How to Plan a Sunrise Wedding

If you envision exchanging vows at sunrise, we have expert tips for planning the perfect morning celebration.

A bride and groom kissing with sunlight behind them and mountains in the distance.


While it’s most common to host a wedding ceremony in the afternoon with an evening reception to follow, there are plenty of options for the timing of a wedding. After all, your wedding day is all about what you and your partner want! You might prefer to host your wedding in the morning and offer a brunch reception, or you can stretch the celebration across multiple days during a wedding weekend. Another beautiful option? Hosting a sunrise wedding.

Sunrise weddings are planned early in the morning, which—depending on the time of year—could be even as early as 5 a.m. That may sound really early, so you're probably asking: What are the benefits?

“I think a couple who wants to create more of a full-day experience and an unconventional wedding would really benefit from a sunrise wedding,” says Manda Worthington, founder of Mae&Co Creative. “This option would be perfect for someone who wants not only beautiful lighting for their ceremony but also a relaxed feel throughout the rest of the day.”

Meet the Expert

Manda Worthington is the founder of Mae&Co Creative, a design and production company focused on weddings and luxury events.

Curious if this early morning call time is right for your wedding day? Below, find tips on how to plan a stunning sunrise wedding.

Why Choose a Sunrise Wedding?

A sunrise wedding is a unique option for couples who want incredible photos. As the sun comes up, it creates a dramatic display of light, adding to a stunning backdrop. It also offers a full-day experience for your wedding. “Being able to have your ceremony first thing in the morning and then maybe a brunch and then some fun activities with your guests, ending with dinner and a reception, creates a very full experience,” says Worthington. “It also takes the pressure off of having a strict timeline.”

A sunrise option is a great choice for an elopement or a micro-wedding with a smaller guest list, but it is still possible to plan for a larger guest list.

Tips for Choosing a Sunrise Wedding Venue

The key to choosing where to host a sunrise wedding is to plan to be outdoors. Consider national parks, state parks, city parks, beaches, skyline buildings, or other outdoor locations with open views.

It’s also important to consider the time of year you’re planning your sunrise wedding. Sunrise in the fall and winter months is later, but that also means significantly colder temperatures and the potential for rain, snow, or cloudy skies.

Sunrise Wedding Planning Details

As you’re planning your guest list, be sure to keep in mind that not everybody will be able to join the celebration at that time. If that’s the case, Worthington suggests planning a smaller sunrise ceremony with close friends and family and then hosting a reception with a larger guest list later in the day or evening.

And speaking of that very early wake-up call, it’s best to do as much prep and set-up as possible ahead of time. “Remember that wherever you choose to have your ceremony at sunrise, it will be completely dark during set-up,” says Worthington. “You’ll want to plan accordingly whether that’s having headlamps or setting up the night before.”

Because your set-up time is limited, it’s ideal to keep décor to a minimum for your ceremony and let your backdrop speak for itself! “Then go bigger on the details for your activities and dinner,” adds Worthington.

Following your ceremony, consider planning a brunch reception, or carry on the celebration into the evening for a traditional dinner reception.

Planning for Sunrise Photos

If you’re going to wake up early to tie the knot, it’s important to capture the beauty of the occasion. Scout out a photographer who is willing and interested in photographing a sunrise ceremony. Bonus points if they have done it before since they will have expert knowledge as to where you should plan to stand during your ceremony (i.e. for backlit photos versus fully-lit photos).

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