As a general guideline, we recommend your ceremony be between 60-90 minutes before the sunset. So, let’s start with how we figure out where it should be! 

Two Pair Photography | @twopairphoto

First – let’s determine sunset. 

Google this for your date, but be sure to spell out the month instead of using numbers or sometimes your month and date might get swapped and you’ll get the wrong season. Thanks, Europe!

For the sake of this example, let’s assume that your sunset is 6:15pm. 

Second – are you doing a first look? 

If so, you can lean a little closer to that 60 minute mark, but if not, we highly recommend setting your ceremony closer to 90 minutes, and here’s why: 

If your ceremony lasts about 30 minutes (this is average for ceremonies not performed in a church), then that means your ceremony will end with ~60 minutes of sunlight still left. Sunset is actually the time the sun goes behind the horizon, so there’s still a few minutes afterward but, if it’s overcast or rainy, you lose the light earlier, so it’s important to have a little wiggle room. 

Third – how many family members are involved in photos? 

If you have large family groups or any family photos, we generally dedicate about half of the cocktail hour to those and then the remainder to your couple portraits. But wait – we did the first look, remember? YES, but these are the photos you’ll frame, and you can’t beat that golden hour light (unless you have a twilight hour photographer … but we’ll get to that). 

If you have a lot of photos with your family (hey, we know you haven’t seen them in a while!) just keep in mind that any photo that contains 3 or more people takes 3-5 minutes to set up. Obviously, this is just an estimate, but those large “all of the Smith family, please step up” take longer. Acknowledging this will help you create a family photo list that makes sense for you and how much of your time you want to dedicate to this portion of the wedding. 

Also, who all is a Smith? Does that include people who are cousins? Have a different name? Children of a marriage that don’t have Smith as a last name? See the rabbit hole here?

So, back to our example – your sunset is at 6:15pm, you are doing a first look, and you have 10 family groupings with about 5 people each.  I would recommend setting your ceremony at 5pm to make sure that you don’t run out of photo light before your romantic portraits are taken. 

Knowing these tips ahead of planning your ceremony time should help you keep your schedule in line with your priorities, and ensure your time is well spent and you’re able to get all the lovely photos without risking the loss of light!

Julia Soniat Photography | @juliasoniat