Choosing a ceremony time is one of the first parts of the planning process. It often comes hand in hand with booking your venue, and it can make a huge impact on whether you have great light for your wedding photos or not!
Some of the most challenging situations I’ve faced on wedding days happened because the ceremony started too late, leaving us with less than an hour of daylight to capture all of the wedding portraits! We really had to rush to make sure we captured everything we needed. If a photographer is rushed, they can’t do their best, most creative work! And if a bride and groom begin to feel rushed, they can’t relax and enjoy their wedding day the way they are meant to!
We don’t want this to happen to you, so we’ve started a three-part series on choosing the perfect ceremony time for your wedding day!
- Part One – Figuring out the structure of your wedding day
- Part Two – Using the sunset to choose your ceremony time
- Part Three – Adjusting your ceremony time for YOUR wedding day
Part 1 is all about figuring out a loose, basic timeline for how your day will look! You don’t need to set everything in stone yet… But you do need to have a general idea of how long things will take throughout the day! First thing’s first.
Figure out the length of your ceremony
Most modern wedding ceremonies tend to be about 20-30 minutes in length. 20 minutes is typically plenty of time to include everything found in a wedding ceremony: welcoming remarks, readings, vows, ring exchange, a personal touch such as a wine box or knot tying, and the pronouncement! But it’s good to plan for 30 minutes just to be safe!
Micaela and I had a Christian ceremony, including some scripture readings and prayer, and our ceremony was only half an hour long. However, some traditional or religious ceremonies are more likely to be an hour long. If your ceremony is religious, that may decide your ceremony length for you. But if your ceremony will be secular, or simply less traditional, you can decide on the ceremony length that’s best for you!
Whatever you decide, keep it in mind as you select a ceremony time!
Figure out how much time you need for photos throughout the day
This will depend on the wedding, and it may also depend on your photographer! Every photographer works differently, and might have a different perspective on how much time is needed to capture everything.
Personally, we are fans of adding lots of buffer time for each section. We want to make sure you never feel rushed, so you can actually soak up all the little moments together!
Here’s the breakdown of what we ask our couples for time to photograph on a wedding day:
- Bride and groom details and candids of bride/bridesmaids getting ready: 60 minutes
- Bride/bridesmaids robe photos and/or first looks with father or bridesmaids: 30 minutes
- Bride getting in dress: 30 minutes
- Groom/groomsmen getting ready: 30-45 minutes
- First look: 30 minutes
- Romantic bride and groom portraits: 45-60 minutes total (this includes the 30 minutes of first look time, if you are having one)
- Bridal party portraits: 30 minutes
- Buffer time before ceremony (guests arrive, bride hides): 30-60 minutes
- Ceremony: typically 30 minutes, but it depends on your wedding!
- Family portraits: 30 minutes
- Reception details and setting up lighting (before guests enter the reception room): 20-30 minutes
- Reception Timeline: this will depend on your venue, caterer, number of guests, et cetera. Ask your caterer/venue for help figuring out things like how long dinner will take! And be sure to ask if your venue has a specific curfew that could cause everything to start earlier.
I recommend asking your photographer how much time to set aside for each portion of the day, and use that as a starting point to build your timeline.
Decide whether or not you’ll share a first look before the ceremony
The single best thing you can do to make sure you have enough light for all of your portraits while keeping your timeline running smoothly is to have a first look before the ceremony! The benefits could fill another entire blog post, but these are the most relevant to choosing a ceremony time.
Because you’ll knock out half your portraits before the ceremony:
- You can start the ceremony closer to sunset, meaning better light (especially for outdoor ceremonies)
- Your cocktail hour can actually be an hour (not longer), so you don’t leave your guests waiting too long
- You’ll have time to actually join your cocktail hour with your guests (or, if you’re an introvert like me… More time to hide away and take a breather with your brand new husband or wife before you enter the reception!)
- You’ll have two chances to get gorgeous natural light portraits in case the weather isn’t cooperating at certain times of the day! (It poured shortly after my first look with Micaela, but we knew we still had time after the ceremony to get even more portraits!)
And the best bonus of all… You get to see the love of your life several hours earlier on your wedding day!
That’s it for part one!
Now that we have a basic overview of what your wedding day will look like, let’s get into choosing the actual ceremony time! In part two, we will share our exact tips for when your ceremony should start!
February 5, 2019