What is the Best Time of Day for an Outdoor Wedding Ceremony?
I am asked all the time when the best time of day is for an outdoor ceremony, and my answer is always Golden Hour! You will want to plan your ceremony for the beginning of golden hour, but there are some catches to having that beautiful golden light during the actual ceremony. This post is intended to arm you to the teeth with information to help you plan your day to get the most out of your outdoor wedding ceremony photos.
LET'S FIRST DISCUSS WHAT GOLDEN HOUR IS, AND IS IT ACTUALLY AN HOUR?
Golden hour is the “hour” after sunrise and before sunset. Your location and time of year really determines whether it’s an hour. For locations closer to the equator it is usually less than an hour, and for locations further from the equator it can be substantially longer than an hour. The Golden Light produced from Golden Hour is what gives it the name. It can be wonderful, because the shadows are less harsh (but longer), it enhances the skin and landscape scenes, and it’s harder to “blow highlights”. Highlights are the lightest part of the picture, and a blown highlight is white, which means the information cannot be recovered. A lot of times it can be ok to blow highlights in the background, but professional photographers try to steer clear of blowing highlights on people’s faces and bodies. To help you with planning, you can go to http://golden-hour.com to see when the golden hour will be for your selected date and location.
WHAT'S THE CATCH TO HAVING A GOLDEN LIGHT CEREMONY?
Depending on how long Golden Hour is for your selected location, you can be coming up short with light for the formal/family photos after your wedding ceremony. There are different ways to deal with this:
Schedule all formals before the ceremony! This is also wonderful for your guests who will be waiting for you to enter after the ceremony and probably ready to eat!
Shorten your shotlist! Make those formals only about the full wedding party, parents, 1 full family shot, and just you guys!
Don’t’ be scared of evening /blue hour formals. The background will mostly be dark to black but you can still get some beautiful photos of your family. If retaining the scenery in the background is important to you, you will want to schedule your ceremony before golden hour or schedule partial formals before the ceremony.
WHAT DIRECTION SHOULD THE SUN BE IN DURING THE CEREMONY?
If you are getting married right before Golden Hour or during the actual Golden Hour, it is best for the light to be directly behind the officiant-not to the side, and not in front. Remember-this is BEST CASE scenario and requires lots of planning to pull it off. Your photographer will be able to work with you to achieve this ahead of time; however, there may be other important things like a lake in the background and the sun is a little further to the side. Either way, the golden light from golden hour will make your photos spectacular!
DOES GOLDEN HOUR MEAN WE CAN HAVE A COMPLETELY NATURAL LIGHT CEREMONY?
Not necessarily. Well, you can always do whatever YOU want, because it is YOUR big day, but if the light is coming in from the side you need to go ahead and expect shadowing. For example, the light is coming in from the right-this means the back of the person’s head that’s on the right will be lit up more than their face, and the person facing them could have a very dark face as well from the shadow. In this case, I would use an on camera flash with a modifier for a little fill flash.
However, there is a much better chance of natural light ceremony working in golden hour light than in other times of day unless you are in a completely shaded area-then it doesn’t matter what time you get married!
I'M HAVING A DESTINATION WEDDING, AND I HAVEN'T BEEN TO THE LOCATION IN PERSON. HELP!
Your destination wedding photographer, destination wedding venue, and destination wedding planner can all assist you with this. The venue will know the location of the sunset and can then coordinate with the planner and photographer. Just make sure you're very clear in communicating what you want and when with all of them.
If you want a golden hour ceremony and need help planning your itinerary, please reach out to your photographer to include him/her with your wedding planner! And as always, you can reach out to me for any questions!
Thanks for reading!
Fine Art Wedding Photographer
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