The  length of a wedding ceremony matters! The wedding ceremony is the whole reason why your whole day is even planned out in the first place—why so much effort is even put forth. It is the centerpiece of the day. It is the focal point. It’s why so much money is spent. It’s why you hire all the vendors. It’s why you purchase the dress. It’s the legal formality. And, it’s the religious formality in a lot of cases.

It is “the thing” that every other thing is revolving around on your special day. The length of your wedding ceremony is literally the amount of time that you are giving your wedding photographer to capture images during your ceremony.

In my book, I discuss letting your photographer know when things like your first dance is going to be shortened—especially with dads or moms. Sometimes those relationships have a little bit of friction and those dances are sometimes shortened because the bride or groom doesn’t want to spend four minutes and 11 seconds on the dance floor with their parents in a very intimate situation. So those songs are shortened to just 30 seconds or 60 seconds. Sometimes the photographer is notified sometimes they are not. But I always advise letting your photographer know so they are aware that they only have 60 seconds to capture images and to work all the angles.

The Length of Your Wedding Ceremony Matters

I looked at the timestamps on the images from a wedding that I shot last year that had a very short ceremony—the shortest I think I’ve ever experienced. Excluding the procession and the recession, the timestamp on the first image I took of the ceremony was 5:34 p.m. and 51 seconds. The last image of the kiss happened at 5:39 p.m. and 50 seconds, so that was one second short of a five-minute ceremony. Again, that was excluding the procession and the recession. The couple and the officiant were all aware that this would be an extremely short ceremony, but no one bothered to tell me.

During that five minutes, I took 56 images. And on this particular wedding, I also had a second shooter working with me. Ironically, he also took exactly 56 images. (We have been shooting together since August of 2013. I guess we are very intuitive and we can read each other’s minds. Shout out to Fred!) 

But together, in that five minutes, we took 112 images. If you break this down mathematically, I took 11.2 images a minute or about one image every 5.5 seconds. Together, we captured 22 images a minute or about one image every 2.7 seconds. I cull or toss out at least 50% of the images I take.

The reason that you cull images is that you don’t want to overwhelm your couples with bad images. You only want to deliver the best of the best images. A lot of the images that you take are duplicate images, especially during the ceremony because you are trying to avoid closed eyes or bad expressions. If it’s an outdoor ceremony, the wind may be blowing hair across people’s faces. So you take multiple, consecutive images to try to avoid that or something weird in the background.

Usually during a ceremony, I will tend to make three or four trips around the ceremony site. This particular wedding, I didn’t even make a complete loop around the ceremony. I went around about three-quarters before it was time for the first kiss. 

So out of curiosity, I went back to the very last wedding I shot to review timestamps and the number of images captured.  I shot my last wedding solo, so it was just me. The very first image that I took of that ceremony happened at 5:37 p.m. My last image I took was at 5:56. So it was just short of a 20-minute ceremony and I delivered 124 images from the ceremony alone.

When you are severely limiting the time of your ceremony, you are severely limiting the work that your photographer can do during that time. You are really not giving your photographer time to photograph any of your guests—which is something that I like to do. I like to photograph guests watching and reacting and I like to capture their emotion while they are watching your ceremony. 

I’ll try to catch Grandma crying, dad hugging mom, or mom hugging dad. I’ll try to look for kids playing in the audience or digging in their nose or something cute or devious like that. Sometimes the ring bearer will run off and his mom will go off trying to catch him. You know? It’s something that the couple may be totally oblivious what’s happening and they won’t know that any of this stuff happened until they view the images. 

When you severely limit the time of the ceremony, there’s really no time for your photographer to be creative. They can’t look for a sharp reflections or dramatic shadows. They can’t try to layer subjects or objects. They can’t look for ways to get your parents in the same shot with you. They can’t find ways to shoot through doors or windows or over or under the church pews or through someone’s legs or over someone’s shoulders.  There won’t be any time to discover how to shoot from outside the open-air chapel. There’s no way to tell a very creative story when you have merely minutes to work.

If there’s a reason why you don’t really want to make a big to-do about your ceremony—maybe you’re not very religious or you just don’t like being the center of attention—there are some things you can do to kind of make it not about that. You can ask someone else to give a small sermon, deliver a short speech, recite a life lesson, or maybe tell a story about you and your partner. Have someone else do some readings from the Bible, write and release a short poem, or recite lyrics to a song. 

This is a great opportunity to invite some of your special friends who weren’t a part of your wedding party to be a part of your wedding day. If some of those friends are musically inclined, you could have them come up and sing a song or play a musical instrument. You could also dedicate something or make a tribute to members of your family who have passed on. 

I just really want to stress that your photographer can’t make images out of something that didn’t happen and I would recommend that your ceremony be a minimum of at least 15 minutes

I would like to remind you that if any aspect of your day is going to be shortened, whether it be your ceremony, your first dances, your speeches, your toasts, or your reception, make sure that your photographer is aware. 

Make sure that your photographer has worked through your timeline with you and has asked these questions so they know that if there is an obstacle, that they know they need to work with that obstacle or can educate you so that there won’t be an obstacle. But either way, you will get better images because ultimately that’s what you want, right? You want better images, so if there is an obstacle and you don’t know there’s an obstacle, that’s what we want to fix. I hope there are no obstacles in front of your photographer on your wedding day so that they can capture beautiful, emotive, wonderful images.

Let’s “hangout!” I wanna hear about your love story!

Schedule a virtual or in-person discovery meetup!
For more options, visit my “Let’s Connect” page. 

About Ata-Girl

I am a San Antonio-based wedding photographer and I cater to outdoor-loving couples who prefer to have all the realness captured on their wedding days. I am the wedding photographer for the outdoor adventurers, the romantics, the laid-back, the snugglers, and those who wish to capture all their realness.

I am absolutely in love with capturing the kinds of weddings where there are more hugs than handshakes, the dance floor rumbles all night long, and chairs are pretty much rendered useless after dinner. Whiskey bottles are passed around, most of the wedding party has been best-best friends since kindergarten, Grams is likely to lose her shoes and your partner is much more emotional than you are. These kinds of weddings are my jam!

You can always call or text, but if you really want to get to know me, schedule a meetup!

I started Ata-Girl Photography Co., LLC in 2010. I firmly believe that the unique set of circumstances I have faced in life has prepared me to take a personal and genuine interest in my photography clients. I enjoy documenting the important milestones and captivating moments in people’s lives. I love being a part of people’s journeys and consider myself privileged to document their legacies.

If you enjoyed this blog post and would like to get your hands on 20 FREE interactive wedding planning tools that every couple needs, please take a moment to access them here.

I am a published author (purchase my book here), a podcast host (listen here) (watch here) and a WPPI-C certified professional, full-time wedding photographer. I specialize in a 10-day image delivery, same-day prints, same-day slideshows, Italian handcrafted wedding albums and I have a mobile meeting space.

When I’m not behind my camera, you can find me hiking, cycling, backpacking, camping, enjoying water sports, listening to music (Elvis and Prince), hunting for arrowheads, reading audiobooks, occasionally eating a few glazed donuts (my only weakness to sweets) and then re-starting my keto diet about every 10 days. The most important things in life are for me to see my two daughters happy and to create a family history my grandparents and grandchildren would be proud of.