rooftop ceremony exit bride and groom

How to Pick Your Ceremony Time


There are so many decisions to make when planning your wedding, and one question I hear brides talk about often is choosing the time of their ceremony. Of course, your planner will help you make this decision based on all of the logistics of the day, but here are a few key questions to ask yourself when planning your ceremony time. Picking a ceremony time may feel like a decision that can just be made and worked around, but it’s super helpful to think ahead of time and plan your ceremony well so that the rest of your day can run smoothly as well!

ceremony chairs for garden wedding ceremony

What time is sunset on your wedding day?
First things first, look up what time the sun will set on your wedding day. That way, you know when all of the portraits need to wrap up to get all the beautiful light! Once you know the time the sun sets, then you can work backward from there. The season your wedding will take place plays a huge part in this! Summer weddings have much more light available for longer, whereas the sun sets much earlier in the fall. (PS – the best light for portraits is about 1.5-2 hours prior to sunset)

rooftop ceremony exit bride and groom

First look or no?
Do you both want to do a first look? Or do you dream of the traditional “first look” down the aisle? If you choose to do a first look, you get started earlier in the day and have more photos pre-ceremony, but then you get to enjoy a bit of your cocktail hour. However, a first look isn’t for everyone! If you dream of that epic moment walking down the aisle and it’s something that’s really important to you both, then no need to force a first look before the ceremony. You simply need to work in time for all those family portraits, full wedding party photos and of course, time for you two! Every photographer is different, so reach out and ask them. Your photographer will be more than willing to help you figure out how much time you need so you can both create the photos you dream of.

Are your ceremony and reception venue the same?
If you’re hosting the ceremony and the reception at the same venue, then it keeps things a bit more simple, as you don’t have to factor in transportation & travel time. If your ceremony and reception venue are different, you need to factor in travel time into your timeline. If you aren’t doing a first look, and your reception is at a different venue, then just make sure to factor in the time it takes for photos along with sunset time and travel time. It seems like a lot to think of, but thinking ahead will save you a headache ahead of time! Of course, your planner will help you with all of this too.

How long will your ceremony be?
It may be hard to know this early on in planning, but talk with your officiant so you can plan for it in the timeline. Many ceremonies are about 30 minutes long, but some more traditional ceremonies (like Catholic ceremonies) can last closer to 1-1.5 hours. This, of course, will play into all of the questions above when picking out your ceremony time.

outdoor summer ceremony

Are you having a more formal, semi-formal, or casual wedding?
Formal events typically happen later in the evening, so it’s something else to think about when envisioning the type of wedding you’d like.

Will your ceremony be indoors or outdoors?
Outdoors: pay attention to the light on your ceremony spot. Is there even shade? Will there be even shade at certain points of the day? Depending on the setup of your ceremony, pay attention to whether you two will be facing the sun and/or if one of you would be blinded by the sun at certain points in the day.

Indoors: Try to plan around when the best light is falling into your church or venue. The more light, the better!

bride and groom cheering after being announced husband and wife

Planning your wedding? I’d love to hear from you and learn more about you two!

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I take a limited number of sessions each month (plus, I’m a bit of a planner and always account for possible weather and sick days!) I’d love to set up a time to chat with you, hear your vision and answer any questions! 

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