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When working with a bride and groom, one of the first questions they ask is, “What time should I get married?” As a professional photographer, I appreciate this inquiry. I am all about using the lighting and the environment working together to create the best images, and here on the Outer Banks, our backgrounds can be breathtaking.

Low evening light on the beach, morning light on the sound, and mid morning and mid afternoon, back lighting in the trees, are the most flattering. 

If you are having an oceanfront ceremony and the reception is at the same outdoor location, plan your vows to begin one and a half hours before sunset.

There will be less people on the beach and if your wedding is in the summer, it will be cooler. This hour and a half time frame, equals three 30 minute parts. 

Thirty minutes is usually needed for the ceremony, and a professional and prepared photographer can complete the family and wedding party portraits and candids within the next half hour. This leaves the last 30 minutes, just before sunset, for images of the Bride and Groom. This is the time of day when the ocean waves and eastern sky pick up the colors from the sunset in the west. These backgrounds make for romantic portraits at their best.

Garden or backyard settings are best in the late afternoon when the sun is behind the trees and the subjects are backlit. By waiting too late in the day, you will lose the “limelight”, which is the lime green colored leaves in the background. If the sun is too low, the trees will be dark and flat in the background of the images. 

Weddings on the sound facing west, can be tough to place with the lowering sun. Late afternoon is the best time before the sun drops so low that it is bright in the eyes of your guests. They will be squinting trying to see you exchange your vows. I suggest having your ceremony before this happens and later return to the water’s edge for the pictures when the sun is at its lowest. 

Hopefully, your soundfront setting has some open shade to take family portraits to get some groupings out of the way right after the ceremony. 

If you are traveling from an oceanfront ceremony to a reception venue, you will want the ceremony to begin two hours before sunset. This way you can allow for time to get to the venue and if the location has a picturesque outdoor or waterfront setting like the sound, you can use the sunset colors there.

You may want to try to photograph images on the sound while the sky’s still blue and not blown out behind the subjects. This will require your photographer to use a professional flash. Just before sunset, the sky will be colorful for the wedding party and the couple; however, this is a very limited amount of time so proper planning and skill is a must for your photographer.