What time you should start your wedding ceremony is probably one of the topmost Googled questions by engaged couples — right after how much it costs to have a wedding.
And yet, you’d be amazed how many weddings start too late or too early, creating an environment for less than ideal photos. If you start too late, you may not have enough time to get group photos and portraits while the sun is still up. If you start too early and have an outdoor wedding, the lighting might be too harsh for good photos.
It depends on three factors:
Some venues have a specific start and end time for your ceremony. If you’re having your ceremony and reception at two separate venues, you probably have less flexibility for your wedding day timeline.
To have a first look, or to not have a first look. That’s an important question to consider.
A first look is when an engaged couple sees each other before the ceremony on the day of their wedding. Choosing whether or not to have a first look is a personal choice. There is no right or wrong decision.
The Argument Against the First Look:
The traditional “first look” where the groom sees their partner for the first time as they walk down the aisle is timeless and is a super sweet moment to have during your ceremony.
I mostly see couples pick this option if they are having a particularly religious or traditional ceremony.
For Photos: This is typically the move if you want truly emotional photos during the ceremony. (Although don’t get me wrong: You’ll be emotional whether or not you’ve had a first look!)
The Argument For a First Look:
I did a first look because I felt like that moment was really personal and I didn’t want to do it in front of everyone. It also gives the couple a moment of quiet together in the midst of a day that is usually very hectic. I’ve seen couples use this time to privately read personal vows, read letters they wrote in advance, pray together, or just shake off pre-ceremony jitters.
For Photos: A first look allows you to take a lot of your photos before the ceremony. During the winter time, this may be key so you can get photos when there’s still enough natural light.
What time you start your wedding ceremony changes by the season, because the sunset changes. (Pro Tip: Use the Farmer’s Almanac Sunset Calculator to see the sunset for your wedding day.) Generally, you should plan to start your ceremony roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes before sunset if you’re having a first look, and 2 hours before sunset if you’re not having a first look.
That gives you plenty of time to take all the portraits and group photos you need before sunset.
When in doubt, coordinate with your wedding photographer before you pick a ceremony time. They’ll be able to give you the best advice depending on your wedding size and needs.