Best Time for Wedding Ceremonies in Costa Rica

Best time for wedding ceremonies in Costa Rica article by Arenas Foto Wedding Photography.

Planning a destination wedding in Costa Rica? Congratulations! If you’ve never been to Costa Rica, chances are you are not aware of how early and how quickly the sun sets. If you have been here, you might not have paid it much mind. Our goal is to help you plan the ideal time for your wedding ceremony and avoid having family, group, and bride and groom portraits taken at night. Costa Rica’s gorgeous. Don’t you want to see the beautiful surrounding in your wedding photos?

Whose Advice to Take?

Listen to your photographer! It pains us when a client travels thousands of miles, spends lots of money, and their wedding ceremony, group photos, and bride and groom session are all at night.  Each vendor involved in making your wedding day happen has a unique opinion on what should be done, when it should be done, and how it should be done, from the wedding planner to the officiant.  Our objective is – your photographer’s objective should be – to provide you with high quality, gorgeous, creative wedding photos that capture you in gorgeous Costa Rica on you on your wedding day. For this to happen your wedding ceremony needs to take place at a certain time.

Photo taken on beach in Costa Rica just before sunset.
This photo was taken with flash at around 5:00 p.m.

This photo was taken at around 5:30 without flash.

More frequently than not, wedding planners schedule ceremonies for the worst time possible: 5:00 or later.  We really don’t know why this happens since they clearly know when the sun sets and how quickly it sets in Costa Rica all year.  Even wedding planners with whom we’ve discussed this topic and expressed that it’s essential to plan ceremonies earlier so we can provide our clients with the photos they want continue planning ceremonies much too late.

Size Matters

How large your wedding is, and what sort of and how many group photos you want will determine when’s the latest you should have your ceremony.  Mind you, these recommendations are based on not having any delays. 

For elopements or intimate weddings with 10-15 guests, no later than 4:30 is fine.  This is ample time for the ceremony, a quick celebration, the signing ceremony if having a legal wedding, some quick groups shots, and then ample time for a bride and groom couple’s session that ends with romantic sunset pictures.

For medium-sized wedding, 20-30 guests, have your ceremony no later than 4:00.  More celebrating after the ceremony, more group photos with larger groups takes more time.

For large weddings – 50 plus guests – 3:30 is ideal.  Larger groups and more groups for the family and bridal party photos takes more time.

Let’s Do Some Math

Your wedding planner scheduled your ceremony at 4:30.  There’re 30 guests.  The ceremony just happens to start on time, which usually is not the case.  It lasts 20 minutes. It’s now 4:50.  You should spend time hugging and kissing your loved ones.  Let’s deduct 10 more minutes.  It’s now 5:00.  You and the witnesses have to sign legal documents if the it’s a legal ceremony.  Let’s say that takes 5 minutes.  It’s now 5:05.

You want a group photo with everyone – 30 guests plus 4 bridesmaids, 4 groomsmen, and you and your fiancé.  That’s 38 people.  Have you ever tried to get 38 people who are filled with joy who are having a grand time chatting in groups after a wedding to all come to the same place and do the same thing?  Let’s deduct 5 minutes just to get everyone’s attention.  It’s 5:10.

We have to set up chairs to make layers so everyone fits in the photo nicely.  Moving the 10 chairs form the ceremony site and setting them up is another 5 minutes, plus the 7 minutes it takes to get everyone in their place and make it all look good.  Now it’s 5:22!  The sun’s about to set!!  You have 4 more groups of family photos planned, then photos of the bridal party all together, then with just the bridesmaids, and then just the groomsmen.  That’s 3-5 minutes per group, or that’s at least another 21 minutes.  It’s now 5:43, and this is taking the photos right there were the ceremony was.

This does not take into account setting up our light stands for the flashes and dialing in the camera flashes for the right exposures.

Your bride and groom couple’s session is happening at night.  Sorry!

It’s Your Call

All we can do is provide you with veritable information so you can make an informed decision taking into account what you want with regards to your wedding photos.  It’s not our place to tell the wedding planner when to schedule your wedding.  We’ve tried in the past to no avail and with the result of stepping on toes. 

We hope this information has shed light on when’s the best time to plan the ceremony for your destination wedding in Costa Rica, a country whose beauty will only make your wedding pictures that much more beautiful.

If you’d like to chat with us about your wedding so we can recommend the best time to have your wedding ceremony, we’d love to help. 




Lindsay & I know first-hand how complicated planning your wedding can be.  We also know planning your destination wedding in Costa Rica is even more complicated.  To help you through the process, here are resources and articles we’ve created during our years as wedding professionals that will help you through the process.  Whether you’re looking for advice on how to choose your photographer or wedding planner, a great venue, or tips on wedding-day makeup or timeline, we hope this helps. 

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