3 Must-Have Tips for Choosing Your Ceremony Start Time


June 3, 2021

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I’m sure at one point or another during this planning process, you’ve thought to yourself, “How am I supposed to know when to start the actual wedding ceremony?”

I don’t blame you for feeling a little lost! Even with suggestions from your venue and wedding coordinator, choosing a wedding ceremony start time can feel like pulling a number out of a hat. In reality, this pivotal decision will make a huge impact on the timeline of your day: Because this is the time that you print on your invitations, the ceremony start time will define your guest’s experience by informing their outfit decision, help them determine what events the reception may hold, effect which meal you’ll serve, and, of course, will determine the sunlight available to you for portraits. 

Pinpointing the time that you want the ceremony to begin is the key to a smooth wedding day experience and allows for the day’s schedule to begin falling into place.  A few things to consider when trying to find the perfect wedding ceremony start time… 


Virginia Wedding Photographer - Virginia Wedding Ceremony


Tour the Venue in Person

I cannot stress enough just how important it is to look at the time of the sunset before choosing your ceremony time. It would break my heart if your vision was a romantic, dreamy golden sunset ceremony at 7:00 p.m but Daylight Savings trampled over those dreams with the sun going down  hours earlier- obviously, a travesty.

To avoid this type of a disaster,   I strongly recommend touring your ceremony space at approximately the same time you’d like the ceremony to start so you can see how the lighting is in the location. Doing this will help eliminate any weird glares or unexpected shadows falling upon you or the wedding party during the ceremony.  It will also give you ample opportunity to make any adjustments on ceremony timing or placement. Your venue contact and wedding coordinator can be super helpful resources for any adjustments that you may want to make!


Virginia Wedding Photographer - Virginia Wedding Ceremony


Keep your timeline in mind!

I play with the light and color on your wedding day in order to turn your love story into a work of art. Sunlight is one of my favorite tools to play with so I recommend starting the ceremony with at least 1.5-2 hours before sunset. You can look up what time the sun sets on your wedding date and venue with this site!


With most ceremonies being approximately 30 minutes long, that time before sunset will help us lock in some golden hour light for family formals and any other post-ceremony portraits! (An added bonus? This will also give us a buffer of natural light on rainy days which can prevent unexpected dark shadows in your photos!)


Charlottesville Wedding Photographer - Virginia Wedding Ceremony


Are you doing a First Look?

One other major consideration for your ceremony starting time is whether or not you’d like to do a first look with your partner.  For those of you who have your heart set on that private moment with your significant other, parent figure, or wedding party,  we can get most of these portraits done 1.5 hours before sunset (so again, touring your venue at these times is highly recommended)!

If a first look doesn’t fit your vision for the day, then I recommend planning your ceremony start time 2-2.5 hours before sunset. That way you have ample time for post-ceremony portraits of everyone with gorgeous evening light!


Sunset Wedding Photographer - Wedding Ceremony Time


In the mood for a dreamy sunset ceremony? You don’t want to miss Abbi and Mark’s wedding at Agapae Oaks.

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