Sunset is one of my absolute favourite times to capture photographs. The sky is beautiful, the light is dramatic, and there’s a certain awe and joy that couples start to feel when they’re taking wedding photos at sunset. It’s a kind of ‘This is really happening’ feeling that is once-in-a-lifetime, and capturing it is the best. So if you want to plan your wedding for sunset, here is my guide!
Plan Your Wedding For Sunset: Ceremony or Photographs?
When you start to plan your wedding for sunset, you have to clarify what your vision is. Are you hoping to say your vows as the sun sets behind you – may be at a glorious outdoor wedding venue? Or are you hoping to plan your wedding for enough time to have your couple’s photos taken at sunset?
Those are very different days with very different schedules, so we will go over them separately.
Plan Your Wedding For Sunset: The Ceremony
If you want to plan your wedding ceremony for sunset, it’s a pretty ambitious goal – and honestly, it comes with some challenges. As a photographer, I’m always going to advise you to have your ceremony during the day, when you get amazingly full and even light. At a sunset ceremony, you’re going to be standing in one position with strong light falling at you from one angle. It’s going to make your photographs dramatic, but the deep shadows sometimes obscure faces. Plus, your guests will likely end up with the sun in their eyes.
On the other hand, if you opt to plan your wedding for sunset and take your vows in front of the colour-splashed sky, that’s going to be unforgettably beautiful! So if you want to do that, here are some things to keep in mind:
#1 – Check The Angles
When you are scouting out your venue location to plan your wedding for sunset, be sure to talk to the venue manager about what it’s like at sunset. Are there any obstructions to the view? What angle is the sun at? Are there any things that are going to cast big shadows at that time of day? They’ll have the answers to all of these questions and more!
#2 – Start Earlier Than You Think
When you plan your wedding for sunset, you’re facing the chance that you’ll end up finishing up your ceremony in the dark. What you don’t want is to have the best of the sunset over by the time you walk down the aisle! So, when you look up the sunset timings for your wedding day, give yourself way more time than you expect to need.
Give the guests time to mingle before they’re seated, and then, on top of that, plan your ceremony to end 15-20 minutes before the sun is predicted to go down. The best colours of sunset happen before the sun dips below the horizon, so this way you’ll catch the best of it!
#3 – Plan a Great Lighting Scheme
Make sure that you work with your wedding venue to plan your wedding for sunset – they’ll be able to help you create the perfect lighting scheme for once the sun goes down. Even if you plan your ceremony time perfectly, you’ll still have time to mingle after the ceremony and you don’t want to do it in the dark!
Plan Your Wedding For Sunset: Wedding Photos
If you want to plan your wedding for sunset, my recommendation is to have your ceremony in the afternoon and then tuck your sunset wedding photos into the reception timeline. In fact, I’ve created a full wedding day timeline to help you map out your day!
This plan has you slip out in between the dinner and the speeches to go catch the best light, but you may need to move the photo slot depending on the time of year, the sunset timing, and the reception schedule.
#1 – Build It Into Your Runsheet
It might sound obvious, but when you want to plan your wedding for sunset, make sure that you leave dedicated space in your wedding schedule runsheet that is just dedicated to chasing the sunset pictures.
#2 – Leave a 40-Minute Bracket Around Sunset
If you are following my suggested wedding day timeline – or one that’s similar – then sunset is going to fall somewhere during your reception. That’s fine; you’re just going to need to plan for a window of time when you can sneak out of the reception to catch the sunset!
My advice is to leave a twenty-minute bracket of time on either side of the projected sunset time where you don’t have anything on the reception agenda. Ideally, it would be after you’ve had a chance to greet all your guests, but depending on the time of year, that might not be possible. No speeches, no cake, no meal – just forty clear minutes.
Will we use all forty minutes? Probably not. But you need the extra buffer time because you never know exactly when the sunset will look its best, and the last thing you want to feel as you soak in the golden light with your new spouse is rushed.
#3 – Work With The Photographer
When you’re enjoying your wedding reception, you don’t want to have one eye on the clock! That’s why it’s a great idea to talk with your wedding photographer ahead of time and plan your wedding for sunset photos together. Give them full permission to come to grab you when the time is right to get those amazing sunset shots, and then you don’t have to worry about it.
#4 – Take Daylight Savings Into Account
This is so important. If you’re planning your wedding day schedule months in advance, you can check the typical sunset time for the time of year of your wedding – but make sure the clocks don’t change between now and then. Make sure that you take daylight savings into account when you are planning your wedding day runsheet!
Final Thoughts on How to Plan Your Wedding For Sunset
Slipping away for a sunset photo shoot is so much fun: you get away from the chaotic joy of your wedding party to take a few deep breaths with the love of your life. You can say a few private words, take a second to soak everything in, and just be with each other for a little while. These are the moments that make all of the crazy details of planning a whole wedding completely, totally worth it.
And if you want some help keeping your wedding guests entertained while you take photos, I have some ideas for that, too!
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