How many hours of photo & video coverage do I really need at my wedding?


So, just how long do you really need your photographer and videographer to stay at your wedding i.e. how many hours of coverage do you need that day?

After “pricing” or “how much do wedding packages cost”,  this is probably the most common question we receive from clients.  By far it is the 2nd most popular question we are asked.

I’m asked this question virtually every single day here in the office — and I help clients plan their wedding.

The total amount of time is “all over the board.”  We do weddings anywhere from 2 hours up to 12 hours….every client is a little different.

We recommend asking the “coverage” question by your photo & video team or ask your wedding planner or catering manager.  You want to get everyone involved with your timing.

Clients come to us with this question because they want the best lighting possible for their photos and video.

Let’s begin!

I start the conversation with every client…”Ok.  Let’s start with your ceremony start time.”  Because that is usually fixed in stone.

And from there, I can walk you through how to plan your timeline for the day.

So, let’s use a fictitious example.

Let’s say your ceremony is at 5pm….we then look up on your date what time sunset is.

We use the website  Of course there are other websites that provide this information, but we’ve found that website is quite accurate.

Sunset during wedding photos
Sunset during wedding photos in South Beach Miami

You type in your date, your location and then can see the time of day sunset is on that day.

Normally, we would back your wedding schedule out from there.

So, let’s say is at 6:30pm that day.

If you did a 5pm ceremony, you’re probably in really good shape.
Let’s say your ceremony is 20-30 minutes, and then you want about an hour after ceremony for the “formals” or the formal photos, the bridal portraits.

This is also the same time as cocktail hour.

So, once you have the ceremony time is 5pm and sunset is at 6:30pm – that gives you one and half hours.
We tell all our clients that we “highly recommend” (if you’re shooting outside) to have your ceremony and all your formal photos completed by sunset.

Yes, you can get a little bit of light after sunset, but not much.  Count on 10 minutes maybe 15 but I would not count on much more than that.

And of course it depends on where you are.

Do you have tall buildings or trees or forest blocking the sun so sunset could even be earlier.

So now you know… hour for the formal photos (and also cocktail hour) and then from there, we go backward…

Do you want any of the “getting ready” covered by your photographer or videographer?

Not everybody does want it covered.

I’d say about 4 out of 5 of our clients want some of the getting ready.

At the moment, right now, the average is about 2 hours before ceremony start time is when most of our clients ask us to show up i.e. our “start time.”

So, if you had a ceremony start time of 5pm, on average, clients ask us to show up at 3pm.

Of course, that really depends on where you’re getting ready.

If you’re doing the getting ready at the same location as the ceremony, well that saves a lot of time.

A bride getting ready for her big day
A bride getting ready for her big day

But if you’re doing the getting ready at a different location: a hotel, your house an Air-BnB, etc…you’ve got to factor in a little travel time.

And then if the bride and groom are getting ready at the same location, ok, that saves times.

Sometimes, the bride and groom are at different locations for the getting ready.

But, on average, we are asked to arrive two hours before ceremony start time.

We could arrive one hour before and it sounds like one hour of the getting ready should be sufficient but you really don’t end up getting a full hour of the getting ready because once we are finished with the getting ready, we have to break down our equipment and run over to the ceremony area and get into place prior to you arriving or the groom or the officiant walking down the aisle…we want to get all that – it’s called the processional.

So, to do that and to get in place on time, we have to leave 20 minutes before you walk down the aisle.

Our videographer has to leave even a little earlier to get to the ceremony area.  Once there we will “mic” the officiant and/or the groom;  plug into the venue’s amp system if they have one; do an audio check, etc.

We have to get all that ready so we have to leave the getting ready about 30 minutes before the processional and about 20 minutes for our photographer to get into place.

So, the time needed for the getting ready is 2 hours on average.  Some clients will request 3 hours but VERY rarely will any client ask for more than 3 hours of the getting ready phase of our coverage.  Very rarely.

We’re doing about 100 weddings per year right now.

We probably are only doing 3,4 or 5 per year that want 3 hours of getting ready coverage.  Two hours is the norm.

Now, we’ve got the ceremony time.
We’ve got the sunset time.

We’ve got the “getting ready” time.

Now, we’re going to jump forward to the reception.

Receptions, oftentimes it’s a 4 or 5 hour contract with your wedding venue.  Something like that.

We then ask the client:

“What time does your party end?”

Let’s say the reception ends at 11pm.

So that tells us:   5pm ceremony, 6:30pm sunset,   your done with your ceremony & formals by 6:30pm.  Cocktail hour is just ending.  So you’re probably doing your “entrance” now, where you are going into the reception while everybody cheers for you.

Then, we ask the client:


“Is there anything going on at the reception that you really want to make sure is covered?”


One area that clients can save a lot of money is not keeping your photo & video team until the very end of the night.
Most clients don’t.

So, of course we could try to sell you more by telling you to keep photo & video until the end of the night.

I don’t agree with it.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been at a wedding and the last 45 minutes or so and it’s only 20 or so people standing around a bar…and our Team there with them.

It’s a waste.  You don’t really need to capture that.

The only time clients keep us until the very end of the night is…


If there is something scheduled at the end of the night that you really want to capture

For example with Latin weddings many do a “La hora loca” — the crazy hour, sometimes that is at the very end of the night.

Or, if you’re doing a “send off” – for example, a sparkler sendoff at the end of the night.

A beautiful wedding sparkler sendoff we captured
A beautiful wedding sparkler sendoff we captured in West Palm Beach

That would be the only reason to keep your photo & video team until the very end of the night.

Otherwise, most clients have us leave about an hour early before the end of the night.

Now, if that is the case you just want to make sure that you “front load” any of those events or things that are happening during the reception that are important, that you want covered.

So, your entrance; if you are doing a “first dance”; parent dances or special dances…you want those at the beginning of your wedding reception. If you’re doing any toasts or speeches, get those done at the beginning.  Or if you are throwing the bouquet or cutting the cake, do those at the beginning.

Try to get all that done so that it is covered by photo & video and we’re not missing anything.  And the finally the last hour or so is just dancing.

So if you have an 11pm end time for the reception, you might have your photo & video team there until 10pm.

So now, let’s recap the whole thing.

5pm is your ceremony (but I recommend putting 4:30pm on your wedding invitations.  That’s what most clients will do.  There is a 30 minute extra buffer time between what the invitation says and when you actually walk down the aisle, the processional.

4:30pm – invite

5pm – processional – walk down the aisle

6:30pm – sunset

Go backwards now.

We arrive at 3pm giving us about 2 hours of getting ready time.

Fast forward – 6:30pm – your entrance.
Party ends at 11pm.

Photo & video leave at 10pm.

So, now you’re looking at a 3pm start time and a 10pm end time.

That’s a 7 hour contract.  A very common contract that we do.

It would give you good coverage–covering pretty much everything from the day.

We could do a 6 hour contract – or we could do less. But now you start cutting into the getting ready time and the reception.

What is the hardest?  It’s not what you think …

The most difficult contract is 5 hours long ….

Why?  When the client wants a 5 hour contract, they are trying to squeeze in some of the getting ready and some of the reception.

And you’re just not going to get it.  It’s going to be really tight.

But when you go to 6 hours, you have a little more breathing room.

The clients that want 4 or fewer hours — they get it.  They understand they’re not going to get any of the “getting ready” … and they’re ok with that.

So they can do a 4 hour contract or even 3 hours.

But 5 hours is really one of the more tricky contracts.

Finally, one of the questions that comes up occasionally is …

A client who wants all-day coverage

Let me explain what all-day coverage is.  It was started by amateur wedding photographers.  They were trying to get into the market and they had to position themselves against more experienced and established wedding photo studios.  So, what could they offer?  Well, they couldn’t offer their reputation, or experience or years in the business or whatever.  But they could offer all-day coverage.  So, all-day coverage means they will show up as early as you want and leave when you want.

I don’t recommend it …

First of all, if you’re going to have somebody work 14 hours that day you’re not going to get quality work at the end of the day.  Trust me.  People are tired after being on their feet running around for 14 hours.  It’s just not good quality.  And I have found that when a client is comparing our quotes versus to somebody else’s and they mention all-day coverage… I always ask… just check out the background…of that photographer;  how long have they been in business;  check their reviews, etc.   And every single time, it’s a new amateur, newbie photographer… and if you’re ok with that, go for it.  But we don’t offer all-day coverage because we do have a professional Team that I employ.  I have to pay them hourly and I can’t just say “Hey, here is your day-rate for the entire day.”  It’s not fair to the Team and we pride ourselves on having a great Team.  And we think we pay very well also.  So, that’s the concept of all-day coverage for wedding photography or videography.  But again, to recap….


The number of hours…how long do you really need your photographer…

Or videographer there…it depends on the variables that I talked about.  Start with theMiami Wedding Photographers & videographers ceremony time; factor in the sunset time; go backwards; maybe a couple of hours for the getting ready; go forwards to the reception; find out what time the party ends…. and then cut your team lose maybe an hour early from that.  I hope that helps!  I hope clients all week with their timing and schedules.   Don’t hesitate to call us at 305-333-6388 or