So You're planning your wedding...

you've booked the perfect venue and you're working on creating an amazing evening for you, your fiancé and your family & friends. It's now time to book your wedding photographer. You've inquired with a few photographers, but most of their pricing is broken down by the number of hours they will be there. How do you even know how long they should be there?.... This is a question that I get A LOT. Mostly because this is the first time you're getting married or you're just overwhelmed will all the questions and information you've received. So, let's make this easy and break it down.

wedding details of badgley mischka shoes and wedding ring on a veil dripped tray

Start by making a list of what's important to you and what top five moments you really want your photographer to capture from your wedding day. Now let's start a new list - this is to create a rough timeline for your wedding day.

Let's start at the end of the day. If the exit is on your list of moments you want photographed, the next question you have to ask is, do you want the exit to be at the very end of your reception? If you are going to do your exit at the very end of your reception, then your photographer will be with you for the entire reception, capturing the traditional reception elements that you decide to partake in (ie. the cake cutting, bouquet toss, garter toss, dancing, etc) as well as the exit. Some couples decide that they are just doing a cake cutting and don't want a lot of dancing photos but do want an exit photographed. If this is the case then a faux exit with just the wedding party is a perfect solution (which is what I suggest so guests don't get confused and leave the party early). If you don't want an exit photographed at all, just figure out which of the reception elements you want photographed and plan to have them done early so your photographer can be present for those. Write the start and end time of the reception down on your paper. Then write what time you want the exit (if you want one) to take place. Make sure to add about 15 to 20 minutes to corral everyone for the exit.

Next, what time is the ceremony taking place and how long will it be? Ceremonies usually go between 15 minutes to 1 hour long. Write the start and end time of the ceremony above the reception start time.

The next decision to make is first look or no first look. A lot plays into this decision. There are some couples who wish to remain very traditional and do not want to see each other until the ceremony, which is totally fine. I just want to point out that if you go this route, make sure that you have plenty of time and sunlight after the ceremony to take all your full wedding party photos, family photos and couples portraits. It's a lot to do in the normally allotted 1 hour cocktail hour, so plan accordingly. Personally and professionally, I am pro first look for many reasons. You and your partner actually get a moment alone on your wedding day (you WILL be surrounded by people almost all day), you can finally relax and actually enjoy your wedding day without being a bundle of nerves, plus, you actually get to be a part of your cocktail hour because you took most of your portraits before the ceremony. I could honestly go on and on about why a first look is a great idea, but that's another blog post for the future.

bride and groom in monterey square doing first look in downtown savannah, ga
bride and groom hug during their monterey square first look in downtown savannah, ga

With a first look

If you're planning on doing a first look, you should have your photographer show up about 3 to 4 hours before ceremony time. This will give your photographer ample time to shoot:

  1. your amazing details - 30 minutes
  2. getting ready shots (including robe photos) - 30 minutes
  3. the first look (plus a few minutes of alone time for the two of you) - 20 minutes
  4. couples portraits - 30 minutes at least
  5. wedding party portraits - 45 minutes ***
  6. immediate family portraits - 30 minutes

Then you will be able to hide away to rest, use the bathroom and touch up make-up & hair before the ceremony starts.

After the ceremony, you may have a few family photos to finish up, a full wedding party photo or two if there were people missing earlier (like the flower girl or ring bearer), a few sunset couples portraits and then you're free to enjoy the rest of cocktail hour while your photographer gets a few reception & cocktail detail photos.

without a first look

If you're planning on not doing a first look, your photographer should show up about 2 to 3 hours before ceremony time. The photographer will be able to shoot:

  1. your wedding day details - 30 minutes
  2. getting ready shots (including robe photos) - 30 minutes
  3. bridesmaids portraits (groomsmen portraits would be shot separately with the second shooter) - 30 minutes ***
  4. and any family photos you may want to take pre-ceremony - 30 minutes

Then you can head to the ceremony location (make sure that the guys are hidden away or not on site yet) and hide away until the ceremony begins.

As mentioned before, once the ceremony is over, you will have family, full wedding party and couples portraits to take before you head to your reception. Make sure to be aware of the sunset time and it's correlation to the end of the ceremony so that your portraits aren't all in the dark!

*** If you have more than 6 bridesmaids and 6 groomsmen, I would suggest adding about 10 minutes per person to the wedding party portrait time allotted. The more people there are to photograph, more time is needed.

wedding party poses in forsyth park found in downtown savannah ga

This should help you to create a rough timeline for your wedding day and a great way to figure out how many hours to book your photographer for. If you find out closer to the wedding day that you need to add time, most photographers are totally fine with accommodating that. I'm more of a visual person, so writing everything down on a sheet of paper helps me to see the flow of the day and how many hours would be ideal to shoot a wedding, without feeling rushed and with a little cushion just incase. So, my suggestion is to sit down, pour a glass of wine, take out a sheet of paper, chat with your fiancé about what photos are most important to you and work on creating a very rough timeline for your wedding day. Now you'll have a better idea on how many hours you're looking to book with your photographer before you get overwhelmed with pricing guides and wedding day questionnaires.

bride and groom under veil in front of the cathedral of st john the baptist in downtown savannah, ga