Planning for a relaxing wedding day: cushion time

I had a great question from a bride this morning and as I started typing out my response, I thought, "this would be a great blog post!"


"Hi! I have a question. I know that your packages only went up to 10 hours, but I was wondering if you ever contract beyond that 10 hours. I'm a little nervous about starting at 11:00 am, but we definitely would like you to stay until 9:00 pm (or maybe 10). I'm just not really sure! What do you think?"




When I meet with a bride and groom, I give them an infographic that explains my price points on coverage time, upgrades, and albums- it's like a build your own sundae bar but with combo suggestions. I customize each day's coverage, but the infographic shows the most popular options so things don't get too confusing. I'm one of those people who gets overwhelmed in those super grocery stores with 90 different kinds of olive oil. So I give a couple options and that gets the ball rolling.


One option that isn't listed on my infographic is 12 hours of coverage. 12 hours is a popular option amongst wedding photographers, and usually the biggest package offered.  So why don't I push the big ticket item?


Well, I've shot a handful of 12 hour weddings as a second shooter and they seemed loooong, but here's why...those weddings spent their photography budget on the end of the night. When coverage goes until midnight or later, we get a lot of dancing shots that are repetitive, or maybe not something you wouldn't use in your album. ( i.e., Shirtless, perspiry groomsmen.) Then again, maybe you do want all the shenanigans captured for posterity! In most cases though, I find that 90 minutes of dancing coverage strikes a good balance. It's enough warm-up time for guests to let loose, rendering images that show the joy and revelry of the reception without shooting the more gritty late night shots that guests may not want showing up on Facebook.



Even if a couple is doing a fun send off (sparklers, glow sticks, sky lanterns) I suggest doing them earlier in the night (10:30 or earlier) before many of the guests depart and revelry takes it's toll on the remaining guests' sobriety! So I don't typically encourage my brides to book late night coverage unless it's a New Year Eve wedding or the ceremony starts after 5:00.


On the other hand, starting photography coverage earlier is great because that's when you are rushing around trying to capture all the beautiful details, bridal portraits, and the behind the scenes excitement before walking down the aisle. That part of the day always seems a little rushed to photographers (though I strive to keep things calm and relaxed so I'm not stressing anyone out!)


If you look at your wedding day timeline and want to ensure a comfortable pace, it might be worthwhile to start photography coverage earlier in the morning and build in cushion time. Makeup takes longer than expected? Flowers aren't delivered early? Zipper gets stuck? No prob, if you build in a cushion. You should also take into consideration if there is any travel time built into your day. Two or more locations throws in the risk of traffic, construction, or someone in the bridal party being late to the next venue. In those situations, cushion time can give you piece of mind.


I  hope this food for thought is helpful! Happy planning!


Focusing on relationships, real moments, and story-telling, Claire Watson specializes in photography that captures true beauty and feels genuine and authentic. Claire Watson is a West Virginia Wedding Photographer based in Martinsburg, WV. She joyfully serves clients in West Virginia, Northern Virginia, and Maryland.
adviceClaire Watson