3 Ceremony Timing Essentials: From Preventing Latecomers to How to Catch a Sunset

Etiquette

While everyone loves to get the party started, the ceremony is the bread and butter of a wedding. After all, you need a ceremony to actually get married! Once you've figured out where and how you'd like the tie the knot, you'll have to figure out when. From timing your "I dos" with the sunset, to preventing your perpetually late friends and family and even dealing with family members who want to skip the ceremony, our etiquette experts answer all of your ceremony scheduling woes.

Some of my relatives say they are not coming to my 3:30 pm wedding ceremony because they have weekly errands to run. They are planning only to attend the wedding reception, which is at 5 pm. I'm offended! Should I tell them?
We don't blame you for being upset that they would rather hit the dry cleaner than watch you recite your vows, but think carefully before confronting them. Even if you were able to guilt them into attending, would you really feel better knowing they had come only because you forced the issue? Take the high road, and do not mention their absence when you greet them at the reception.

I'm worried about guests arriving late to the ceremony and distracting the others. What can I do to prevent this?
Latecomers to a wedding ceremony are inevitable but there are a few things you can do to minimize the distraction — things that don't involve lying to guests on your invite. Don't be too rigid about beginning the ceremony at the exact minute listed on the invitation; if guests are still trickling in at that moment, give them a few extra minutes to get settled and take their seats. But if it's getting really late, don't feel trapped waiting for people who may never show. (Very late guests may give up trying to get to the ceremony and catch up with you at the reception.) After the ceremony begins, station an usher just outside the ceremony entrance to direct guests in at an appropriate moment. But in the end, don't be too concerned with latecomers. Once the ceremony begins, everyone will be so enthralled with the ceremony that they won't notice any latecomers, especially ones that quietly slink into a seat in the back.

We're having an outdoor wedding and want to get married at sunset. What time should we start the ceremony?
Timing your outdoor ceremony to coincide with the sunset is a wonderful idea -- you and your groom will remember the moment forever and your wedding guests can experience the magic as the light wanes and the candles at the reception begin to glow. But timing the ceremony start time perfectly can be a bit tricky. If you wait until the sun has begun to set to start your walk down the aisle, then the light will be gone by the time you say your vows and you may be left exchanging rings in the dark. Instead, if you're having a 15- to 20-minute ceremony, begin the ceremony one- to one-and-a-half hours before the actual sunset time. (The Weather Channel has a handy wedding-sunset calculator.) Then, the setting sun will cast a soft glow during your vow exchange but it will still be well-lit enough so your photographer can get all the important shots. And as the sun sets and turns to dusk, you'll still have enough light for fabulous post-ceremony group photos, newlywed portraits, and cocktail-hour candids.

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