure more than the ones of you sitting around drinking coffee with no makeup on. As far as time is concerned, I always recommend I show up two hours before you’re finished getting ready. I’ll spend the first bit on details and then jump into your getting ready final touches.

Portraits: If you do have a first look (which I always recommend), we’ll usually start about three hours before the ceremony. This gives us some breathing room in case hair and makeup run late, which they frequently do. As far as minimum requirements, wedding party photos need an hour and family formals need 3o minutes. I also request at least 45 minutes with you two before the ceremony (15 minutes for the first look and then 30 minutes of portraits). We’ll get another 30 minutes later on doing sunset! With this timeline, we have about 15 minutes to kill if something runs late. If nothing runs late, this gives you more time to relax before the ceremony. I always make sure we wrap up portraits at least 30 minutes before the ceremony to make sure you can go into hiding before your guests start to arrive. If you do not have a first look, I try to spend 30 minutes before the ceremony on separate formals (you with your girls and him with his guys) and then everything else is crammed into your cocktail hour. We’ll spend 30 minutes on family then 30 minutes on the wedding party. All your bride and groom pictures will take place during sunset. I try to avoid keeping you for longer than an hour during cocktail hour because you don’t want your guests to start getting antsy.

Reception: In terms of photography coverage, I do not need to be there until you leave at the end of the night. After about an hour of open dance, everything starts to look the same. You’ll have the same few people on the dance floor doing the same moves. I recommend doing all your reception events either immediately before or after sunset (depending on when it is), opening the dance floor for 30 minutes to an hour and then having your exit. If you want coverage until the end of the night, that’s cool too but it’s rarely necessary.

Executive Hills Polo Club Kansas City wedding

Coverage Times

Since you now know how long each part of the day takes, let’s discuss how many hours you really need. At eGolden Moments Photography, I offer three different options: 8 hours, 10 hours, and all day (11-12 hours). I don’t offer anything less than 8 because I want to give each couple the full experience. With 8 hours, you at least get the minimum of what I mentioned above.

8 hours: This will get you all the basics without the fluff. I’ll typically show up about an hour before you’re finished getting ready and stay through all the main reception events. If you are wanting an exit, I would recommend doing this shortly after the main reception events in order to fit it in. Most couples who opt for an 8-hour package are not doing an exit or have an early fake exit and are having a short ceremony.

Here’s an example timeline of what 8 hours looks like without a first look:

10:00 amGirls begin getting ready
1:00 pmLead photographer arrives
1:30 pmGirls getting ready photos begin
2:00 pmGuys begin getting ready
2:00 pmSecond photographer arrives
2:45 pmGroom/Groomsmen pictures
3:00 pmBride puts on gown
3:15 pmBride/bridesmaid pictures
3:45 pmSeparate family formals if time
4:15 pmAround the corner first look
4:30  pmRelax before the ceremony
5:00 pmCeremony
5:45 pmFamily Formals
6:15 pmWedding Party formals and fun
7:00 pmEntrance/dinner begins
7:15 pmSunset pictures
7:45 pmToasts
8:15 pmFirst dances
8:30 pmOpen dance for a couple songs
8:45 pmBouquet/garter
9:00 pmSparkler Exit
9:15 pmPhotographers leave

Timber Creek barn wedding in Missouri

Here’s 8 hours with a first look:

9:30 amGirls begin getting ready
3:00 pmLead photographer arrives
3:35 pmBride puts on gown
4:00 pmSecond photographer arrives
4:15 pmFirst Look
4:30 pmFull wedding party
5:00 pmBride, Bridesmaid portraits
5:15 pmGroom, Groomsmen portraits
5:30 pmFamily formals
6:00 pmBride and groom
7:00 pmRelax before the ceremony
7:15 pmCeremony
8:00 pmReception begins
9:00 pmCake cutting
9:05 pmGroom and mother dance
9:10 pmBride and family dance
9:15 pmBride and groom dance
9:20 pmOpen dance/socializing
10:50 pmLast dance
11:00 pmExit
11:15 pmPhotographers leave

Belle Journee wedding rentals

10 hours: This is my most popular coverage amount because it gets you pretty much the entire day. I usually show up two hours before you’re finished getting ready and stay until an hour into open dance or the exit, whichever comes earliest. There are very rare cases that you’ll need more than this, so I recommend this package for anyone wanting complete coverage when your ceremony and reception are at the same location.

Here’s an example 10 hour timeline without a first look:

9:00 amGirls begin getting ready
11:30 amGuys begin getting ready
11:30 pmLead photographer arrives
1:00 pmGirls getting ready photos begin
1:30 pmSecond photographer arrives
2:00 pmBride puts on gown
2:30 pmBridesmaid first look
2:45 pmBride, Bridesmaid, family Portraits
2:45 pmGroom, Groomsmen, family Portraits
3:15 pmAround the corner first look
3:30 pmRelax before the ceremony
4:00 pmCeremony
4:30 pmFamily Formals
5:00 pmWedding Party formals and fun
5:45 pmDinner
6:15 pmToasts
6:45 pmFirst dances
7:00 pmCake cutting
7:05 pmAnniversary dance
7:15 pmDollar Dance
7:45 pmBouquet/garter toss
8:00 pmSunset pictures
8:30 pmOpen dance
9:30  pmPhotographers leave

Wedding smoke bombs in Manhattan Kansas

Here’s an example 10-hour timeline with a first look:

8:00 amGirls begin getting ready
11:00 amLead photographer arrives
11:30 amGirls getting ready photos begin
12:00 pmGuys begin getting ready
12:00 pmSecond photographer arrives
12:15 pmBride puts on gown
1:00 pmFirst Look
1:15 pmBride/groom portraits
1:30 pmFull wedding party
1:45 pmBride, Bridesmaid portraits
2:00 pmGroom, Groomsmen portraits
2:15 pmFamily formals
3:30 pmRelax before the ceremony
4:00 pmCeremony
4:30 pmCocktail hour
5:15 pmDinner begins
6:15 pmSpeeches
6:40 pmFirst dances
6:55 pmExtended family photos
7:30 pmSunset pictures
8:00 pmMore reception events/open dance
9:00 pmPhotographers leave

Loose Park wedding portraits

All Day Coverage: Let me start by saying all day coverage does not actually mean all day. That would be a waste of both of our time since no one wants a million pictures without makeup on and a million pictures of the same two people on the dance floor. That’s why I limit my all-day coverage to 12 hours. This package is only necessary if you are having a Catholic ceremony or your ceremony/reception are in separate locations with a large gap in between. With Catholic weddings, it is very hard to get everything done in less than 11 hours. I’ve had couples try to do 8 and that definitely doesn’t work. Ten hours can work if planned properly, but I usually recommend going with all day just so you don’t have to worry about your ceremony running long or reception starting late.

Here’s an example of an all day timeline without a first look:

8:30 amGirls begin getting ready
10:00 amLead photographer arrives
10:30 amGirls getting ready photos begin
10:30 amGuys begin getting ready
11:00 amSecond photographer arrives
11:30 amGroom and groomsmen portraits
11:45 amBride puts on gown
12:00 pmBride, Bridesmaid portraits
12:30 pmRelax before the ceremony
1:00 pmCeremony
2:00 pmFamily Formals
2:30 pmWedding Party formals around town
5:00 pmReception begins
5:15 pmCake cutting
5:30pmBlessing
5:30 pmDinner
6:30 pmToasts
6:30 pmGame
6:50 pmDances
7:00 pmOpen dance
8:15 pmSunset pictures
9:00 pmPhotographers leave

Sunset portraits at Pavilion Event Space

Here’s an example of an all day timeline with a first look:

7:30 amGirls begin getting ready
10:00 amLead photographer arrives
10:30 amGirls getting ready photos begin
11:00 amGuys begin getting ready
11:00 amSecond photographer arrives
11:15 amBride puts on gown
11:30 amFirst look
12:00 pmWedding party around town
2:30 pmFamily formals 
3:00  pmRelax before the ceremony
4:00 pmCeremony
5:00 pmCeremony Exit
5:15 pmTrolly around
6:00 pmReception begins
6:15 pmDances, blessing
6:30 pmDinner
7:15  pmSpeeches
7:30 pmSunset pictures
8:00 pmParty time
9:00 pmNight pictures
9:15 pmPhotographers leave

sunset wedding photos at Cider Hill Family Orchard in Kansas City

To Summarize:

10 hours is most popular, but a regular wedding day is doable in 8 hours. All day is only necessary in certain situations. A perk of hiring a pro photographer is we’ve done this hundreds of times and can know what is best for you! Whenever you’re meeting with a photographer, let he or she help you decide how many hours is needed. Working on a timeline alone is a stressful task and you don’t have to be alone. Never hesitate to reach out with any questions you may have!

If you’re still searching for that perfect photographer to make your timeline dreams come to life, reach out today!

St. Joe wedding venue

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Thanks for visiting!

A little bit about me: 

  1. I describe my style as real and vibrant. I focus on bright colors and incredible sunsets. I will force you to break away from your reception during sunset for pictures. You won’t regret it!
  2. I’m a huge animal lover. I own three cats and volunteer whenever I can at an animal shelter. If you ask if you can bring a pet to your engagement session, you will become my new best friend.
  3. I’m a newlywed, so I understand the wedding planning struggle!

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