You have made it through most of the elopement planning process. You’ve selected all of your vendors and someone asks you what time your ceremony is. You want to choose the perfect time, but you’re not sure what time that would even be! There are so many factors that go into planning the timeline for your elopement, and the lighting is definitely one of them.
The differences in lighting can be subtle or drastic depending on the time of day and even the type of lighting in the area. Overcast, direct sun and ambient lighting can all change the look and feel of the photos. Here are a few recommendations for deciding on what would be the best time for your ceremony.
So you’ve found the perfect venue with the most beautiful outdoor landscape to get married at. Natural light outdoors can be gorgeous, but we are often at the mercy of Mother Nature. If you have your ceremony too early you can expect harsh direct light. Harsh light creates harsh shadows under your eyes and squinting guests. Consider where your ceremony will be held as well. Will it be under a structure? Will there be ambient lighting from the venue? Will there be dilapidated lighting on the ceremony space (the splotchy shadows that come through trees or lattices)? The absolute best time for beautiful even lighting during the ceremony is within two hours from sunset. Keep in mind though – if you are not planning to do a first look and are wanting those dreamy sunset photos then you need to allow enough time in your timeline after the ceremony for your family/friend and couple portraits.
Go to my other blog, “What should our wedding timeline look like?“, to read about how long specific sets of photos generally take on the wedding day.
You fell in love with your venue and wanted to feature the inside during your ceremony (or it’s the winter and way too cold for an outdoor ceremony). While the lighting indoors is a little more manageable, it should still be taken into consideration when deciding the timeline. Is there ambient lighting in the venue or are there multiple lighting sources (sconces, chandeliers, pendants, uplighting etc.) These are all going to affect the lighting indoors for photos, however, it is easier to control with the use of flash. (Heyooo lighting queen). Are there a lot of windows in your indoor ceremony space? I generally recommend the ceremony starting about two hours before the sun sets, so that it is not too bright, or to dark in the venue.
Quick, head to google and type in your elopement date, location and sunset. This will give you the exact minute the sun sets. This is so helpful to know when you’re planning out your timeline, so there is zero guess work involved. No surprises when someone tells you the sun sets before your ceremony even starts. Getting married in November? That pesky daylight savings time will have the sunset at 4:30 in Washington, which means your ceremony should start around 2:30 or 3:00. Getting married in July? Sunset is more like 8:30 – meaning your ceremony should be at 6:30, and you would be met with direct, harsh light at 3:30. It all depends on the time of year you’re getting married.
Here’s a quick rundown.
• Indoors – Two hours before sunset
• Outdoors – Within two hours of sunset (preferably an hour before)