Ceremony Timing Tips: No First Look + One Location | Wedding Planning

Back with another wedding planning post to help you determine the start time for your ceremony! This week, we’ll be chatting about ceremony timing if you will be getting married and celebrating at the same location and will not be sharing a first look! Before we get rolling into the fun, remember: this is part of a 5-week series! So, if this doesn’t sync up with the type of wedding day you will be having, hang tight! Here’s what I’ve covered and what we have left to go.

You can expect the following over the next FIVE weeks!

  1. Ceremony Timing Tips: First Look + One Location (Last week!)
  2. Ceremony Timing Tips: No First Look + One Location (This week!)
  3. Ceremony Timing Tips: First Look + Church Ceremony/Two Locations (Next week!)
  4. Ceremony Timing Tips: No First Look + Church Ceremony/Two Locations
  5. Ceremony Lighting Tips

Now… before we fully dive into the good stuff, I wanted to clarify: I’m not really going to be sharing any specific times or timeframes throughout this series. Even with these tips and tricks and general recommendations, each wedding day is unique and timing will be dependent on so many things! (You’ll see in a minute!) I recommend consulting with your team of vendors to determine the actual time your ceremony will occur!

So… let’s dive into it! If you will not be sharing a first look and have your ceremony and reception at ONE location, today’s blog post is just for you!

Determining sunset

This sub-section is going to remain close to the same for each blog post you’ll find in this series! I find that a lot of couples are dreaming of a gorgeous, glow-y ceremony happening right before sunset! While I am ALL for this, there are a few considerations to ensure you are able to have the ceremony of your dreams AND the gallery of your dreams. Keep in mind, once the sun goes down, it’s dark! You’ll always need to keep a window between your ceremony end time and the time of sunset to ensure we are able to take the portraits you’ll be expecting in your final gallery.

If sharing a first look at the altar is a priority for you, you’ll need to account for post-ceremony portrait time too. PLEASE give your photographer this time— I promise, you will regret it if you don’t! 

All that said, let’s start with the basics: determining sunset where your ceremony will occur! It’s so important to realize that there are seasonal and altitude considerations that will determine the sunset time where your ceremony will be, so you’ll need to determine the actual time that the sun will be setting where you’ll be getting married. To do so, I typically type in the following into Google:

Example: VENUE CITY Sunrise/Sunset on DATE (Change italics to specifics)

If that doesn’t work, you can use Sunrise/Sunset (Linked here!). Now that you have that nailed down, let’s start moving through a few key considerations!

Ceremony length

Again, another similar section to last week’s post, but very important to do before kicking the process into full swing. Before determining your ceremony start time, you’ll want to work on determining your ceremony length. This may sound totally backward, but once you have the overall sunset time, start here! How much time do you hope to spend on the altar? By setting your ceremony length, you’ll know exactly how long you’ll need to reserve for your ceremony and can back-track from your anticipated end time to determine the start time after considering the portraits that you would like to occur post-ceremony.

Overall Portrait Layout

I could go down about 14 different rabbit holes of timing when it comes to portraits before and after your ceremony. HOWEVER, I’m going to keep things simple here. Before slotting your ceremony, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Is it a priority of yours to attend cocktail hour?
    • If it is a huge priority of yours to attend cocktail hour, honestly, I would highly recommend sharing a first look!
  • Are you willing to take your individual sides of family portraits prior to your ceremony?
  • How long is your cocktail hour and are you willing to do an extended cocktail hour?

A quick note: if you remember from last week, there are a few portrait timeframes that I do recommend you account for throughout the day: Family Portraits: 30 minutes (maybe more depending on family size) | Full Wedding Party: 30 Minutes | Couple’s Portraits: 30+ Minutes

Now that we have our answers to those questions, the rabbit holes…

All portraits during cocktail hour

If you would like to take all of your portraits during cocktail hour, you will need to account for at least 90 minutes of time to ensure we are able to get everything you’ll expect in your final gallery (And then some!). This may mean an extended cocktail hour in some cases! If you are taking all of your portraits during sunset, your equation to determine your ceremony start time may look something like this (Keep in mind, I’m working backwards here!):

Sunset Time and/or reception start time, 15-20 minute Buffer to bustle and for my team to set up for reception entrances, 30 minutes for couple’s portraits, 30 minutes for wedding party, 30 minutes for family, ceremony length = ceremony start time! Keep in mind, you’ll be adding time to cocktail hour in this example. You’ll want to confirm this is possible with your venue and additionally have select seating available for guests throughout cocktail hour.

Split— individual sides before your ceremony and combined during cocktail hour

If you are open and available to taking a number of portraits prior to your ceremony, that opens up a decent bit of time during your cocktail hour. With this option, you’ll be taking your individual-sided photos prior to the ceremony (Think: Partner A with their side of the wedding party or Partner A with their side of the family). Keep in mind, the same timeframes above will still apply, we’ll just be tweaking them just a bit to account for the fact that individual side photos have been taken prior to the ceremony. See below for what this may look like!

Sunset Time and/or reception start time, 15-20 minute Buffer to bustle and for my team to set up for reception entrances, 30 minutes for couple’s portraits, 10 minutes for combined wedding party, 15 minutes for combined family photos, ceremony length = ceremony start time!

Prior to your ceremony, you would want to account for: Individual sides of the wedding party with each person getting married (Approximately 10 minutes each), individual sides of the family (Approximately 10-15 minutes each, depending on size), individual photos of each person getting married + a little 30-minute buffer to allow guests to arrive for your ceremony.

Portrait Timing

It’s important to note that portraits do take time! Yes, I want you to be able to enjoy your day with all of your favorite people, but I also know that you’ll have an expectation for the final gallery you receive from me. You’ll want to see photos of you with your brand new spouse, photos of you with your wedding party, and you with your family. These things take time, and it’s so necessary that you don’t rush through them. When you look into scheduling your ceremony time, think about the portraits that you would like to occur after your ceremony as well as the length of time you’ll need. If we are backed right up to sundown or your reception, we won’t have an opportunity to take the dreamy, natural light photos I know you’re picturing. That said, if you leave a buffer for the portraits that you would like to occur after your ceremony, you can work backwards from there AND from your ceremony end time to determine when your ceremony will begin.

Keep in mind, depending on your reception layout and the time of year your wedding is occurring, sunset photos could always be an option! This is not the case at every wedding but is highly recommended when possible! This could reduce the time you’ll need for couple’s portraits during cocktail hour time.

Honorable Mention Considerations

Now… these things aren’t necessarily directly related to your ceremony start time, but everything throughout your day will be hinging around each other, so they are important to point out here.

  • Will your ceremony space be flipped into your reception space?
    • If yes, and photos of the space are important to you, you’ll need to account for time for me or your photography team to photograph your flipped reception space before guests enter.
  • Will your cocktail hour space and reception space be the same?
    • If yes, and these photos are important to you, you’ll need to account for time prior to your ceremony for me or your photography team to photograph the space which means your reception space should be fully ready at least 45 minutes prior to your ceremony.
  • Will your reception space be ready prior to your ceremony?
    • This is always ideal! When couples opt to share their first look at the altar, it makes post-ceremony and pre-reception time pretty tight which means it would be ideal for your reception space to be photographed pre-ceremony if these photos are a priority for you. The reason this is so important? I’ll need my second shooter to help run the show by my side as we rock and roll our way quickly through family portraits. They will either be helping call names to keep things organized and moving or will be grabbing candids during portraits or cocktail hour to increase the variety in your gallery. In order to make sure those reception photos happen without holding up the time your guests are able to enter your reception space, photographing the space will need to happen pre-ceremony.

One final note on Ceremony Time + Sunset

Y’all know I love me a golden hour moment and would highly recommend having your ceremony within golden hour if you can swing it! I typically consider light to be “ideal” and shifted a bit more towards a golden hour feel in the two hours following sunrise and in the two hours before sunset. All that said, I recommend utilizing this period of time for portraits, instead of locking your ceremony in mid-golden hour. The reason for this?

Photos take time. Photos also require light! The closer to sunset we are, the more rushed things will feel. Give yourself the gift of additional time on your wedding day! Keep in mind, it is always possible to take sunset photos during your reception later in addition to the set of photos we’ll take just after your ceremony! (We’ll just need to lay things out strategically!) We’ll be going over lighting and ceremony positioning tips and tricks in just a few weeks, so hang tight and stay tuned!

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