Wedding day is all about the ceremony. Capturing the beauty of the day is important. Your timeline works backwards and forwards from the ceremony time. Let me go through the factors in determining what time should your ceremony be.
The season of the year effects your ceremony time. In the early Spring, late fall, and early Winter, the daylight is significantly shorter. Obviously having light for your ceremony is key (unless you live in southern California where it wouldn’t matter which season or what time). Though the ambiance is magical after sunset and after dark, it creates a huge challenge for your photographer to capture your photos, your facial expressions, when everything is dark unless they are hauling around extra lighting.
Not only do you want to have enough light for your wedding ceremony, but typically the bride and groom run off during Cocktail Hour to take those romantic photos. This hour before sunset is referred to as “golden hour” because of the awesome way that the light plays with everything. As the photo above, that low sun makes each little strand on each stem of hay stand out. It also creates that halo effect on the subjects which is why the hairs on their heads almost glow. I can’t emphasize enough the magic that comes from this time of day and how it will make all of those “after ceremony” extra stunning. In my opinion, you almost should start at knowing when golden hour is for those “after ceremony” photos then work back to establishing when ceremony time should be.
Knowing how many people will need to be in the Processional is also a factor. Guests tend to seat themselves nowadays and they will all make sure that they are seated once they seat the Officiant get into place, if not before. Though not always now, but most of the time you still see the grandparents and parents be escorted down and seated prior to the bridal party. Typically any family beyond those, i.e. cousins, uncles, aunts, etc. were pre-seated before the Procession even begins. Then, if you have an extra large bridal party, just understands that it takes a bit more time to get your bridal party into place than if you had a smaller grouping. Will your bridal party go down one at a time or in pairs? All of these little factors add up to how much time it takes for everyone to just get into place prior to your wedding ceremony begins.
As the first paragraph states, “it is all about the ceremony” is indeed true. Have the ceremony that you want. If you want to have a sand ceremony, incorporate that. If you want to have prayers or individual speeches from some of your guests, incorporate that. If you want to have singers or special music, incorporate that. Each of these aspects add time. Recognizing each of these influences is just part of the process of working through your timeline.
Weather is a factor as well. Late Spring through early Fall, you have the influence of potential hot temperatures here in the South. It doesn’t make sense to have your guests show up in the hottest part of the day which is typically 3 or 4 p.m. in the afternoon just from a comfort standpoint.
Though some brides think that they will party for hours and hours, it is a long day for not only the bride and groom, but for their families and the bridal party. A party or event that lasts more than 5 hours is typically unrealistic. Yes, a few of your closest friends may want to party for long hours, but most guests will leave at or before the 5 hour mark. The bartender only serves for 5 hours too which should give you another indication that the party will slow down and end.
Here are the recommended times for most all of our weddings:
Late March: Ceremony timeframe 4:30 PM – 5:00 PM
April through October: Ceremony timeframe 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Early November: Ceremony timeframe 5:00 PM
Mid-to-Late November: Ceremony timeframe 4:30 PM