How much wedding photography coverage do I need? 8 Hours vs 10 Hours

When we first meet with couples, we are often asked, “How many hours of wedding photography coverage do I need?”   Most engaged couples planning a wedding are still very much in the planning stages for their day and may not know all the details of all of the events when we first meet them.  So we often find couples comparing 8 hours of wedding photography vs. 10 hours of wedding photography, and trying to figure out which option is best.

If you’re newly engaged, looking at wedding photographers, and trying to answer this same question, whether to have 8 hours of photography or 10 hours of photography on your wedding day, then this blog post is for you!

Let’s look at an 8 hour day…

When you book 8 hours of wedding photography, your day will look something probably like this, with times shifted earlier or later depending on your ceremony start time:

1:00 PM Details & Final Prep Time

2:15 Bride into Gown

2:45 Travel to First Look/Ceremony

3:00  First Look & Couples Portraits

3:30 Bridal Party Portraits

4:00  Family Portraits

4:30 Couple Tucks Away as Guests Arrive

5:00 Ceremony

5:45 Cocktail Hour

6:45 Guests Seated

7:00 Grand Entrance & Cake Cutting

7:15 Dinner

8:15 Toasts

8:45 First Dance & Special Dances

9:00 End of Coverage

For a very long time, we suggested this timeline to almost all of our couples, except for those with travel or catholic mass ceremonies.  And for many weddings, especially those held at a single venue, it can certainly work.  However, with 10+ years of experience, I can tell you that while this certainly looks like it will work for many weddings, more and more, it actually isn’t. 

Here are the issues with an 8 hour wedding photography timeline:

There’s no wiggle room or buffer time. 

If things get behind, like makeup and hair (a common one) or family arrives late or flowers aren’t pinned on in time for photos…or any other myriad of reasons (there are lots we’ve seen!) there’s not a lot of room in this schedule to catch back up.  And even though we can try our best to catch back up, it means you won’t have quite the same experience in terms of photography.

I say this to many couples all the time: nobody should feel rushed through their own wedding day.

Think about that again.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime day, and you don’t want to be rushing from place to place or photo-op to this or that…you want to have margins to actually EXPERIENCE your day and enjoy talking with people, stopping to hug your aunt when she arrives a tad early, etc.  That’s what your wedding day is all about, after all.

This is something I encourage every couple to really think hard about – what do you want your wedding day to feel like? If your first reaction is stress-free, fun, or something like “I don’t want to have to worry about anything” then you definitely should consider having more time in your wedding photography coverage.


There’s no time for multiple locations or photo variety

We love being able to be creative and in the moment with our couples.  And we love offering you LOTS of beautiful photos, so this is a big one – if you want to stop around several spots at your venue….inside, outside, around back….down the street, etc….then you need more than 30 minutes for your couples photos and more than 30 for your bridal party.  Those are the bare minimum suggested times we give to our couples, and that assumes one location at your venue.

As an example, we had a couple choose the incredibly beautiful botanical gardens for their wedding.  It was breathtaking!  This couple had reserved us for 8 hours and we built a timeline somewhat similar to this one, however, we were unaware that the couple wanted to utilize almost every potential location at the venue.  Not just for couples photos, but for bridal party and family portraits.  And unfortunately, due to time, we couldn’t quite get it all in (we got REALLY close though!)

Can we get all of your couples photos done in 30 mins? Sure.  But it will be rushed, and we won’t’ be able to go to more than one spot, even at a single venue/location.  That may sound extreme, but moving a bride in a white gown, attempting not to get the dress dirty, getting everyone in position, and then relocating to do it again….well, it takes time.  Same with a bridal party and family.

There’s no time for video

As more and more couples have videographers at their weddings, there is time needed for things like recording audio of letters or vows.  Videographers also need to get creative just like we do and it’s nice for them to have a little extra time to film sequences so that the photo/video team isn’t trying to compromise their work by shooting around one another or worse, stumbling over each other.

There’s no time for dismissing/greeting your guests

If you’d like to dismiss your guests or have a receiving line, you definitely definitely need to plan time for this.  We always ask about this in advance, but occasionally couples have decided spur of the moment to greet guests and it can throw your reception timing off in a big way.  It takes at least 30 minutes to greet everyone at a 150 person wedding…so add more time if you’ve got a bigger guest list.

There’s minimal time for sentimental candid moments

We love the in-between moments when we aren’t posing you, and our couples do too.  And most of those are unscripted and happen because our couples can enjoy stopping to chat with guests, family members, or just each other.  And when you are trying to move from one photo opportunity to another, you can’t really stop and enjoy things as easily.

There’s not much time for travel

If you’re getting ready somewhere other than your ceremony, which is fairly common, there’s very little travel time in this timeline after the bride is in her gown, and there may need to be more travel time after portraits to get to the ceremony as well. And I always encourage people to add at least 15 minutes to their expected travel time because from our experience, it’s usually needed.

There’s no time for reception detail photos or sunset photos

Depending on the time of year, you may not have any time in your day for sunset photos.  That’s one of our couples’ FAVORITE parts of the day – it’s those “we just got married!” photos that are usually everyone’s favorites.  We highly recommend setting aside at least 15 mins in your day for those photos.  And if you have a gorgeous reception hall setup, we need at least 15-30 minutes to photograph that as well – and that’s before guests arrive to set down their bags or coats.

So why should I choose an 8 hour wedding photography package?

You may be thinking that we never recommend 8 hours for photography based on all that I’ve written, but that’s not the case!  Here are a few instances where it can work well:

Smaller Families or Bridal Parties

If your bridal party is 6 people and/or fewer or your immediate families are smaller than 10 people, this timeline can work since group photos won’t take quite as long.


Everything is at one location

When your getting ready, prep, portraits, ceremony, and reception are all at the same location, this becomes a bit more doable.  Though we’d still argue that more time would be beneficial for all of your portrait time.


Let’s look at a 10 hour day…

Here’s a peek into what a 10 hour wedding photography day can look like:

12 Details & Getting Ready Candids

1:15 Bride into Gown

1:30  First Look with Bridesmaids & Dad

1:45  Bridal Portraits

2 First Look & Couple’s Portraits

2:45 Bridal Party Portraits

3:30 Family Portraits

4:15 Pre Ceremony

5:oo  Ceremony

5:45  Greet/Dismiss Guests or Additional Photo time OR mingle with guests!

6:00 Cocktail Hour

6:30 Photograph Reception Details

7:00 Guests Seated

7:15 Grand Entrance/Cake Cutting/ Welcome

7:30 Dinner

7:45 Sunset Photos

8:30 Toasts

9 PM Cake Served

9:15 First Dances & Special Dances

10 Coverage Ends


So besides solving nearly all of the problems listed above, a ten hour wedding photography package gives you these added benefits:

More time for special first looks!

If you want a moment with your father or bridesmaids seeing you in your dress for the first time, we highly suggest making sure you have an additional 30 minutes for this in your schedule.  The minimum is 15, but really, to get everyone in position without seeing the bride first, can be a bit of an undertaking.  We recommend 30, and if you have some leftover time, that’s always a good thing!

Bridal Portraits are an option

This is the ONE day you’re going to wear your gown and be the bride, and we love making sure we have beautiful portraits of just you.  Sometimes the schedule can be so tight, we literally have less than a minute to capture you solo.  There’s definitely more time for something like this with a 10 hour day.

Reception Candids

One thing many more of our couples are excited about is photos of them with their guests once the dancing starts.  Our couples love to have FUN and their guests do too!  The only way for us to photograph these moments is to have us stay longer than the special first dances.  With 10 hours, it’s much easier for us to do that!


More photography creativity and a stress-free day

This is probably THE biggest reason we encourage couples to consider more time for their wedding photography.  Not only does it allow you to have a more relaxing and less-rushed day,  but it enables us to have a bit more time to get creative.  We do our best work when we have the time to choose the best locations & lighting and set up everything just so.  That’s not to say we can’t do it on an 8 hour day, we totally can, but we can do quite a bit more creatively when we have more time and aren’t worried about getting to the next thing.


This sunset photo below wouldn’t have happened without careful planning and enough time in their day to step aside and enjoy a little of that newlywed bliss!

So why should I choose 10 hours of photography?

There are obviously lots of benefits to having more photography coverage on your day.  But here’s some FOR SURE reasons you should absolutely choose 10 hours:

  • When you have more than 30 minutes of travel between your ceremony and reception.  Believe us, it ALWAYS takes longer than you expect to transport your bridal party.  Always.  For us as your photographer, we will also need time to set up upon arrival, photograph your reception details, and communicate with your venue manager, caterer, and/or DJ.
  • When you want to go off-site for photos.  We love when we get to explore beyond your ceremony and reception venue for photo locations!  While sometimes we can incorporate a quick stop, oftentimes, it’s best to add extra time for visiting additional spots beyond your main venues.  If you’re renting a party bus and going around for a while, usually you want at least 60-90 minutes so that you can have a fun stop for some drinks but also a quick stop for some fun photos with you and your best friends.
  • Catholic ceremony.  We have a whole blog post about Catholic ceremonies and things to consider, but one thing that is a give-in for nearly every Catholic wedding we photograph is that the ceremony is held typically around 1 or 2 PM and lasts an hour (or sometimes more!)  and if you are planning to have dinner at 5 or 6 PM, there’s just no reasonable way to photograph everything in less than 10 hours.  Years ago we had a couple who tried to squeeze things in to 8 hours and even with our advice to add additional time, their time ended right as the reception began.  We of course asked if they wanted us to stay longer, which they declined – it was sad to leave knowing all of those personal moments at their reception would be missed.  For that reason, we really encourage our couples planning Catholic weddings to book 10 hours.  We have helped quite a few of these couples work through their timeline – just ask us!!! We’d love to help.
  • You’re going to have an awesome party!  Whether you’re getting married on New Year’s Eve or you just have a fun bunch of friends, we’ve had several couples who are just excited about the PARTY! Photographing your celebration in all its glory is a TON of fun for us.  If you know your crowd is going to have a raucous good time, consider having us stay later.  We’ve had captured some incredible moments during those late nights!


When you need more…

There are some instances where we recommend all-day coverage with our couples.  For couples who just don’t want to worry about anything and make sure everything is covered, then having us there all day is going to be best.  We also recommend all-day coverage for Indian weddings as well as many other cross-cultural weddings.


Still have questions about which option is best for you, 8 vs 10?  We would love to help you out.  We have several custom timelines already built that we’d be happy to send to you!  Send us an email at and they’ll be on their way to your inbox!



Hey there, and welcome to the JWP blog!  We are a photography team based in Iowa and we’re glad you’re here!  We hope you’ll enjoy viewing our most recent weddings, tips brides, and business and educational resources for photographers.  


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