When I was meeting with one of my brides for her initial meeting, she asked me about her ceremony time.
I don’t typically come in to help with timelines until about a month or two out from the wedding because most of the specifics aren’t nailed down until then. But the ceremony time has be chosen long before that so you can send out invitations and your guests can plan.
I didn’t realize how kind of crazy it was that this HUGE aspect of the day that affects the entire timeline (and potentially the amount of portraits you get!) and sometimes brides are just choosing a time that sounds similar to what other people are doing.
Which that isn’t a terrible strategy because most weddings run the same –– but your ceremony time actually has a lot to do with the time of year AND your priorities!
Priorities like your portraits, if you want to do a first look or not, your cocktail hour, how many family photos you want, your venue…
So I’m going through the top things to consider when choosing your ceremony time for your wedding day!
Feel free to watch the video if you don’t want to read the whole thing 🙂
The ceremony time pretty much determines everything in the timeline –– when to start getting ready, when the flowers should arrive, when to take bridal party photos, when the reception starts.
This list of things to consider isn’t in order of importance because it really depends on your priorities and what’s most important to you! So read the entire thing and then decide what will make the most sense.
The first one is the amount of time you have your venue, meaning when you can get it and start setting up and when you have to be cleaned up and out of there.
Your ceremony start time is really dependant on your set up plan and making sure that you have enough time to have everything ready beforehand. If the venue and planner are taking care of this, ask them how long they typically need and compare that with when they are actually able to get into the building. If you are having friends do this, I would add on more time than you think. It’s a lot of work!
You also want to think about the end time for your venue because the ceremony start time obviously affects your reception. For example, if you need to be cleaned up and out of the venue by midnight, it will probably take 2 hours to clean up, meaning your guests will need to leave by 10pm. If you want to have multiple hours of dancing, you will need to make sure that your ceremony start time and length (plus an hour of photos afterwards) plus dinner will allow for that.
The goal is to have the ceremony fit in between those two time slots (time before and time after) to give you everything that you need to make your big day exactly what you imagined.
The style of the wedding is another thing to consider, especially when it comes to dress. If you are having a black tie formal wedding, they typically can start later in the evening, where more casual weddings can start earlier in the day.
This is similar to the style, but considering the types of catering you will be having is also important to the ceremony time. If you are having a three course meal, which would be more formal, later in the evening would make the most sense. If you’re doing light horderves, a morning or earlier wedding would work.
Usually the hair and makeup schedule depends on the ceremony since it’s decided after, but it is important to think about how it’s affected by the ceremony time.
If you’re having an early ceremony, your girls will have to wake up pretty early to be ready. If you were planning on having morning events, like a bridal brunch, you may not be able to fit it all in! Think about what you want to prioritize and always add extra time on top of that –– trying to squeeze things in will only bring you stress!
I know I said that all of these could be considered equally but honestly the sunset is the MOST important thing to consider when you are choosing your ceremony time.
The sunset times changes constantly throughout the year, which the biggest changes during daylight savings.
There are a few things to think about when it comes to the sunlight:
If you’ve booked a space with big beautiful windows, you will need sunlight to actually appreciate them! Ask about what the sunlight looks like at different times throughout the year so you can highlight the parts of the venue you love the most.
I’m a little biased but portrait time is my main concern on the wedding day. My couples work with me because they know that I refuse to let their newly wed portraits be forgotten in all of the hustle and bustle of the day –– they are the most important!!
Portraits are completely dependant on sunlight and we typically need an hour after the ceremony for photos (family groupings, full bridal party, and newly wed portraits).
If the sun sets at 5pm (in the winter) and your ceremony starts at 4 and lasts for 30 minutes, it is inevitable that some of your portraits will be with flash. I’m not a huge fan of flash just because I’m too in love with soft glow but if you’re okay with them make sure that you find a photographer who is a pro at flash! If you know that you don’t want flash portraits, you will need to bump up your ceremony time.
If you don’t want to compromise your ceremony time, the first look usually saves the day. This allows us to get all of the portraits before the ceremony and in many cases, allows us to get twice as many portraits. With first looks, the timeline becomes a lot more flexible and easy to work around –– especially with bad weather that throws our plan with the sunlight completely off.
However, if you know that you absolutely don’t want a first look, you will need to take into consideration the time of year, when the sun is setting, and how important family, bridal party, and newly wed portraits are you to.
I know some of this may be a little frustrating, especially for my late fall and winter brides! I wish daylight saving wasn’t even a thing!
I’m here to make sure that all of my current and future brides know all of their options BEFORE they send out invitations so no one has to compromise on something they really didn’t want to!!
If you have things during your day that are absolutely necessary for you to have the wedding of your dreams, then talk to your photographer about it and see what they think. They may give you an option you hadn’t thought of to work around your struggle!
If you have other things you considered when choosing your ceremony time, drop them in the comments below so other brides can learn from your expertise!