What Time Should Your Wedding Begin

February 10, 2017

Congratulations! You’re now engaged! Now it’s now time to start planning your wedding. Planning a wedding involves countless decisions. It can be pretty overwhelming at first. My job as your photographer is to not only capture your wedding day but also gain your trust that I’ll be with you every step of the way. Helping you find vendors, answering any questions, helping you plan your Wedding Day Timeline, and be a listener if you need to talk, vent, or cry. There are venues to be chosen, guest lists to be drawn up, menus and cakes to select… If you’re reading this, then you’re probably in the thick of it yourself, so you know what I’m talking about.

One of the most important decisions about your wedding day is one that I don’t see getting a lot of attention, probably because it’s not very glamorous: What time should you start your wedding ceremony? This is a really important decision because the time you choose will influence just about everything else about your wedding day.

How do you go about choosing the right ceremony time?

Here are a few things I take into account when advising clients:

1. What time does the sun set on your wedding day?
2. What do you need to get done before your wedding ceremony?
3. What kind of wedding and reception do you want?
4. What day of the week are you getting married?
5. Does your venue have any time limitations or restrictions?

Let’s go over each!

1. What time does the sun set on your wedding day?

I love photographing my brides and grooms during the golden hour. The golden hour is about 2 hours before sunset. The light this time of day is dreamy! It’s golden, flattering, and perfect for photos.

I help my brides and grooms plan out their wedding day timeline especially if they don’t have a wedding planner or I work alongside the wedding planner to help them with the timing of getting ready, ceremony, family photos, bridal party photos, bride and groom photos, and reception photos.

If you’re having an indoor ceremony but want outdoor photos afterward, then be sure your ceremony ends just prior to two hours before sunset. If you’re having an outdoor ceremony and want it bathed in that gorgeous pre-sunset light, then schedule your ceremony within the two hours prior to sunset.

2. What do you need to get done before your wedding ceremony?

Are you planning a first look or any other pre-ceremony photography? My couples often have me their photograph the wedding party prior to the ceremony to leave more time between the ceremony and reception for just-married photos and formals. If your ceremony and reception take place in two different locations, remember to account for travel time between the locations.

3. What kind of wedding and reception do you want?

Finally, don’t forget to take into account what kind of wedding and reception you envision. Dreaming of a sophisticated brunch wedding? Then a late morning ceremony time will be just right for you. Is a nightclub-inspired reception with a great band or DJ more your style? Then start your day later. That one’s easy.

Using these points as a guide when you’re trying to settle on the perfect wedding day schedule will at least help you narrow things down to the window of time that’s best for your ceremony. Still not sure about what time is just right for you? Ask your wedding planner! We’re always happy to help with details big and small.

4. What day of the week are you getting married?

If you’re marrying on a Saturday, which is the most popular day for weddings, then you pretty much have the whole day at your disposal, although you’ll still need to take some other details into consideration as well. If you’re marrying on a Friday or other weekday, then you’ll want to consider your guests’ schedules. Some of them might not be able to take off work. Others will be coming from work or will need to pick their kids up from school. It’s thoughtful for you take these things into consideration if you can, and schedule your ceremony late enough in the afternoon to allow your guests to make it there after their weekday obligations are completed. Also be sure to account for afternoon traffic! If you’re marrying on a Sunday and you have guests travelling from out of town to attend your wedding, then schedule your ceremony early enough to allow them to catch a flight home after the festivities are over.

5. Does your venue have any time limitations or restrictions?

Before you book your venue, make sure to read their policies and the fine print to carefully familiarize yourself with any time limitations you may face. Many venues require events to be completed by a certain time. When looking at that time, remember that your event isn’t really over until breakdown and cleanup is completed, which typically takes your vendors an hour or two (it might take longer if you’re planning an elaborate wedding). Make sure you’ll be happy ending your event at the time required by your venue. If time limitations pose a big problem for you then you might need to keep venue shopping, but remember that if you have to end your reception earlier than you’d really like, you can always move the celebration to an afterparty location.

Once you know your latest possible end time, work backward. How many hours do you want your reception to last? Will there be a cocktail hour prior to the reception? Formal photos are often taken during the cocktail hour, but will you need more time than that? How long will your ceremony last? Do all that math and you’ll arrive at a potential ceremony time.

Another time restriction you might face is scheduled ceremony times at your church. Some churches only offer one or two time slots each Saturday for wedding ceremonies. There’s not a lot you can do about this except pick the one that works best for you and plan the rest of your day around it. If you have to have a morning ceremony but you still really want an evening reception, that’s okay! You can suggest fun activities for your guests to explore on their own during the break, and many guests will want to just head back to their hotel to rest up for the party to come.

Here are some more tips for brides that you may find helpful!

7 Commonly Asked Wedding Questions
5 Ways to Destress During Wedding Week
The Importance of Engagement Sessions
Should you have a First Look

Sarah Botta is a Northern Virginia based wedding photographer whose work can be described as organic, natural, and timeless. Sarah specializes in capturing people’s stories and building connections with each client to help tell their story.

Sarah has photographed over 30 weddings across Virginia and Maryland from rustic barn ceremonies to elaborate golf course receptions. Her natural timeless style shines brightest with outdoor locations. Sarah is available for travel worldwide and is passport ready.

 

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Sarah Botta Photography

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Welcome to my blog, where I share recent weddings + engagements, newborns, families, and pieces of my life! When I’m not photographing, you can find me traveling, enjoying the great outdoors, or hanging out with my husband, Danny and pomchi, Bayah. I adore working with adventurous, head-over-heels in love couples and can’t wait to tell your story.

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