As your wedding day nears closer a million questions start to go through your head, What time do my evening guests arrive? Is there too much time between my ceremony and wedding breakfast? What about cake cutting, where do we fit that in?
Not all weddings follow the same format and many will have additional extras, but if you’re struggling to put a timeline together this may be a good start.
The items highlighted in italic reflect arrival times for suppliers and behind the scenes, a lot of this you wouldn’t need to worry about. Also remember your suppliers are the pros at this, they will most likely know the times they will need to arrive by and where they need to be.
Decor arrival and set up
Florist arrival and set up
Hair and Make Up Arrival
If you have an afternoon ceremony you don’t need to be up at 6am to begin getting ready, but it’s better to start getting ready relatively early to ensure you’re not rushing around. It also gives you time to settle any nerves and enjoy something to eat.
Cake arrival and set up
Your photographer will arrive a few hours before the ceremony to photograph areas around the venue, capture some detail images, as well as some getting ready images with you and your bridal party.
Groom and Groomsmen arrival
Sometimes it’s better to tell the men they need to arrive earlier than they need to, just to make sure they are there on time to start greeting the guests and attaching their boutonnières (they may need someone to assist them with this!)
Your hair and make up is complete and you’ve changed into your dress, if you’ve kept your final look a surprise for your bridal party now is the perfect time for your photographer to capture those first looks and first lot of tears.
Guests will arrive prior to this time, and you’ll also have a few who will turn up five minutes before.
The most important moment has finally arrived!
Civil ceremonies typically last around 30 minutes, whilst church ceremonies can last up to an hour.
Drinks reception & photographs
Now you’re are Mr and Mrs it’s time to have a drink, catch up with your friends and family, and celebrate! Depending on the service time for your wedding breakfast you could also serve canapés during the drinks reception, to ensure your guests don‘t go hungry. During this time your photographer will also capture formal photos of your family and friends, as well as whisking you both away for some photos of the two of you, and some much needed quiet time.
This time is also the perfect moment to have a sneak peak at your reception room, and take in months/years of hard work and planning.
Call for dinner
It’s best to give your guests around 30 minutes to order a drink, get seated and become acquainted with their neighbours for the night.
Bride and Groom entrance
If you have a master of ceremonies they will announce your arrival to your guests, if not, nominate a best man or usher to announce your arrival.
There‘s always the question of when do you have your speeches, personally, and a lot of photographers will agree, choose to have your speeches before food is served. The tables will still be clean and tidy, there‘s no risk of guests having food stains and those giving a speech can enjoy their food. The usual people who will give a speech are the Father of the Bride, the Groom and the Best Man. Make sure to advise them they are to be no longer than 10 minutes long, you don’t want guests to get fidgety.
The length of your dinner service depends on the meal, if you have chosen a 3 course meal the general guide is to allow up to 2 hours. If you have opted for a buffet or more courses your caterers will be able to give you a guide on how long the dinner service should be.
Cake cutting and bouquet toss
If you’re keeping with traditions now would be a good time to cut the cake and toss the bouquet. Remember though just because it’s a ’tradition’ doesn’t mean you have to do these.
Photo Booth/evening entertainment arrival
Room turn around
Your venue may need to clear away some tables to make space for a dance floor, which will give you both a chance to spend a bit of time together, and your guests can freshen up.
Evening guest arrival
8pm It’s time to put those dancing shoes on, now would be the best time for your first dance, followed by the evening party. It’s time to let your band/DJ do what they do best and get everyone up on the dance floor!
Evening food is served. Everyone needs a pick-me-up, between 9pm-10pm would be the perfect time to tuck into a little something to eat.
Every venue is different but the majority will take last orders around 11:30pm and ask that you say your final goodbyes and guests depart around 12am. Arrange with your DJ or band what you would like your final songs to be and if they can start winding down the party.
Hopefully the above timeline will give you a rough guide on how to plan your wedding day.
If you are still a little confused, you can take advantage of my ‘On the Day Plan’ service where I will help to create a tailored plan to pass onto your suppliers. Or alternatively, if you don’t want to worry about any of the details on the day of your wedding you can contact me about my On the Day Coordination service.