8 things you should think about when choosing your ceremony time
bride and groom under floral arch during wedding ceremony holding hands looking at each other with shock and surprise as they've just been married, celebrant is smiling and looks joyful after announcing they are married

What is the best time of day to get married?

Choosing a start time for your wedding ceremony can be a daunting task but don’t fret! Here is some useful information that will take you through how to work out your ideal ceremony time in 8 short steps! It will also give you guidance on your ideal timeline for your winter, spring or summer wedding in Scotland, skip to the end for my summary on what I think it a great time for your wedding ceremony to start.


What time should my wedding start?

The average ceremony time for uk weddings is usually around 1pm to 2:30pm. You can of course you can plan you wedding to start at any time you like, it is your wedding after all.  The time you choose will depend on the size of your wedding, the location of your wedding, the time of the year you choose to get married and a few other factors.  Here are some reasons why certain times are better than others, and how to get the most out of your photography and your wedding day timings in general.

Bride and Groom exchanging rings at their wedding ceremony in the bride's parents garden start time of 2pm under floral arch in a garden path in front of their house
Image from Alice and Ben’s summer wedding, 2pm ceremony in Alice’s parents beautiful garden

1. When and where are you getting married?

The time of year can have a big impact on the timing of your wedding.  In winter in Scotland it can start to get dark as early as 3pm! So a 3pm ceremony would mean the majority of your photography coverage would be in the dark.  Take into account the daylight hours when choosing your wedding start time to allow for some daytime portraits. [click here to look at a winter wedding with 2pm ceremony]

The best light of the day is usually the hour before sunset, so if you’re planning a spring, autumn or winter wedding you may wish to take advantage of ‘golden hour’.

Golden Hour is the hour before sunset, to work out when golden hour is or to find out when the sunset will be on your wedding day, google search the following; type ‘sunset time’ followed by the date of your wedding, and location. For example type ‘Sunset time 4th October 2020 Glencoe‘ the sunset time on this date is 18:46, so golden hour will be 17:46 to 18:46, this is usually around dinner time (typical!) but if the light is incredible we could perhaps plan to sneak out for a few shots so factoring this into your timeline is a good idea.

couple silhouetted at sunset with trees in background at the beach on cambo estate where they had their wedding ceremony and reception
Image from Nikki and David’s Cambo Estate wedding, we caught the last of the breathtaking sunset by the sea.


2. How big is your wedding ceremony?

For smaller weddings an elopements you can be much more flexible with your start time.  You may choose your ceremony time to take advantage of the best light of the day,  or maybe you love the idea of a wedding under the stars? If you’re having a reasonably big wedding ceremony, with lots of people to say hello to, and provide dinner and entertainment, there are a few more factors you have to consider. So to answer this question I’ll go over a typical wedding day timeline to get to your ideal ceremony time.




3. How long you would like your evening reception to be?

It’s actually best to work backwards and start with the end of the day,  so let’s start with your evening. If for example you’ve booked a band that will play 2 x 1.5hr sets with a 1hr break in-between, to fit this in you’d want to aim to start your dancing around 7:30/8pm (7:30 to be safe… things always run on!).  You may want to cut your cake before then (if you have one or wish to) so allow a little time for that as well. Depending on your venue they may need turnaround time for the room, or time for the band to setup without the guests in the room.  Most bands need at least an hour to set up so you should factor this in.

bride and groom dancing after the wedding ceremony and reception at the Rhynd, barn wedding venue in leuchars
Eilidh and Innes owning the dancefloor at their wedding at The Rhynd, their first dance was 8pm [view more from their wedding here]


4. What time should your dinner/wedding breakfast start?

The next key time is dinner, it’s best to chat with your caterer about this and it depends on what kind of catering you go for, but generally you’ll need to allow 1.5-2hrs for the dinner.  Then there is speeches, wether before or after dinner allow at least 30-45min for this and be prepared for it to take longer! If doing your speeches in-between courses this may take much longer, again depending on what kind of catering you go for.  Considering the above we’d now be looking at your guests being seated for dinner or starting speeches around 4-5pm.


5. How long should my drinks reception be?

Next up is your drinks reception time, or the time between your ceremony and speeches.  Over the years I’ve had a variety of times allocated for the drinks reception, from a very rushed 30min to a very leisurely 3 hours.  From my experience for the average wedding, and for a comfortable potentially stress-free drinks reception,  I would allow at least 1.5hrs after the ceremony has finished before you seat your guests and start your speeches.

Photography wise I’m very relaxed and will try my hardest to make any timescale work, but if you want to get the most from your photography during this time, and would like to have some family portraits, couple portraits and relaxed photography of you and your guests enjoying the reception, you need to allow at least 1.5hrs for this to run smoothly.

Blackboard with wedding day timeline and wedding start time listing order of events, ceremony time, photographym, speeches, dinner, cake cutting, dancing, evening food, s'mores & spaklers and wedding finish time. Blackboard sits ontop of a whisky barrel at Lindores Abbey Distillery
Wedding day timeline from Amanda and Tim’s Lindores Distillery Wedding in the Summer, 2:30pm ceremony.


6. How long should I allow for photography?

This of course is simple, as long as you want! but it really depends greatly on what you’re wanting from your photography coverage. On a typical wedding day during the drinks reception I’ll aim to photograph;

  • Family group portraits, usually around 6-8
  • Group photos with the wedding party (bridesmaids, groomsmen etc.)
  • At least one short couple session (depending on daylight hours available)
  • Photos of guests and the couple enjoying themselves at the reception.
  • Detail shots of the room set up for the meal

This can all be achieved within the 1.5hrs, and will allow for some all important time to chat to your guests, and enjoy your drinks reception too!

Depending on the location of your ceremony, your priorities or unique wedding ideas you may wish to allow more time, perhaps a longer couple session if you have a separate location in mind.

bride and groom walking across a misty field with the hills of Glencoe in the background after their humanist wedding ceremony
Yazmyn and Graeme organised their ceremony time to make the most of the daylight for their December wedding in Glencoe.


7. How long will your ceremony take and what time should the wedding start?

Depending on the type of ceremony you’re having you will want to allow around 1hr for your ceremony.  Most humanist or non religious ceremonies won’t take this long, but it takes care of any unexpected delays. Of course some weddings are longer, some are shorter but it’s always good to have extra time rather than be rushed. Depending on the location of your ceremony you may want to allow for travel time too.

Using the above as a guide this takes us to a ceremony time of around 1 – 2:30pm.


8. Work out your wedding day timeline

To help here is a typical timeline for a 2pm wedding ceremony (summer wedding)

2pm Ceremony
3pm Drinks Reception/Photographs (30min group photos, 30min couple session, 30min chatting to guests)
4:30pm Guests are seated for dinner/speeches
5:00pm Dinner starts
6:30/7pm Dinner finishes
7:30pm Evening reception starts
8:00pm First Dance/Dancing
9:30pm Band break, evening buffet served
10:00/10:30pm Band resumes
00:00 Wedding finishes

male same sex couple reading vows to each other at their wedding ceremony under floral arch in outdoor ceremony at the byre at inchyra
Lewis and Eli opted for a 3pm ceremony for their summer wedding as they had a tea ceremony earlier in the day



So in summary here is my advice


Elopement or small wedding

Do what you like! all you need is someone to agree to marry you at that particular time and you’re all set! but since you have the freedom, consider working around golden hour for your wedding start time and portraits using the above advice.

Bigger weddings 25+ people

In the summer the sweet spot seems to be between 1:30pm and 2:30pm but for a winter wedding I’d definitely consider a 12-1pm ceremony to make the most of the little daylight you have for some amazing portraits.

bride and groom happily walking down the aisle together after their wedding ceremony surrounded by friends and family throwing confetti at the tin shed knochraich farm in fintry




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Whether it’s photographing you in the heart of the Scottish countryside, or capturing your love in a natural and artistically-crafted way, I’d love to hear from you.

Zoë x