How to Pick Your Wedding Ceremony Time + Why You Should Consider a First Look

December 20, 2019

Planning a wedding involves a lot of moving parts — the who (your wedding party, guests, and vendors), the where (your wedding venue), and the when (your ceremony time). It’s the last one, the wedding ceremony time, that can trip up a lot of people during their planning!

So let’s talk about what time you should have your wedding ceremony and why you might want to consider a first look!

Most wedding days typically go something like this:

  • wedding ceremony

  • cocktail hour (portrait time)

  • reception

If the couple doesn’t see each other prior to the wedding ceremony, that means all the portraits need to be done during cocktail hour. And that’s fine, but there’s one big thing you want to consider if outdoor portraits are important to you and that’s what time does the sunset on your wedding day?

A good resource to check this is Just pop in your location and wedding date and it will tell you the sunset time for your big day. Now that you know the sunset time, what does that mean for your wedding ceremony?

Let’s say for the sake of example, that the sun sets at 7 pm on your wedding day. In that case, I’d suggest doing your cocktail hour and portraits from 5:30-6:30 pm. This means that if your ceremony is roughly 30 minutes, you’d want to plan on a 5 pm ceremony. This schedule will ensure that you’ve got plenty of great daylight for photos!

In the winter, the sun sets much earlier than during the summer months so be sure to check the sunset time, especially if you’re getting married in the winter months!

Now maybe you want to have a sunset ceremony or attend your cocktail hour rather than doing portraits during the time. This is where a first look comes in handy! When doing a first look, your wedding day timeline might look something like this:

  • first look

  • portrait time

  • wedding ceremony

  • cocktail hour (couple attends)

  • reception

You may be wondering, what is a first look?


A first look is when the couple sees each other prior to the wedding ceremony. Typically these are set up so that one of the couple walks up to the other and taps them on the shoulder so that they turn around and get a big reveal of their partner in wedding attire.

First looks are typically more private moments than first seeing your partner at the end of the aisle during the ceremony and allow the two of you to spend some one-on-one time together before the wedding day gets chaotic.

Then, following the first look, all your portraits (wedding party, family, and soon-to-be-newlyweds) can be done prior to the ceremony, freeing you up to go to your cocktail hour and meaning you don’t have to worry about when the sun sets in relation to your ceremony.

Are you considering a first look on your wedding day?