How to Pick Your Ceremony Location and Time

When it comes to the ceremony and reception, there are so many details to consider. You’re not just picking a venue—you’re picking a space that will host your guests as they celebrate with you. There are also lots of other factors that can affect whether or not an outdoor space is right for your wedding: Do you have enough daylight? Is there enough shade? Does it offer a rain option that will still fit your vision? After capturing over a hundred weddings as a photographer, I want to share my expert opinion on choosing the best ceremony location and time of day.

Let your guest list guide you.

Sit down with your partner and discuss whether or not you want a big wedding. Some couples envision their wedding day surrounded by hundreds of guests while others might want something more intimate with only their closest friends and family by their side. The beauty of a wedding day is that you call all the shots. It's your day so choose what is more comfortable on your terms.

Having a larger wedding means you'll likely want to be close to home or where a majority of your guests live. It's important to pick a venue that accommodates your guest list comfortably with plenty of room for everyone to spread out. If you decide to go with a smaller, more intimate wedding, you'll want a venue that doesn't feel like it has a lot of empty, unused space. Your guest list will be a huge navigator when it comes to looking for a venue.

Don’t overlook the weather.

No one wants to think about it raining on their wedding day, but it's always important to have a rain plan in case the weather decides to take a turn. If you choose a location that can accommodate both sunny and rainy weather, you’ll be prepared in case the sky opens up (or if the sun decides to shine) on your big day. It’s also important to consider milder temperatures— like clothing options for guests, people are more likely to dress comfortably if they know it won’t be too hot or too cold outside.

Brides to be, consider the light!

It’s so important to find a space that has plenty of natural light. If you are having an outdoor or indoor wedding, then consider how much natural light will be available at each location. Lighting is the most important factor when it comes to capturing the best photos. If you aren't sure, you can always ask me for guidance in choosing the perfect spot.

Choosing the time of day.

Once you've found your dream venue, it's time to choose your ceremony time. Just after sunrise and a little before sunset are great times to take photos because they offer two very different looks: sunrise has a lot of color and contrast; sunset has more subtle colors and less contrast.

Sunrise Ceremony

At sunrise, the photos are crisp and the light is soft. I will say, sunrise ceremonies aren't for everyone and I would only suggest this for very intimate weddings or elopements. If it works with your vision, it's great for a summer wedding because you can avoid sweltering heat and you can always move indoors for a reception with air conditioning or find a large shaded area for post-ceremony festivities.

Noon or early afternoon Ceremony

These are most common but lighting can sometimes be tricky depending on the season. Check to see when sunset will be and if it's more than 3 hours from your ceremony time, the lighting could be a little harsh. To soften the light, the best option for your ceremony will either be in a large shaded area or indoors. This will help avoid the harsh shadows cast by the sun being directly overhead or beaming through unevenly. There are some exceptions of course, like if the sun will be behind the ceremony spot and diffused by trees or large hedges, etc.

Sunset Ceremony

Sunset provides a soft, warm light and can make for some absolutely stunning ceremony photos. If you opt for a sunset ceremony, I recommend getting formals and other important photos done before the ceremony so you have plenty of daylight to capture all of the details of your day.

When planning a wedding, it's important to consider comfort and lighting when choosing where and when you will have your ceremony. Soft, even light will make for the best photos and it will also provide your guests with comfort during your special day. If you're not sure if your venue or location will be ideal, I'm always here as a resource to ensure you have the best photos and experience possible. As your wedding photographer, I don't just show up to your wedding - I help you coordinate it to be the best day it can be! Feel free to contact me using the form below to start planning.