Why Sunset Wedding Photos are a Must-Have Part of Your Day

November 16, 2020

If you head inside for good right after your ceremony, you’re missing out on show-stopping sunset wedding photos

Couple walks on Malibu beach during orange sunset
Sunset Wedding Photography | What Time of Day to Take Wedding Photos | Destination Wedding Photographer Kathryn Cooper Weddings

Tuna tartare? Uncle Bob? They can wait for 20 minutes. Let your photographer grab awesome sunset wedding pictures of you and you’ll be forever grateful!

You see, most people schedule their wedding at around 4pm, which, on a summer day, means that you’re either taking portraits at about 2pm before your ceremony (harsh light) or at 6pm, which is great light (called golden hour wedding photos). But either way, you’re probably missing out on sunset, which is generally around 8 or 9 on a nice summer evening in the USA.

Sunset wedding yosemite
Cactus sunset arizona Scottsdale wedding photographer Indian wedding
Hawaii sunset wedding photos on Big Island Kathryn Cooper Weddings

Please trust me: Even if the sunset doesn’t look so glorious, if you have a great photographer you’ll get amazing sunset photos. Why? The right flash portrait or silhouette brings out an intensity in the sky that our eyes can’t naturally see. The result is beautiful, priceless sunset wedding photos of just the two of you. If you want to geek out on what time that is, ask your photographer—or go here for exact times from the official government site.

Brooklyn promenade engagement photos NY wedding photographer Kathryn Cooper

Whether you’re in Maine (great sunsets), New York (gorgeous sunsets), Hawaii (okay, we already knew this), or almost anywhere else, chances are there are spectacular sunsets if it’s a nice or cloudy day. And if it was a stormy day, you may have an even more beautiful sunset due to more clouds and particles in the air that reflect light differently.

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Martha Stewart says you should have a sunset wedding ceremony, but my colleagues and I disagree with the Marth, for the most part. Having your wedding ceremony at sunset may be beautiful, but a sunset is never guaranteed, and special lighting (e.g. more poles in everyone’s way, you squinting in the stage lighting, etc.) needs to be set up for such a dark ceremony. Did I mention bugs, which happen to love golden hour and twilight? Trust me: A sunset wedding ceremony and the accompanying lighting and flash photos will completely change the look of your wedding photos and make it MUCH harder to photograph your mother crying happy tears as you say your vows. Have an afternoon ceremony or elopement, and save the sunset for just the two of you.

California wedding photographer big island hawaii sunset wedding photos

What’s a good length of time? Golden hour is your best bet for wedding photo times, because the lighting is soft and even, you won’t be sweating, and you’ll have no harsh shadows under your eyes. When is golden hour? It’s about an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset, but it really varies depending on if you’re in the mountains, in a valley, or on a beach. Golden hour leads into sunset, and my favorite places for sunsets are Malta and Gozo in Europe, Hawaii, Bagan in Myanmar, and Joshua Tree National Park, California (all shown below).

So my first choice? Schedule an hour-long portrait session before sunset whether you’re eloping, having an intimate wedding, or celebrating with 400 family and friends. Then, enjoy yourself, have a drink, and grab a bite while talking to your friends. When it’s about to get dark, put aside about 20 minutes around sunset (your photographer will help you work this into your timeline) so that you can have romantic, colorful sunset portraits while taking a break from all the activity. Your wedding sunset pictures are truly a great chance to take in your whole night and just hold each other for a few moments. I think you’ll get the idea in the photos below.

Lime tree beach wedding sunset U.S. Virgin Islands wedding photographer

If you’re getting married on a beach or an island, make sure you ask your photographer where you can go for the best golden hour photos AND sunset shots on the beach. Why is it that sunsets look so much more amazing in Hawaii? Seriously, if you skip your sunset beach wedding photos in Maui, Big Island, Kauai, or Oahu (or anywhere else, for that matter), I’ll have to personally come and yell at you.

Sunset photos in Waikaloa Marriott Resort, Big Island Hawaii

As a full-time creative wedding photographer, I always want to get the most amazing wedding photos for my clients. I love food way more than the next person, but when I see 200 people inside during the best light of the day, it kills me a bit inside—kind of like how you feel when you can’t take any of the tiny, mewling kittens home from the shelter. It’s painful!

Don’t stay stuck indoors on your wedding night. Trust your photographer and get that sunset shot!

Kathryn Cooper Weddings | Creative Wedding Photographer | Sunset Wedding Photography Tips

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Wow, great blog article.Really thank you! Really Great.

Gorgeous work! I love this post on encouraging sunset shots! I think it’s super informative and helpful for couples looking to understand why they should get that beautiful golden hour light in their wedding photos!


Totally agree, sunset portraits are absolutely the best!

Agreed! Sunset photos are *the best.* It is absolutely worth it to make time during your wedding day for pics at sunset. Great, informative post.

Sunset photos are the best! It’s always worth it to stay out a bit longer. Thanks for creating this post to show couples know the power of a good sunset photo!

Wow these sunset photos are absolutely amazing!

Sunset photos seriously are a MUST on your wedding day! This is such a good post, educating couples about it. Thanks for sharing 🙂