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How to Determine Your Wedding Ceremony Start Time!

Jan 18, 2018

What Time Should Your Wedding Ceremony Start?

You have been checking things off your wedding to-do-list and are ready to start thinking about wedding invitations (happy dance)! You’re going through all the beautiful designs, filling in the information for your big day, and there is a blank spot STARING right at you! You have to finally decide what time your wedding ceremony start time will be!!

No need to stress! I am going to walk you through what to consider AND show you how you can find your perfect wedding ceremony start time!


Here are the Top 10 Factors to consider when deciding on your wedding ceremony start time.

#1 Venue restrictions- timeframe your venue allows you to have the rental space.

This might be the most obvious, but I have known brides to be surprised that their venue is not rented by the day, but by the timeframe. You will want to make sure that your ceremony time gives you plenty of lead time for getting ready (if you are getting ready at your venue).


#2 Nature restrictions- time of sunset.

You will want to ensure there is plenty of daylight left after your ceremony to accommodate family, wedding party and husband & wife portraits! This can vary from 1-2 hours.

I always use an online calculator to assist my brides in determining their ceremony start time. I love using the Old Farmer’s Almanac Sunset Calculator! You can find the sunset for your wedding date here!


#3 How long your ceremony will last?

Now that you know the sunset time, you will need to know how long your wedding ceremony will last. Some ceremonies are as quick as 7 minutes and others can last 1.5 hours. Speak with your minister and discuss what traditions you will be performing during your ceremony. They can assist you in how long your ceremony will be.


#4 Catering a meal, or hosting a simple cake and refreshments for reception?

If you are catering, you will want to consider the length of your ceremony, cocktail hour, and timeframe your guest normally eat. This information will have a big impact on your ceremony start time.

If you are hosting cake and refreshments only for your reception, you will want to set a time that is not close to meal time.


#5 Will you be doing a First Look or having a Traditional Ceremony?

This will be a deciding factor in how much time is needed after your ceremony to capture photos of your full wedding party, your families, and bride & groom photos! Considering if a First Look is right for you? (You do not want to miss my Traditional vs First Look blog post Here!)


#6 What is the average age & personality of your wedding guest?

Do you have a young crowd? Ones looking for after wedding entertainment and a full on party into the night? Maybe a late afternoon or evening wedding would be best.

Or are your guest more interested in conversation and skipping out on the festivities? Do not overlook the idea of a brunch time or early afternoon wedding.


#7 Do your wedding guest have young children?

If they do, and you really want them there…you might reach out with your ideal times and see what their thoughts are. I know my littles are in bed between 7-8pm. So taking them to an evening wedding would not work for us (as we do not want to be “those people” with the tired child crying as you exchange your vows). Finding a baby sitter might be ideal for families, but it is not always easy finding a sitter that is available to tackle bedtime. So if you truly want these families there, consider an early wedding time.


#8 What kind of formal wedding send off would you like?

Sparklers? Lavender? Bubbles? Rose Petals? Whatever it might be, you will want to consider how you want it to look in photographs! Obviously, some things photograph best at night (sparklers) and other things photograph better in the day! Keep in mind you can always have a formal send off walking down the aisle right after your ceremony! It does not always have to be at the end of your reception.


#9 What time would you like to start getting ready?

My brides tend to start getting ready anywhere from 3-6 hours prior to their ceremony! That may sound a bit extensive when you start pushing 6 hours, but when you figure in professional hair & make up, photographs of you, your wedding party, First Look, and hiding away before guest arrive- that 6 hour span seems to leave no wiggle room!


#10 What time is best to have the images you want captured?

Every wedding is unique so there is not a “one size fits all” wedding timeline! We tailer fit your wedding day timeline so that we can capture your vision! It is always a great idea to reach out to your wedding photographer when you are finalizing your wedding start time! If you set your wedding start time on your own, just remember that the one thing we can not control on a wedding day, is the sunset! I find it best to have a ceremony end no later than 1.5 hours prior to sunset.


Sample Guide to Determine your wedding ceremony start time!

Evening Wedding:

Sample Answer to the Top 10 Questions:

  1. Venue Restrictions: 12pm – 10pm
  2. Sunset 6:30pm
  3. Catering a meal
  4. First Look
  5. Ceremony will be 30 minutes
  6. Average guest age 30- They love to dance and we will have a full DJ experience with a 3 hour long reception
  7. Majority do not have children
  8. Sparkler Exit
  9. Getting ready late morning to noon(ish)
  10. You want husband & wife sunset portraits


Wedding Ceremony start time range 3:30-5:00pm:

Earliest 3:30pm

  • Getting ready takes place at separate location. Finishing touches at venue at 12:00pm.
  • Ceremony ends at 4:00
  • Cocktail hour until 5:00
  • Family Portraits during cocktail hour
  • Dinner served between 5:00-5:30
  • Sneak away for sunset photos at 6:00
  • Sparkler exit after festivities are complete


Latest 5:00pm

  • Ceremony ends at 5:30
  • Cocktail hour until 6:30 (Appetizers to tide guest over until dinner)
  • Family Photos & Sunset Portraits During cocktail hour
  • Dinner served between 6:30-7:00
  • Sparkler exit after festivities are complete

Enjoy this post? Don’t miss out on 3 Tips for Less Wedding Planning Stress and How To Write Your Wedding Vows?

Featured image shot for Dianna Irving Photography at El Chorro in Paradise Valley, Arizona



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