What time to start your Wedding Ceremony

Sunset photo at Rhinegeist Cincinnati Wedding

What time to start your wedding ceremony really depends on the time of year you’re getting married. The other top things to keep in mind are if you’re doing a first look or not, want golden hour photos (they’re the prettiest), and if your ceremony or reception is outdoor.

First Look or Not

If you’re doing a first look almost all of your photos together will follow your first look. You’ll have plenty of time to spend alone together and we’ll have plenty of time to get the daylight photos that you want. We’ll also do a few photos at sunset if your timeline allows! With a first look, you don’t have to schedule your ceremony around the sunset, we’ll do all daylight photos prior to the ceremony.

If you’re not doing a first look all of your photos together will be after the ceremony so it’ll be important (unless you only want night photos) to pick your ceremony around the sunset. In the spring and fall sunset generally from ranges from 6-7, in the summer it ranges from 8-9 and in the winter sunset can be as early as 5. You’ll want at least an hour after your ceremony for photos in the daylight.

Do you want Goldern Hour Photos?

Golden Hour photos are those dreamy photos that you get right before the sun sets! They’re always everyone’s favorite photos and they give you a few minutes alone during the reception. Keep in mind that we won’t be able to do them if the sun sets as your ceremony is happening – unless it’s outdoors which would be magical and amazing and you should definitely plan your ceremony to happen during the sunset with a first look 😉

Where are your Ceremony and Reception?

Is your ceremony outdoor or in a church? What about your reception? The timing of your ceremony doesn’t matter as much if everything is indoor and you do a first look. If everything is outdoor the sunset will play a huge role in deciding your time. It’s helpful to have your ceremony about 2 hours before sunset so that the light on you isn’t as harsh and beating down (no one wants to be sweaty as they say “I do!”). We’ll also have time to do family photos in the beautiful light right before the sunsets and golden hour portraits of the two of you!

Bride and Groom at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, San Francisco Wedding Photographer and Videographer

So, what time to start your Wedding Ceremony?

Let’s pretend that all of these ceremonies are 30 min-hr

First Look + Indoor Ceremony + Indoor Reception – It’s up to you!

No First Look + Indoor Ceremony + Indoor Reception – Minimum of 3 Hours Before Sunset

First Look + Indoor Ceremony + Outdoor Reception – About 2 Hours Before Sunset

No First Look + Indoor Ceremony + Outdoor Reception – About 3 Hours Before Sunset

First Look + Outdoor Ceremony + Outdoor Reception – About 2 Hours Before Sunset

No First Look + Outdoor Ceremony + Outdoor Reception – About 2 Hours Before Sunset

How about an Example?

We are getting married in July, the hottest month of the year. We always envisioned a nice summer wedding but we’ve gotten a lot of comments about the heat. No one wants to sit out in the sun and that’s great because they won’t have to! We choose the time of our ceremony around the sunset on the day of our wedding so that no one has to sit in the beating hot sun and since our reception is outdoors (hopefully it won’t rain) our first dance will be right at sunset.

We decided 6:30 was best for us because,

1.) That was one of the options the church offered

2.) Sunset is at 9 on our wedding day

3.) We wanted everything to be in the evening


Most importantly decide what feels right to you and talk through your timeline with your photographer. We’re always happy to make suggestions and create a timeline with you!


Lastly- don’t forget daylight savings time!!!

What time to start your Wedding Ceremony at Carnegie Hall in Newport

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