How I Work, St Louis Wedding Photography, St. Charles Wedding Photography, Wedding, Wedding Photography

Wedding Day Tip – Reception Timing

Problem: The ceremony is at noon, the reception is from 6:00 to 11:00. That many hours with the photographer is going to get expensive!

Yes, that is a problem – if the couple wants every minute of the reception photographed. In reality most receptions are covered very well in less than three hours of photography time. If time is tight is can be done in as little as 90 minutes. At receptions you want to have the major events photographed (toasts, first dances, cake cutting) and get some photos of guests (dancing, talking, and generally having a good time). But after a very few minutes of crowd dancing it all starts to look about the same so spending hundreds of dollars on additional hours of reception photography really isn’t recommended.


Here are two great timelines for reception coverage that isn’t rushed and have worked really well. Obviously you’ll want to adjust for your own needs.

Under three hoursFirst_Dance

  • Arrive at venue, get lined up – 10 minutes
  • Intro – 5 minutes
  • Toasts – 15 minutes
  • Dinner – 45 minutes
  • Meet and greet – 30 minutes
  • Cake cutting – 10 minutes
  • First dance/parent dances – 15 minutes
  • Bouquet/garter toss – 10 minutes
  • General dancing

You’ll notice that this adds up to just over two and a half hours with general dancing filling an unspecified amount of time. It just depends on the crowd and how long it takes for the party to get started. This also assumes a buffet style meal. For a served meal you’ll want to add at least 45 minutes to the dinner time. If you’re having a dollar dance, do it after the photographer leaves. It’s not as great of a photo op as most couples think (the photographer is not going to get a shot of every partner you’re dancing with anyway) and they take so long any money you make will wind up paying for the extra photography time anyway.


Now, if time is a factor – and sometimes it is – here’s a plan for getting most of the above in about an hour and a half:

90 minute coverage

  • Arrive at venue, get lined up – 10 minutes
  • Intro – 5 minutes
  • Toasts – 10 minutes (tell them to be succinct)
  • Dinner – 20 minutes (remember, you eat first so you can be doing your thing while guests finish eating)
  • Cake cutting – 10 minutes
  • First dance/parent dances – 15 minutes
  • General dancing
  • Bouquet/garter toss – 10 minutes

Leave the meet and greet and dollar dance (if applicable) until afterward.


I’ve photographed my share of LONG receptions. I could make more money if I said, “You want every minute photographed!” but it’s just not a good use of your photography funds.


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