Your wedding day will be full-on from start to finish, crammed with preparations, service, photographs, drinks, speeches, dinner, cake cutting, dancing, celebration and more besides. That’s a lot to fit in and so you need to have some kind of schedule so that every stage of the proceedings is given an appropriate amount of time. The team at Your Perfect Day has ample experience in this area and are happy to share some scheduling tips sure to make your knot-tying run smoothly!
Fix the ceremony time first
Everything revolves around the timing of the ceremony because the rest of the proceedings cannot start until this legal and formal part of the day has been completed. Registry office and civil ceremonies are usually held in the afternoon but if you are getting wed in church this can take place in morning or afternoon. Generally, however, most wedding ceremonies are conducted between 1pm and 3pm. There are a few things to keep you busy in the morning though…
Hair and makeup
If you’re getting a professional to do your hair and makeup ask the artist how long they need. As a general rule allow two hours for bridal hair and makeup and 45-60 minutes for each member of your wedding party. Before the big day you should practice getting into your dress and see how long it takes. Then give yourself a few extra minutes just in case there are any last-minute challenges.
Add an extra 15-20 minutes if you are having first-look photos. Are you having these shots taken at a different location? Factor in the travelling time if that’s the case.
Times of arrival
Guests should start arriving about 45 minutes before the start of the ceremony – so Groom and Groomsmen should be there to welcome them and hour before proceedings are due to begin.
The bride should arrive punctually, with her bridesmaids, exactly five minutes before she walks down the aisle. There’s enough nervous anticipation going around already so don’t add to it by being even a couple of minutes late!
Just 10 minutes is probably sufficient for a simple registry office wedding or civil ceremony. But you’ll probably want to add readings, poems and music, in which case this could stretch things to around 20-30 minutes.
How long will a religious ceremony last? That depends on your denomination and faith. Most Christian services will normally take around 45 minutes and will include an address from the celebrant, prayers and hymns as well as one or two readings. A Catholic service may include a mass and if this is the case allow as much as an hour and a half.
15 to 30 minutes should be sufficient, provided you get thins properly organised. Agree a list of shots with your photographer and have the bridesmaids and ushers find those required for each group.
If the reception is in a different location from the ceremony add the travelling time into your schedule.
Guests will need about an hour and a half to freshen up and have a good round of informal socialising before everyone sits down for the wedding breakfast. It’s also plenty of time for the photographer to get around all the guests and capture plenty of casual shots.
Winding up the drinks reception and getting guests to take their seats for the wedding breakfast will take about 15 minutes – people like to take their time! Add another 15 minutes if you are having a receiving line (longer if your guest list is really extensive).
You don’t want to rush this – allow plenty of time for people to enjoy the food, wine, speeches and conversation. You should allow anything up to two and a half hours for this part of your big day. Discuss this with your venue and caterers to see what they advise.
Raise your glasses
The speeches are usually delivered between the main course and the dessert. However, some couples decide to wait until the meal is finished for this part of the proceedings to begin. Allow 10 minutes maximum for each speech (and let the speaker know that this is what you expect of them).
Let them eat cake
The cutting of the wedding cake usually takes place before the evening guests arrive and will only take about five minutes.
This usually commences about 7.30pm or 8pm and goes on late into the night (early in the morning…). Check with your venue when they expect you to wind things up.
Have the time of your life!
Hopefully these timings will help you schedule a sequence of events where nobody feels hurried and things progress at a comfortable pace. They are only a guide so feel free to stretch or squeeze the different stages to suit your own inclinations and the kind of day you have planned.