It's a delicate balance: On one hand, you want to allocate enough time for all the photos you'd like taken; on the other hand, you—and your bridal party—want to get to the party.

By Laura Miller
December 28, 2020
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Credit: Braedon Flynn

We've all been there—the wedding ceremony is over but the next two hours will be taken up by pictures while the guests sit and wait. It's outdated, it's inefficient, and there are far, far better options. We spoke to Rebecca Lance, owner of Rebecca Marie Photography, to figure out exactly how long a wedding portrait session should be.

How Many People?

When deciding on a time for your wedding portraits, the first thing you should consider is the number of people you have standing with you. The length of time it will take to shoot a session with 10 attendants on each side will vary greatly from the time it would take if there's only one maid of honor and one best man. According to Lance, there's much more opportunity for variety when there's a smaller party. From different locations and poses to a more personalized experience, it's much easier to quickly produce photos with small groups than a large one.

The larger your party is, the longer the photographs will take so schedule them earlier in the day, since all of the bridesmaids and groomsmen should be on site; you can save the family shots for after the ceremony.

What Style Are You Going For?

Gone are the days when all wedding pictures look the same—from editorial to fashion forward to photojournalistic, there is a specific style for everyone. However, the style you choose also influences the timing of pictures. If you're searching for a more editorial style, Lance advises a longer time frame for photography since the shots will be more posed and traditional. However, if you want more candid shots, less time can be taken for formal pictures because your photographer will be in the middle of the party with you, catching all the moments that a posed shoot wouldn't pick up.

Remember the Pace

From the moment you wake up, your wedding day will be busy. The activities you choose to do on your big day affect the wedding portrait time, as well. A party who chooses to get ready at the venue will have more time for photos than a party who goes from the hair salon to the bride's mother's house to the hotel and finally to the venue.

When scheduling your wedding-day activities, keep in mind that precious pictures need to be taken, as well, and work closely with your wedding planner and photographer to create a timeline that works well for you, your photographer, and your guests.

Consider a First Look

Lance always recommends a first look, not only to help the flow of the day but also for the benefit of the couple. A wedding day is stressful enough, and a first look allows the couple to breathe, relax, and spend some time together, alone, before the rest of the day begins. You'll also have more time to take photos, just the two of you, which cuts down on the time required later. Finally, a large portion of the portraits, including with your groom, your bridal party, and your family, can be taken before guests even arrive—while makeup and clothes are fresh—if you've already had a first look.

So, what does all this mean? In short, a bridal portrait session needs to be scheduled and worked into the wedding-day itinerary. Lance recommends around two hours, depending on the size of the party, of course—30 minutes for the couple themselves, 45 minutes for the wedding party, and the last 45 minutes for family photographs.

In short, don't leave your guests hanging. Schedule your bridal portrait session either in pieces throughout the day or with a time limit in mind. Besides, your wedding day flies by. Spend it celebrating with the people you love the most.

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