I was recently informed of a question posted on a well-known wedding forum. I happen to have nothing against the website at all, except that at least in this specific case, the answer to a Bride’s inquiry regarding the timing of her sunset wedding was completely off-course. Exhibit A:
My fiance and I are having an outdoor wedding at sunset. We had planned on a 4:30 p.m. start time, since the sun will go down at 4:45. But several of the wedding professionals we’ve spoken to have told us that the wedding ceremony most likely won’t actually start until 5:00, since many wedding guests are likely to be late. Should we put an earlier start time on the wedding invitations or just begin at the time we specified, whether or not everyone has arrived? We don’t want to say our wedding vows in the dark.
Exchanging outdoor vows at sunset is a great idea. Your wedding professionals are right: More guests than one would like to think do show up late to wedding ceremonies, but there’s a simple solution: as you suggested, your invitations should have an earlier start time — say, half an hour before you actually want the ceremony to begin. If you want things to get going at 4:30 p.m., simply invite your guests for 4:00 — and enjoy that sunset.
Because 98% of the weddings I design, plan and coordinate take place on the beach at sunset, I feel both confident and qualified to answer this question correctly.
First of all, because you are most likely paying for some really gorgeous photos of your ceremony, you want the lighting to be perfect.
Lighting, after all, is everything, right?
If you wait until the sun is ACTUALLY setting to walk down the aisle, your lighting is already nearly gone. Starting your ceremony one to one and a half hours before the actual sunset time will give you the most amazing photos because the sunlight will be perfect.
Most beach ceremonies last somewhere between fifteen and twenty minutes, after which the guests usually head to the cocktail hour while the photographer does some fun, casual post-ceremony shots with family, the wedding party and/or just the Bride and Groom. If you start your wedding at sunset (or even 30 minutes prior, as suggested in the Answer above), you will all be in the dark by the time you’ve said, “I Do”, resulting in dim, dark photos, to say the least!
The second part of this Q & A that is completely errant is the assumption (and acceptance) that your guests will show up late to your wedding and you should, therefore choose the time of your wedding to accommodate their tardiness. This is absolutely appalling to me, and should be to anyone planning a wedding! You should set the ceremony start time for whatever time YOU want, not based on how late you anticipate your guests will be!
Again, because the vast majority of our weddings are Destination Weddings, EVERYBODY is on vacation (or as I refer to it, “on Beach Time”). I am very upfront with my Brides about this but I also let them know that their ceremony WILL start on time. The reason for this is that not only is that what I am being paid to do, but every single element of the rest of the night is based on the time the ceremony is to start. You are paying every one of your vendors to perform a service to the best of their ability and have told everyone from the officiant to the musicians, from the caterer to the photographer what time to be ready. If the ceremony starts late then the reception starts late, which puts every carefully planned and coordinated detail of your event behind schedule as well.
During the rehearsal I emphasize to the family and Bridal Party how important it is that everyone be on time and I am sure to have them on site on Wedding Day early enough to ensure there are no close calls.
Occasionally there will be a late guest or two but their lack of punctuality, whether due to unforeseen circumstances or just plain bad manners, should NOT be what you base YOUR Wedding Day around.
So, are you planning a sunset wedding? What are your thoughts? And Photographers….I’d LOVE for you to weigh in on this matter too!
photo of Mix Mingle Glow wedding courtesy of Kate Crafton Photography
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