When it comes to the wedding planning process, it seems like there’s a decision (or ten) to be made every single day. And many of those all-important choices happen to be centered around timeline: the schedule that sets the tone for your entire celebration. Today, then, we’re offering up our top tips for how to pick your wedding ceremony start time. Read on, morning birds and night owls, for our top four things to consider when choosing a time to tie the knot.


1. Consider the food.

We’re starting with everyone’s favorite thing: food. Choices centered around wedding food are often the most fun—and creative—decisions couples get to make in the planning process. (Check out the food section of Aisle Guide for all you need to know about planning your menu, choosing your food service type, and more.) When choosing your wedding ceremony start time, think about the feast you envision for your big day. Food, more than you may realize, can really help to set the tone for your entire affair. Do you envision an afternoon clambake on the beach? A Bloody Mary and mimosa bar in a breezy garden? Late-night food trucks under twinkling market lights? S’mores over fire-pits on a quiet lake? The type of noms you want to serve at your wedding can help guide the time of day you choose to tie the knot.


2. Think about photo ops.

Another thing to consider when choosing your wedding ceremony start time is photo ops. If you can’t live without that sunset newlywed shot, you’ll probably want to start your ceremony in the mid-to-late afternoon (depending on the time of year you’re married) so that you’re ready to take post-ceremony photos during that all-important magic hour. The venue itself also comes into play here—certain areas will offer better lighting at different times of day. A garden that looks stunning in mid-morning light might be completely washed out in the afternoon sun. This is where visiting potential venues with a professional wedding planner (and your photographer, if possible) comes into play—wedding professionals will be able to tell you the pros and cons of different venues at different times of day.


3. Determine the type of celebration you want.

Are little ones allowed at your event, or is it an all-adult affair? If you’re hosting a super family-friendly wedding with a kid-heavy guest list, you’ll want to start it earlier in the day so as to avoid post-bedtime breakdowns. If you’re picturing a late-night dance party where cocktails are a-flowing, you’ll want a ceremony that starts, at the earliest, in the late afternoon (so you don’t lose too many guests before nighttime).

4. Consider logistics.

From traveling guests who will have just arrived on a red-eye to other big events in the area, make sure you have a comprehensive picture of the logistics surrounding your big day before you set your ceremony time in stone. Ask your venue if they’re hosting another on-site wedding at any point that day. Find out about noise restrictions, local ordinances, and whether or not your event has to end by a certain time. Google your wedding date and location to figure out what else is happening the area that day—are any conferences or other large-scale events taking place nearby that might eat up all of the local transportation options (or make it a headache for your guests to find on-site parking)?

Photo courtesy Jenna Joseph Photography at Temecula Creek Inn