There is a lot that goes into answering the question, “When should our wedding ceremony start?” For starters you should hire a wedding planner or wedding coordinator who will help you decide when your wedding day timeline. I’m going to recommend you start at 3:30 p.m., but read on to see all that goes into making the decision.
Work Backwards from Wedding Venue Curfew
If you’re not using a wedding planner, then you sort of need to work backwards to figure out what time you should schedule your wedding ceremony. By that I mean, does your wedding venue have a curfew? If so, you’ll want to decide from that point backwards. So, for example, how many hours of reception you want? Will you have a cocktail hour? Will you do formal photos after the ceremony? Does your photographer also want to do couples photos after the ceremony? Or will you do a first look?
The reason all these things matter is because they all take time (and probably more time than you think).
Latest Ceremony Start Time
Let’s say, you’ll be doing a first look and will have a one-hour cocktail hour and four hours of reception. That means, the latest your ceremony can start is 4 p.m. It would look like this:
4:00-4:30 p.m. Ceremony
4:45-5:45 p.m. Cocktail Hour
6:00-10:00 p.m. Reception
Things to Think About before Scheduling the Ceremony
My advice for determining the start time of your wedding ceremony is to think about the following:
How elaborate is your hair and makeup and how long will it take? Do you have attendants and will they also be getting hair and makeup done? [Talk to your hair stylist and makeup artist for this info]
How relaxed do you want your wedding day morning to be? (The earlier the ceremony, the faster you’ll have to get ready)
Do you want a longer cocktail hour so you and your sweetie can have a few moments of down time right after the ceremony?
When does the sunset on your wedding day?
Do you want natural light during your reception or are you ok if it’s already dark and your photographer has to use their flash?
If there isn’t a curfew at your venue, how long do you want to dance the night away?
How many “activities” do you have planned during the reception? The more things you plan, the longer it will take
I strongly advice erring on the side of having your ceremony earlier rather than later. I say this for a few reasons.
You’ll quickly run out of daylight if you start too late.
Your reception flies by in the blink of an eye, so don’t make it too short.
You want to have a well-paced wedding ceremony and don’t want it to feel rushed.
A good start time is 3:30 p.m. Schedule about 30 minutes for a nicely paced wedding ceremony, that’s the ideal ceremony length. This gives you plenty of room in your schedule for a bit of quiet time alone after the ceremony, an abundance of light for your couple’s photos, a relaxed cocktail hour, and plenty of time to celebrate with all your guests and dance the night away!
Oh, it’s going to be such a happy day, I almost can’t wait!