How Many Hours Should You Offer in Your Wedding Packages?

Hold onto your horses because I’m about to share a hot take that’s surely going to ruffle some wedding photographer feathers.


You should not be capping your service time on wedding days.


In other words, you shouldn’t be offering packages that are 4, 6, 8, 10 hours or an additional cost per extra hour. In doing this, you’re forcing couples to make a choice: do they care more about getting ready photos or reception photos? Your duty as a photographer is to tell the full story of your client’s wedding day. Personally, I don't believe you can do that when you limit the amount of time you're there because you miss out on key moments.


Hear me out here, people.

I know there are a lot of photographers that try to do two weddings per day, and that’s why they limit their service time. But personally, I do not see how you can physically do that. Weddings sap the energy out of you both physically and emotionally. It would not feel ethically right to me to agree to two weddings in one day because I KNOW I would not be giving the second wedding my best self. I just don’t think that’s right or fair to my clients to show up tired and haggard on the most important day of their lives. But hey - if you have the energy, the more power to ya.


Another reason photographers cap their service time is because there’s only so many getting ready photos and so many dancing photos you can take before things get repetitive. At the start of the day, it can be pretty boring as you wait around for everyone to get primped and ready. Nobody wants pictures before they have their hair and makeup done. And it can get very repetitive at the end of the day when everyone is dancing for three hours straight and nothing new is happening except people getting sweatier and drunker. But here’s the thing: weddings are unpredictable. You never know what super special moment might happen! How would you feel if you missed that?


I remember at one of my favorite weddings at Snoqualmie Ridge Golf Club this summer, the reception was really long and after a while, there wasn’t anything super new to capture. I had worked with my bride super hard to map out the whole day, time-stamping any important moments so we didn't miss anything. Everything critical was done by 9:30pm. Or so I thought. I knew they were doing a sparkler sendoff, but what I didn’t know was that the groom’s dad dressed up in a cute driver’s outfit and decked their car out for the grand send-off! It was SO CUTE and SO SWEET! I'm tearing up right now just thinking about it. He surprised everyone. If I hadn’t stuck it out through the full reception, I would have missed this special moment.

There have been other instances where the groom surprises the bride with a letter or present first thing in the morning. These always have such beautiful, emotional responses - it would be a shame to miss documenting them.


My last and final point here is that ultimately, you’re forcing your couple to prioritize one part of their wedding over the other. They have to decide what’s most important, when in reality, it’s all important. They’ve spent months, if not years, planning this day. They’ve put so much time, energy, and money into making every second of this day perfect. You also don’t want to put yet another decision (and potentially a disagreement) on their plate. One partner might think getting ready photos are more important than a grand exit, but the other partner has been dreaming about a grand exit forever. You don’t want to be the cause of more tension during an already stressful time. I just don’t believe it’s fair to force my couples to make that choice when they can have it all.

To summarize, here’s why I don’t believe wedding photographers should cap their service time:

  • You run the risk of missing out on special moments and surprises

  • You can’t tell the full story of the wedding day if you’re not there all day

  • If you’re trying to do two weddings in one day, you won’t be able to give as much energy to the second as you would the first

  • You force the couple to make a decision as to what is most important to them, when in reality, it’s all important

If you’re a fellow photographer reading this, crossing your arms, and scoffing at my naivete, that’s fine. You don’t have to agree with me. This is my personal philosophy based on my values and what I believe my clients deserve. You’ve probably been doing the same thing forever and if capping your service time is working for you, great! It’s just not my jam.


And if you’re a bride or groom reading this feeling bummed your photographer capped your time, don’t worry. It’s the industry standard. You will be fine, and I’m sure your photographer will do an amazing job. I definitely have a very unique, uncommon perspective on this.


Finally, if you haven’t decided on a wedding photographer yet and like what you’ve read, I’d love to chat. I have a few other philosophies that are uncommon for the industry that provide far more value to my clients than the standard photographer. I’d love to share those with you and create a plan for telling the full story of your wedding day perfectly. Let's chat.

Madeleine Wilson is a Seattle, WA based natural light wedding and engagement photographer.

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