Night Weddings: Our Guide to Planning an After-Dark Ceremony

 Image shows a blonde bride at her night wedding looking over her shoulder and smiling.Photo: Bella Bridesmaids Knoxville/Kelsey Shea

Many brides and grooms dream of saying “I do” in a sun-soaked meadow shaded by trees. Others imagine celebrating their nuptials on a beach or a boat at sunset. Some prefer to follow religious or cultural traditions and have their ceremony in the middle of the day at their house of worship.

The daytime wedding is traditional.

But some couples take an entirely different approach and choose to have their wedding ceremony at night.

With twinkling stars and the glow of the moon, a night wedding can be absolutely magical! Yet, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when planning the big event.

We’re revealing five essential tips for planning an after-dark ceremony. You’ll also learn when to take photos and what to consider before booking your venue.  

Visit the Venue at Night (Before Booking)

Beautifully set dining tables and chairs inside a venue at night with lanterns providing overhead lighting.

Photo: Pablo Laguia

Things look different in the daylight. 

Before you book your wedding venue or ceremony space, ensure you visit it at night. 

Whether you’re planning an indoor or outdoor wedding ceremony, it’s a good idea to see exactly how the space will look on the big day.

Visiting venues at night is the best way to know if there’s adequate lighting or if you’ll add your own. 

For nighttime weddings, well-lit ceremony and reception spaces are a must for two reasons:

1. Safety (of course)
2. So that everyone can see your beautiful dress!

    Should you fall in love with a venue that’s a bit too dark, don’t worry. There are all sorts of ways to light up a dark space! 

    If you’re having a fairytale-inspired wedding, consider stringing fairy lights or hanging chandeliers from the trees. If you’re going for a modern, industrial vibe, you might want to decorate with candles or string lights with classic Edison bulbs.  

    Take advantage of natural light sources, such as the moon and stars, when possible. These natural beauties add ambiance and make for an ultra-romantic backdrop. The only downside is that you can’t control them, so you’ll definitely want to have plenty of other light sources on hand.  

    Learn which questions to ask to score the perfect wedding venue in our post: 35 Questions to Ask When Touring a Wedding Venue!

    Take the Location and Season into Consideration

    A bride and groom on the dance floor having their first dance under many gorgeous string lights.

    Photo: Bella Bridesmaids Knoxville/Abigail Malone

    It can get quite cold and windy at night in some climates and seasons. 

    For outdoor celebrations, it can be a good idea to spread some heat lamps throughout the space. If any part of your celebration is outside, consider that when choosing your wedding dress and your bridesmaid dresses

    It’s also a good idea to let your wedding guests know that it will be an outdoor affair so they can dress appropriately, too.  

    When choosing bridesmaid dresses for your wedding party, look for nighttime fabrics and colors. Shiny fabrics like satin, beaded gowns with glistening embellishments or sequins, and sparkling metallic color palettes all look gorgeous under the night sky!

    Create an Appropriate Timeline

    Groom lifting and kissing the bride, black and white picture on a dance floor at night under string lights.

    Photo: Bella Bridesmaids Freehold/Nicole Klym

    The timing of your ceremony will directly affect the timing of your wedding reception. 

    Depending on when the sun sets, that might not leave you a ton of time for celebrating. Or it might mean you’ll have to celebrate later into the night.

    Be sure to check the time of day that the sun will set in your location on your wedding date. If you’re having a destination wedding on the beach in summer, the sun might not set until 8 or 8:30 PM.

    For most couples, that’s too late to start their wedding.

    Most couples end their reception by 10 or 11 PM, and very few let it run past midnight. If you’re having a full cocktail hour, dinner, and dancing after your ceremony, consider saying your vows by about 6 PM. That way, there’s plenty of time for all the festivities after.

    If you want to extend things past midnight, consider scheduling some of the most memorable moments (like cake cutting) earlier in the night. Older guests, guests with children, and those with a long drive home may have to leave early.   

    Remember that there’s no rule about the order of events on your wedding day. You might want to start your evening wedding with your cocktail hour, then have a short ceremony and serve dinner immediately after.  

    Related: How to Host a Memorable Wedding Cocktail Reception

    Take Some Wedding Photos Before Sunset

    Smiling bride walking while a few of her bridesmaids (in fuschia gowns) carry her train.

    Photo: Bella Bridesmaids Charleston/Sean Money + Elizabeth Fay

    With an after-dark ceremony, you can get some gorgeous shots outside! But you’ll also want to take some photos before the sun goes down.

    Create a photo shoot timeline where you take wedding party photos earlier in the day. That includes before sunset, during sunset, and at twilight.

    For couples planning to have a first look before their ceremony begins, this is easy to do. If you weren’t planning a first look, you may want to reconsider. 

    Many couples agree that their first-look wedding photos are some of their favorites. Plus, you can head straight to the cocktail hour after your ceremony and won’t miss a minute of the festivities!

    Before you book your wedding photographer, let them know you’re planning a ceremony after dark. 

    The timing of your event may require your photographer to bring different types of lighting equipment. Photographers generally avoid bright white lighting for outdoor photos at night. Instead, they opt for warmer, amber lighting to create a softer, more romantic glow.

    Plan a Great Send-Off

    Bride and groom kissing while guests cheer with sparklers.

    Photo: Bella Bridesmaids Chicago/Brianna Dutcher 

    End your special day with a memorable getaway with a fireworks display, lighting sparklers, or sending lanterns off into the sky. 

    These send-offs are the perfect way to conclude your celebration and make for stunning wedding photos!

    Just be sure to research the regulations and restrictions of your town and venue. Every locale has different rules about what is and isn’t allowed.

    No matter what type of wedding style or wedding theme you choose, getting married at night can be extra romantic! Planning an after-dark ceremony is easy. Just remember it might require you to shift your timeline a bit.

    If you’re okay with taking photos before your ceremony or extending your reception a little later into the night, your night wedding can be perfect! And it will surely be one that all of your guests will remember for years to come.

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