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Sort posts in a widget using 2 ACFs

  • I have a field group for standard WP posts that includes among others) the following optional ACFs:

    • start_date – set using the Date Picker
    • start_time – set using the Time Picker; only available if start_date has a value

    To be clear: not all the posts that have start_date value also have a start_time value.

    I have custom widget that only displays posts that have a start_date value that’s (1) today or later, and (2) that’s within the next N days, where N is set in the widget admin interface. The posts are sorted by start_date in ascending order.

    That part all works just fine. Where I’m having trouble is being able to include the optional start_time ACF in the sort order so that posts would be listed like this:

    February 23
    February 24 10:00am
    February 26
    March 5 8:00am
    March 5 10:00am
    March 6

    This is the $args array that sorts (correctly) only by start_date:

        $args = array(
          'ignore_sticky_posts'=> 0,
          'post_type' => 'post',
          'post_status' => 'publish',
            'meta_query' => array(
                'key' => 'start_date', // ACF field for event start date
                'value' => date('Ymd', strtotime("+{$nr_days_ahead} days")), // restrict start date to no more than today + $nr_days_ahead
                'compare' => '<=',
                'type' => 'DATE'
                'key' => 'start_date', // ACF field for event start date
                'value' => $today,
                'compare' => '>=',
                'type' => 'DATE'
          'posts_per_page' => $nr_posts,
          'cat' => $categories,
          'meta_key' => 'start_date',
          'orderby' => 'meta_value_num',
          'order' => 'ASC'

    I spent quite a bit of time today with ChatGPT (just in case anyone feels like suggesting that approach), but never got anywhere (other than a couple critical errors that brought the site down, but I can manage that all by myself).

    Any suggestions?

  • Some issues with your current code.

    ACF does not store date fields in the DB as dates. It saves strings that are in the format of ‘Ymd’, so using a type of “DATE” will produce errors.

    If you want to sort by the second field then that field must have a value in the DB (even if that value is an empty string). WP will ignore any posts that do not have a value set for a field. I’m not sure what you mean by optional, but in this case the field would always need to be visible and allow no input.

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