What time should a wedding ceremony be for the best natural light photos?

What time should a wedding ceremony be for the best natural light photos?


This is a question I come across a lot when speaking to brides about their timeline/photos. I love to educate each one of my clients about natural light and the best time to get the best light. So I have decided to make this guide not only for my brides but for anyone else interested in the topic.

As a natural light wedding photographer here in Southern California, I can pretty much photograph a wedding year round. The first question I always like to ask is: what time is your ceremony? That will give me a good idea of what you have already planned. When booking a natural light photographer, they are going to expect you to have a timeline that works with natural light photos.  The ceremony time slot is all about your wants/wishes for the day. Do you want a first look? Do you want sunset photos?

If you are hiring a natural light photographer and want all the photos before the reception to be with natural light, then here is a guideline to consider when planning your timeline.


For traditional weddings where the bride and groom do not want to see each other before the ceremony:

Ceremony time: 2-1/2 hours before sunset

For untraditional weddings, with a first look, it is up to you if you want sunset photos for Bride and Groom Formals.

With sunset time photos, family and wedding party portraits before ceremony;

Ceremony time: 30mintues before sunset.

With family, and wedding party portraits after ceremony, but a first look before the ceremony:

Ceremony time: 1-1/2 hours before sunset.

Since every wedding is unique, this guideline will vary, wedding to wedding, but this is a typical wedding timeline for a natural light ceremony.

Madison Ellis Photography