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This answer depends on several factors:
If you are eloping or having an intimate wedding with around 35 or fewer guests, you may want a photographer for as little as 2 hours. Most will want around six hours.
If your wedding is including a large guest list and/or a large wedding party, you will want eight hours of coverage, typically. Some will want up to ten hours.
Even if you are eloping, you may have multiple parts of your day happening in several locations – and you may want photos of all of it. Knowing how many hours of coverage you will need may be impossible until you’ve mapped out your entire day from getting ready through celebrating with a cake and toasts.
If you and your partner are getting ready in separate locations and you want photos of it all, you will need a second shooter.
If you are having an intimate or larger wedding, you may be in one venue from getting ready through saying good bye. You will likely need less time than somebody who wants getting ready shots at one location, the ceremony at another, plus a transfer to the reception.
If you will be seeing each other before the ceremony, you will likely get 90% of your posed photos completed before the ceremony. That leaves more time for you to enjoy your wedding celebration during your cocktail hour and reception, it can also mean a need for more or less time needed with your photographer.
You will want to start photos about an hour earlier if you are taking more photos before your ceremony than you would if most of your posed photos are taking place during the cocktail hour. An earlier start time doesn’t = more total hours, necessarily.
Not every moment of your day needs to be captured. You may want “getting ready photos”, but if you have hired an onsite MUAH, that process starts hours before you are ready to put on your attire and accessories. You probably do want detail photos of your attire and accessories or even photos of yourself receiving the final touches from your makeup artist that just means your photographer should arrive about an hour before you plan to be fully dressed and ready.
If you don’t want any professional photos until you are at your venue and looking your best, you do not need to book your photographer to start until about 30 minutes before you personally arrive at your venue (if the venue will be set and ready with access for detail venue shots).
Once the partying starts, you will want photos of key events like toasts, first dances, and cake cutting. You may want sunset couples photos if your venue sets a great scene for it. Please note, the sunsets are very late during Oregon summers. Many of our picturesque venues sit in counties with strict noise ordinances. If so, your wedding may end well before sunset. Google the time for sunset on your wedding day in your venue’s location, when making these decisions.
You may be planning a photo worthy grand exit. This doesn’t mean your photographer needs to stay for the last dance. You can stage an exit at a set time. Make sure it will be the right lighting if you plan sparklers or glow wands. If you plan an exit for 8pm in early July, it will still be full daylight. Maybe do a ribbon wand instead.
If you are planning a new look for the after party and you want photos, consider changing before the staged exit and wear that look until the end – or hire your photographer for extended hours.
If you know you have a wild group who will stay til the end and beyond, consider they may not want or need photo documentation of the late night hours, and you really may never want to see those pictures. If you have six hours of dancing planned, just know the photos all look the same after awhile. You could get candids of the first hour and that’s plenty.
If you are having an elopement, with just a few of your dearest friends and loved ones, but you are journeying together through an entire well planned day and you want photo documentation of every minute you could need eight hours of coverage. If you are having a simple civil ceremony and a bbq hosted by your dear friends, you may just want two hours.
If you are hosting a large wedding in your family’s backyard and bringing in a Sperry Tent and $20,000 in floral installations, you will want a lot of photos over 8 – 10 hours. If you are hosting a large wedding at home and keeping it very simple with lots of children and guests of all ages, you may only want 6 hours of coverage.
If you’ve planned a Vogue worthy wedding for 35 and have an amazing getting ready location, full ceremony and reception plus a swanky club buyout for an after party (complete with new wardrobe and entertainment surprises) you may want 12 hours of coverage.
Always check with your photographer on advice and make sure your planner has all the information about what exactly you want photographed and what you don’t, for when they build your timeline.