Choosing the Perfect Ceremony Start Time

Saying “I Do” at just the right moment in time..

What time do we start getting ready? Where do the groomsmen need to be? How will we know when to start the reception? These are all questions couples begin asking themselves after the planning has begun. It’s little details like choosing the perfect ceremony start time that can have couples on the edge and stressed out…. but it doesn’t have to be. Let me help you.

Having your ceremony begin at the perfect time isn’t as easy as saying “oh I think 4 pm is good so let’s do that!” There are some things to really think about that will affect your ceremony’s start.

Things to ask yourself:

  • What time will the sun be setting?
  • Will we be doing a first look with one another? Meaning you see one another before the bride walks down the aisle.
  • How many family portraits do I plan to have and accommodate for?
  • How big is my wedding party?
  • Where does the sun set at my venue?

Let’s dive in a little deeper with these and see why they are notable in asking yourselves..

What Time Will the Sun Set at My Wedding?

Okay, super quick and easy tool here. I am about to blow your mind. There is a website online that has every sunrise and sunset for literally every day for more than a year. You can find that here. All you have to do is put in the city where you plan to get married, pick your date and tada! It will tell you the sunset time of that day. Once you have that information…you can schedule your whole wedding day timeline!

First Look on Your Wedding Day?

Deciding to have a sweet, simple, genuinely intimate moment with your partner before the ceremony is a new tradition that many couples take into consideration. It’s a time to let the emotions and anxiousness of the day all go away. It allows the two of you to have a moment all to yourselves without anyone else to bask in the beauty of the day (…and one another). But what does it have to do with your ceremony start time?

If you opt in to having a first look… you can almost always get all of your portraits out of the way before your ceremony even begins. This means your bridesmaids, groomsmen, whole bridal party, as well as some of your couple’s creative portraits will all be complete before “I do”. In most instances, immediate family will already be present as well to get portraits finished prior as well. This leaves you with about 5 photo combos for after the ceremony and you can be off to the real party. It also means you can have a ceremony that is closer to sunset so when you’re saying your vows, the sun is *beginning* to set behind you.

If you want to wait until the aisle for the first look…. all of your portraits will need to be accounted for after your ceremony ends. This includes your family portraits, bridal party portraits, and your couple’s creative shots. It’s recommended to schedule out roughly 1 hour-1.5 hours for these to be complete before sunset. That means if the sun is setting at 5:00PM on your wedding day, you should have a start time around 3:00PM.

How Many Portraits Will There Be with Family? and… How Big is My Wedding Party?

Plain and simple…the more family portraits you will have, the more time you will need either before the ceremony or afterwards. Bigger families tend to take more time because of the different combinations in poses/people. If you have a blended family as well, the combinations may take a bit longer. The good thing is…when my bride’s book with me, they get a list to fill out with names so when it comes wedding day Aunt Sue and Uncle Randal can know exactly when to expect their photo taken! It’s also a little more personal when we get to call family by name.

Wedding Party size can also play a large factor in how long you will need for wedding day portraits. Typically, smaller sized parties of 3 bridesmaids and 3 groomsmen will only need 15-20 minutes for group photos. When you get into a larger sized party, it will take just a few more minutes getting everyone perfectly posed and smiling. Whether having ten or twenty of you friends is your preference, it’s important to accommodate those extra minutes to get beautiful photos either before or after the ceremony.

Where Does the Sun Set at My Venue?

Choosing a venue that looks good at sunset is super important. You don’t want to get to the alter to say I do and have the sun blinding you so you can’t even see your partner. You also don’t want the opposite person to be hidden in the shadow from the sun. I have seen gorgeous venues, but then at sunset a shadow is cast right on the area where the couple will become one and the photos are less than appealing. Visiting your venue at sunset is a great idea!

It’s important to add that if you decide to have a venue that is indoors, like a church or building with windows, the best time for indoors is mid-morning or afternoon when the sun is coming through the windows the most. If you wait until sunset, there will be less natural light and flash could have to be used which could leave your guest distracted and stunned. Either way, having trust in a photographer to be able to adapt to both scenarios is equally as important!

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