So, you found a photographer or company who fits your style.  Now you have the task of working with them to find a package that suits your needs. Before jumping head first into all the details, you need to organize the day in your head. Having a timeline of your wedding day is very important, not only for the photographer, but for the venue, the DJ, and all the others who will play a vital role in making sure your wedding goes off without a hitch. (get it? hitch?)  

Outlining Your Wedding Day Needs

This outline of your day is integral to figuring out how many hours of photography coverage you really need for the big day. This may raise another important question in your mind — do you want photographs of the bridal party getting ready? Do you want the details captured, like the wedding dress, shoes, rings, flowers, and decorations? Do you want just as many shots of the groom and groomsmen pre-wedding as you do of the bride and bridesmaids? Two photographers may be necessary to be able to cover both bride and groom. 

Pre and Post Ceremony Timing

Other aspects of the timeline are travel time, length of ceremony, and location of reception. Times of travel can greatly impact how many hours you need. Continuous photo coverage is typical, so if you have a 45-minute commute to a location, that would be included in the coverage time (whether or not the travel time is being documented). Be mindful of the length of the ceremony as well. Take into account not only the timing of the actual ceremony but also how long it may take you to leave. Are you doing a receiving line? Many clients I talk to don’t even know what a receiving line is. This is where the couple, bridal party, parents and grandparents line up at the rear of the church or venue and greet everyone that came to the ceremony, one by one. This can take a long time, and can impact the time required to take formal photos. Regardless of whether or not you do a receiving line, be sure to leave about 20-30 minutes for formal shots following the ceremony.

Reception Coverage

After the ceremony guests will head to the reception venue, which is where most of the couple’s shots will be taken, during cocktail hour. Try to think about what kind of special things you’ll be doing during the reception that you’ll definitely want captured on film. For example, special dances, speeches, cake cutting, the bouquet toss, and the garter toss, just to name a few. Typically the cake cutting is the last major event for the evening, but every wedding is different. After you get an idea of how long your day might be and what is important for you to have captured, then you can look into the details of each package a photographer offers. It’s best to give yourself a cushion when booking a package, too. 99% of the time, things take longer than expected. Unforeseen delays due to traffic, jitters, wardrobe issues, or any number of things can extend the length of your event. Why be stressed about not having enough coverage? If you’ve anticipated an 8-hour day, don’t book a package that’s exactly 8 hours. Give yourself extra time to be sure that all of your special memories are covered, and not just the predictable ones. 

Understanding Your Options

Many photographers provide standard 8-hour packages, while some may cater to smaller weddings that only require 5-6 hours of coverage. Also, some photographers bundle video and photo booth services with their photography packages. If you are interested in services like these, I highly recommend finding a company or firm that offers all three. Most likely the bundles they offer will save you a pretty penny. Plus, you have the added convenience of dealing with one company for all of your wedding day documentation, and not a photographer, separate videographer, and yet another contact for the photo booth. 

More: Having an outdoor wedding? Be sure the bride and her bridesmaids are picture perfect with camera-ready makeup tips specifically for outdoor weddings.  

Beyond the Booking: The Memories You Keep

It may be difficult to think so far ahead when you’re undoubtedly overwhelmed by all of the planning and decisions, but you will never regret investing in a high-quality wedding album so that your memories can be immortalized long after the day is over. Albums are a great addition to photography packages, and I recommend choosing a package that has an album included. Photographers will usually price albums into packages pretty reasonably. If you choose not to get the album with the package and then decide after the wedding that you want one after all, it could cost substantially more.

Another word to the wise is to make sure the package you choose includes high resolution JPEG images on a USB drive, that you have full rights to them, and that you’ll receive most of the images taken. Also, ask the photographer if they provide online galleries, whether prints are available to order, and who will be the actual photographer on your wedding day. One of the most important questions to ask is who would fill the photographer’s shoes if, for some reason, they become ill or cannot make it. Would that person be qualified and does he or she have a good track record of meeting the photographer’s expectations? 

Most Importantly, You Should Feel Comfortable

The photographer with whom you meet should be well versed in all of the particulars and maybes, and they should be prepared to answer all of your questions. If you don’t feel like your concerns are being addressed or that you are getting clear information about the packages and offerings available, then keep looking. This is your special day, and the right vendors will make you feel at ease.