It might be because I am a little over-caffeinated this morning (note to self: two cups of coffee before 8:00am is always too much!), but I had the song “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof running through my head this morning. (You won’t believe how random my mental playlist can be…I always wake up with the strangest songs stuck in my head. I chalk it up to exciting dreams 🙂 ) If you’ve seen Fiddler on the Roof, you might remember the beautiful scene with the marriage procession, and the dramatic song that accompanies it:
So let’s talk about planning an outdoor wedding around the timing of sunset. Mr. Wallaby and I love to dance, and we have both always envisioned having a night wedding—so we wanted our outdoor reception to begin as the sun was going down. It takes some careful planning, though, to coordinate the wedding-day festivities with the sun’s schedule.
Before we signed the contract with our venue, Oak Tree Manor, and agreed to a time for the wedding to start, I consulted SunriseSunset.com (no joke!) to find out what time the sun would be setting on our wedding date. The website allows you to choose a city and month, and it lists the civil twilight, nautical twilight, astronomical twilight, moon phases, moonrises and moonset, solar noon, and day length for each day of that month. Probably more information than you’ll need, so I’ll help you decode it.
On our wedding date in November, the website said the sunset would be at 5:29 pm. The civil twilight would be at 5:54 pm—according to Wikipedia, that means at that time, the horizon is clearly defined and the brightest stars will be visible if there are clear conditions. (Hah! This is Houston. We don’t typically get to see many of the stars, even in the darkest time of the night.) The nautical twilight was 6:22 pm—at that time, sailors can no longer navigate via the horizon at sea and must rely on well-known stars as reference to guide their ships. From what I gather from Wikipedia, for us land-locked people, this means that the general outlines of objects near you may be distinguishable, but everything else is pretty hard to make out.
And finally, the astronomical twilight, when the entire evening sky is dark, begins at 6:51 pm. At that point our guests would be peering into complete darkness without the aid of candles and strings of globe lights.
This information made it much easier to draw up a wedding-day schedule. I started with the time of pitch darkness and worked backwards. I wanted the majority of the dancing to happen after the sun goes down, so dancing couldn’t start any earlier than 7:00 pm. I assumed the Persian knife dance, cake cutting, ice cream truck, and any other traditions could take about half an hour, so the dinner plates would be cleared by around 6:30 pm. The two-course dinner—salad and buffet-style BBQ—would probably take about an hour, so dinner could begin at 5:30. We planned a one-hour cocktail hour, so the cocktail hour could begin at 4:30. And the ceremony—a traditional Protestant ceremony, with several readings, vows, and exchange of rings—would probably last less than half an hour, so that means that game time was 4 pm!
I arranged these times into a schedule to send to our families, the wedding party, and our vendors:
11:00 am: Arrive at Oak Tree Manor. Make-up/hair stylists arrive and begin hair and make-up for the women in the wedding party. Groomsmen are free to hang out in their designated room but aren’t obligated to arrive this early.
2:00 pm: Mr. Wallaby should be getting ready at this point. I will be probably have already passed out from the sheer excitement of everything.
2:30 pm: First look. Portrait time. Hopefully we’ll squeeze in some time for family portraits too.
4:00 pm: Game time! Ceremony begins.
4:30 pm: Cocktail hour
5:30 pm: Dinner and toasts. The sun will be beginning to set.
6:30 pm: Knife dance and cake cutting. Ice cream truck arrives (!!!). Twilight falls and the sky should be almost dark.
7:00 pm: First dance. Father-daughter dance. Mother-son dance. Hopefully after that every guest will join us out on the dance floor.
10:00 pm: Our sparklers exit. Mr. W and I drive off into the night as newlyweds.
As the wedding date got closer, I added in other details to this schedule, such as what time each vendor would arrive, and I worked out the small details with our day-of coordinator the week of the wedding. But this helped immensely with general wedding planning—I highly recommend establishing a rough schedule early on in wedding planning. Don’t forget about tools like the sunrise-sunset calendar if you’re having an outdoor wedding!
Did you plan your wedding time around the sunrise? Have you arranged a wedding day schedule yet?