Morning Weddings Are on the Rise

On Saturday March 12, Bria Pugh found herself wide-awake at 4 a.m. She isn’t an early-riser, nor did she have pre-wedding jitters. This was the call time for her hair and makeup before she walked down the aisle to marry Matthew Norman six hours later.

“I was optimistic as long as I could wake up on time because it was going to be a crunch,” said Ms. Pugh, 29, a client service executive for Puig, a global fashion and fragrance business based in Barcelona, Spain.

She wasn’t kidding. Three hours after hair and makeup, the couple were due at their venue, The Legacy Castle in Pompton Plains, N.J. First-look photos occurred at 8 a.m. Bridal party pictures came an hour later, and their 115 guests arrived at 9:30 for a ceremony that started at 10.

The timing came as a surprise to some, including Courtland Bragg, Mr. Norman’s best man, who asked the groom if he wanted to reconsider.

“When Matt told me we’d be leaving the hotel by 6, there was a shock factor,” said Mr. Bragg, a television producer for NFL Films, which is part of the National Football League’s production company. “I was like, ‘What? Are you sure want to do this? That’s really early.’”

He wasn’t the only guest leery of the start time. “We did have a lot of friends call us and ask if the a.m. was a typo or mistake,” said Mr. Norman, 30, a senior vice president and business manager at Citi Group Global Markets in New York.

The couple, who live in Weehawken, N.J., didn’t envision morning nuptials from the get-go. They “had to wait a year to get married because of Covid,” Mr. Norman said, and after choosing their venue, they were told it was “booked for the year and only had this weekend available, and it would be for the morning.”

“We were against it at first. All the weddings we had been to were at night,” he added. “Then we thought, we’re different and we wanted to do something different.”

Following the ceremony were a cocktail hour and a buffet brunch where guests enjoyed mimosas, chicken and waffles and entertainment provided by a saxophonist and a D.J. By 3 p.m., the official party was over.

“We’re both exhausted, but it was worth it,” the bride said afterward. “I would easily sacrifice four or five hours of sleep to marry the love of my life.”

A shortage of prime time slots at venues because of this year’s expected wedding boom is not the only reason some couples are choosing to get an early start on their wedding day.

Though Mr. Norman and Ms. Pugh’s event’s timing came as a shock to some, he noted that others appreciated it. “The early morning was a better fit for our older guests, who get up early anyway, and who didn’t want to drive home late or sleep over,” he said. Following the main event, Mr. Norman added, some younger attendees continued the celebration at a wine bar at the hotel where they couple was staying.

The option to keep the party going is another reason some are marrying in the morning, said Sandy Pena, a wedding planner and an owner of Ultimate USA Weddings in Manhattan. “They want to celebrate all day long rather than just in the evening.”

“There was a time when couples only wanted evening ceremonies,” Ms. Pena added. But like Ms. Pugh and Mr. Norman, “many have waited one or two years to get married. Now they don’t care what time it happens, they just want to get married.”

She is working on around 70 nuptials taking place this year and “more than 90 percent are being done before 4 p.m.,” she said, “with a concentration of those happening before noon.” Popular venues include Central Park, as well as the Top of the Rock observation deck and 620 Loft & Garden in Rockefeller Center.

Ms. Pena noted that morning weddings not only offer natural lighting, which is optimal for photography, but can also have a more intimate ambience in part because venues can be less strict on required capacity. For example, The Legacy Castle has a 150 guest minimum on Saturday nights and a 100 guest minimum for Saturday mornings.

“Moring weddings are more personable, less crowded and offer a more relaxed atmosphere,” Ms. Pena said.

Carla Friday, the owner of Details Made Simple in Westfield, N.J., which offers wedding-day management services, agreed that “these events can be less formal,” but noted they can also be “as dressy as an evening wedding.”

Ms. Friday provided her services at Ms. Pugh and Mr. Norman’s nuptials, where “everyone was dressed to the nines,” she said. “You would have thought we were at an evening wedding.”

Price is also a reason some are getting married in the morning, which can often be less expensive. At the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden weddings held from 9 to 11 a.m. typically cost under $5,000 for tables, chairs, staffing and an event facilitator, compared with $15,000-plus for the same services in the evening, said Angela Rollins, the garden’s director of special events.

The site offers 18 ceremony locations, 12 of which accommodate morning weddings for anywhere from 10 to 120 people. Ms. Rollins said she has seen an increase in such events, which this year have started as early as 8:30 a.m. The venue did 170 morning ceremonies in 2019, and she expects it to host 210 to 215 by the end of 2022, with 80 already booked so far.

At the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, couples who don’t mind marrying between 9 and 10 a.m. before a maximum of 50 guests can wed at several sites, including the Rose, Water and Osborne gardens, for $600.

Kate Pauley, 32, the owner of Create Dinners, a company in Brooklyn that stages networking events and workshops for women, plans to marry Brian Vallario, 34, at a 10 a.m. ceremony at Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park on June 3. Afterward, the couple and their 30 expected guests will walk a few blocks to Maison May for brunch.

She said the timing “lets us have the whole day and night to party with our friends.” But that’s not the only reason they chose an early start. The fact that evening weddings remain the preference of many people also influenced the couple’s decision.

Ms. Pauley’s marriage to Mr. Vallario, the owner of Off Site, a company that creates prefabricated cabins on campsites, will be her second, and she said she “wanted this to feel different from what it I had the first time.”

“Having 30 people witness us wed under our favorite tree in the morning is as different as it gets,” she added.