You have your date set and you are ready to do some serious wedding planning! But then, someone asks what time your ceremony is going to start. The venue wants to know, the photographer is asking, the reception vendors need to plan. It is months, or even a year or two before your wedding, so the idea of exact timing wasn’t even on your to-do list yet. First of all, don’t panic. For most venues, your ceremony time can be flexible while you are planning. If you are renting the space for the full day, you just need to know tentative times. Keep in mind, Church ceremonies sometimes run on the church’s schedule, so in that case you may already have a set ceremony time. Otherwise, there are a few things to look at when picking the perfect wedding ceremony time.
If you are looking for the easy answer on the perfect ceremony time, just know that the answer is different for every couple! It will vary based on where you are getting married, what time of the year, and just what simply works best for your wedding. Here are a few tips on how to decide on the perfect wedding ceremony start time!
One of the most important things to know before planning any part of your wedding day timeline, is what time does the sun set? In Fargo-Moorhead, the time of sunset changes drastically throughout the year. If you are getting married in June, sunset is around 9:30pm. If your wedding is in December, sunset is around 4:40pm. The timing of the sunset is important because you will need light for photos! In the summer you can have a 5:00pm ceremony and still have plenty of time for outdoor photos after you are married. However, in the winter, it will be very dark by 5:00pm and all of your after ceremony portraits will need to be done with flash. If you are concerned about light for your winter wedding, always ask your photographer for help!
Outdoor Wedding Tip: If you are having an outdoor wedding, don’t forget about the heat or the cold of the day. July outdoor ceremonies at 1:00pm can be very warm and October outdoor ceremonies at 5:00pm can be very cold. Plan for the most comfortable time of the day to be outside to keep your guests comfortable.
I already mentioned that some churches have restrictions, but some other venues do as well. If you are renting a venue from 12:00pm-10:00pm, you probably don’t want your reception to start at 9:00pm. Make sure you have plenty of time to celebrate before everyone has to go home! This also affects if you plan to get ready at the venue or decorate the day of. If you can’t get in any earlier than noon, than you probably shouldn’t plan for a 12:30pm ceremony.
Do you plan to server brunch? Maybe some appetizers in the afternoon? A full dinner in the evening? Think about what you want to serve for food and that will help you narrow down a start time for your ceremony. Most ceremonies start between 1:00pm and 4:00pm with a full dinner during the reception, but you can go for an earlier time if you had something different in mind! Another note, make sure there isn’t too much time between the ceremony and when the food will be served. If you have a 1:00pm ceremony, plan an earlier dinner. Your guests will be hungry before 6:30pm!
No matter what time your ceremony is, you can still share a first look. However, it helps to plan out the day knowing if you want to or not. When you do a first look, you have the option to get portraits done before the ceremony. You can do 4:00pm ceremony, enjoy your social hour, and be ready to eat dinner and party by 6:00pm! If you do not plan to share a first look, remember that all of the portraits will need to be done between the ceremony and reception. If you have a 4:00pm ceremony, that only leaves about an hour for bride and groom portraits, bridal party, and family photos before dinner is served.
The length of your ceremony is also important when planning a start time. If you are having a short and sweet ceremony at 1:00pm, what will your guests do until your reception starts at 5:00pm? If you plan to have an hour long ceremony at 5:00pm, there won’t be time for photos or socializing before the reception starts.
When I got married, we picked 4:00pm for our ceremony time. However, we had a first look, so I still had to be ready 1:00pm for photos. When you start to work backwards from your ceremony time, you can see how early you need to start getting ready. Do you have a large group of bridesmaids needing hair and make-up? Do you need to drive to the ceremony location after getting ready? Keep in mind that the earlier your ceremony is, the earlier you will need to be awake and getting ready. It always takes longer than you think, so if you don’t love the idea of a 7:00am alarm on your wedding day, plan for a later ceremony.
Where is your ceremony located? If it isn’t in your hometown and many of the guests will have to travel the day of, you will want to plan extra time in the day to allow everything time to arrive. Most guests will travel the night before if your wedding is more than a few hours away. But you don’t want to plan an 11:00am ceremony start time if everyone has a two hour drive first. You can’t plan for all of your guests, but make sure you check with immediate family to see who all is driving in the day of.
Small children in the wedding party are adorable, but they also need their naps and snacks or they will not make it through the day. I suggest talking to the parents of your littlest bridal party members and discussing what they need for nap time. Most families are flexible, but they will want to get a nap in sometime that day. Whether it is your niece, nephew, or your own child, you want them to enjoy the day. Skipping nap time completely will make the day rougher for everyone else!
A traditional Saturday wedding gives you a lot of options for your ceremony. However, keep in mind that most people work Monday through Friday. If you are having a Friday wedding, plan for late afternoon or even the evening so people don’t have to take time off of work. If you are planning a Sunday wedding, most guests won’t stay and party until midnight when they work the next morning. Sundays are great for earlier celebrations and earlier end times.
Remember, the perfect ceremony start time is different for every couple and every wedding. Think about what you may have to work around, and how to make your day the most enjoyable for you and your guests! If you already found the perfect ceremony time and now need help with the rest of your timeline, check out this timeline blog post!
Want to further discuss your timeline? Contact me and I would love to help!
Need to cross a few more things off of your to-do list? Check out my other wedding tips!
Alecs Kay Photography is a Wedding & Portrait Photographer in Fargo, ND