Wedding Planning Tips and Inspiration

How to Choose Your Wedding Ceremony Time

So, you’re engaged. Congrats! I’m sure your head is spinning with planning, details and wedding ideas! You’re thinking about all the amazing moments you will have, all of your favorite people to invite, and scrolling Pinterest for all of the gorgeous golden hour wedding photos. You decide on a 4:30 PM ceremony time, because that is the time your friend had for her summer wedding ceremony… and then, you discover that the sun sets at 4:50 in Virginia for your November wedding.

Unfortunately, this does happen to couples, and they are often disappointed to find that they will not have enough time for the beautiful photos they had hoped for. If you’re reading this and haven’t set your wedding ceremony time, then here are some things to consider from a photographer’s perspective.

Decide If You’re Doing a First Look

I’ll be honest that I love the first look on wedding days! Capturing that moment before the ceremony with you and your partner is magical. The time you two have to be together and gush and smile and laugh before declaring your love in front of family is the best. And the couples I work with often tell me that their stress just melted away when they saw each other.

As a wedding photographer, doing a first look means we can launch right into wedding portraits and sometimes wedding party and parent photos to knock that off the shot list BEFORE your ceremony even starts. That means we can get right to the fun stuff after the ceremony, like champagne and appetizers!

However, some people don’t want to do a first look because of time constraints, religious objections, or just prefer to keep it traditional. Whatever is right for you and your soon-to-be spouse, I am behind you 100%. Of course, we can modify your timeline to get what we need, but it may mean some time away from your guests during cocktail hour. As long as you are happy on your wedding day, so am I.

Logistics and Travel

If your ceremony and reception aren’t at the same location, logistics can come into play. Here are just examples I’ve seen couples forget to consider when planning their timeline between the wedding and the reception:

    Hair and makeup at the salon are running late.The time it takes for a wedding party to pack up/get on a bus or into their cars. A shuttle/bus/limo running late.Weather delaysTraffic delays (check for any events in your town that could cause backups such as sporting events, festivals, or road closures)

Be sure to allow for extra travel time in your timeline if you’re in different locations to reduce stress and protect the timeline and photos you want to capture on your wedding day.

Click here to download my sample wedding timeline!

The Time of Year You are Getting Married

Virginia weather can be… unpredictable at best. For example, while it should be in the 60s in mid-November, it could also be 40. So plan for the season as you plan your wedding. You’ll also want to keep an eye on the weather the week of your wedding and have a plan B for locations and amenities you might need to include, like umbrellas or shawls for guests.

Also, consider the time of day. Don’t plan a noon ceremony in August on the beach when it’s likely to be a brutally hot scorcher. When in doubt in the summer, go early (think brunch wedding!) or later in the day.

When is Sunset on your Wedding Day?

Photographers are suckers for a good sunset or golden hour, and I’m no exception. There’s not much better than when two people in love are in front of my camera and those beautiful, golden rays of the late day are surrounding them.

If you love those romantic sunset photos too, then the best thing to do is to look up when the sun sets on your wedding day. Once you have that time, you can work backwards from there for your wedding timeline. I’m happy to help with advice on your timeline and when to set your wedding ceremony time!

Together, we can form a plan to take advantage of the best time to get married and have photos taken that you will love for a lifetime. Let’s do this!


Carly is a wedding photographer based out of Northern Virginia. She is most known for her bubbly personality and love for Starbucks iced coffee. Are you planning a wedding in the DMV area? Inquire about your wedding date!

I'm a fine art wedding photographer
serving couples in Virginia, Washington D.C. and beyond.


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