When you start to plan your big day, it may be a daunting task to try and decide on a start time for your wedding ceremony. Don’t worry though! Consider some of these useful tips to ensure that your big day runs as smoothly as possible with the perfect schedule. 

Start Time of Ceremony: 

The time of your ceremony depends on a couple different factors. Where are you getting married? What is the size of your wedding? In what season are you getting married?

Consider these questions as you choose the start time. The time of year plays a big factor in this decision. You may want to consider the daylight hours and the golden hour of your location. By doing so, you may realize the type of lighting you want for your wedding pictures. For instance, if you have a wedding around 5 pm, the majority of your wedding portraits would more than likely be taken in the dark. If this isn’t okay with you, perhaps you should move your start time to earlier in the afternoon. Always think about the events you have planned, and consider when it starts to get dark outside.

A great way to figure out the Golden Hour in your area on your big day is to google search the following: type ‘sunset time’ followed by the date of your wedding, and location. This will give you a time in which it starts to get dark so that you can plan accordingly. 

Another great idea is to check with your photographer. They should have a greater understanding of the venue and lighting. Although for them to guide you on what they think might be best way to create the most quality images for your big day. 

What’s Your Wedding Day Timeline:

If you are having a larger wedding ceremony, with lots of people to visit with, and provided dinner and entertainment for, there are a few more factors to think about. 

Wedding planners recommend starting at the end of your day. If for example, you’ve booked a band that will play 2 x 1.5hr sets, to fit this in you’d want to aim to start your dancing around 7:30/8 pm.  We recommend cutting your cake before then (if you are having on, of course) so allow a little time for that as well. Depending on your venue they may need a turnaround time for the room or time for the band to set up without the guests in the room.  Factor in the setup time that your Dj, band, or entertainment may need to prepare for the reception. 

The same planning can apply to your dinner time. This typically is an easier event to be able to plan out because most of the time your caterer will provide you with exactly how long it will take them to prepare, setup, and serve the meal. We recommend discussing the exact time of arrival with your chef so that you can make sure the reception and kitchen area is ready for them to get started. Caterers usually recommend about 1.5-2hrs for dinner because you have to factor in the other events going on during this time. People like to mingle around the room, visit with the bride and groom, and the bridal party usually presents speeches during this time as well. This would make your guests being seated for dinner around 5-5:30. 

Drink Reception? If you plan to have one, we recommend that you plan for this to be started 1hr before the actual reception happens to give your entertainment, caterers, and guests time to prepare for the events after the ceremony. This timeline tends to create more of a stress-free, leisurely experience for all involved. 

How Long Should I Allow For Photography?

This is simply up to you on how long you would like to spend on portraits. Consider the list of people you would like to make sure you include in the photos. Many photographers like to schedule after ceremony pictures during the drink reception time so that the light is still good and the guests don’t wait too long. 

-Family group portraits

-Group photos with the wedding party 

-At least one short couple session 

-Photos of guests and the couple at the reception

-Detail shots of the room set up for the meal

This can all be achieved during that 1.5hrs time period and will also although for some time to visit with guests. 

How Long Is the Actual Ceremony?

The majority of weddings run anywhere between 30mins-1hr. We recommend timing out what all you would like to do during your ceremony, consider the music, and talk with your wedding director to figure out how long they plan to speak. 

In Summary: Start from the end of the evening, consider all that you would like to accomplish on your big day, and work your way backward until you get to the ceremony. Check with your photographer on figuring out the best lighting for your wedding day, and also work out the details with your caterer and entertainment on the setup, serving, and takedown of their services to allow them enough time to get their job done. By following these guidelines, you’ll be on your way to planning the perfect time for your wedding day!