How to plan your wedding day schedule
When it comes to planning your wedding day schedule, it really is based on your unique day; the location(s), the suppliers you are booking and how you are planning to do things. But below is a typical idea of wedding day timings to help you plan your dream day.
Typically, a Church ceremony will last for 45 minutes, but if you allow for an hour, that will give you time to come out of Church with your guests and throw some confetti (if your Church allows it).
If you are having a Civil Ceremony, this usually lasts approximately 15 -20 minutes but it really is all based on how many readings and songs you want to include in your ceremony. Remember none of the readings or songs can have any religious content or reference. I have seen a Civil ceremony only last for 10 minutes and I have also seen one go on longer than an hour! So it really is down to your Order of Service.
The next timing element to consider is travel! If you are having a Church service, you are more than likely going to have some degree of travelling to do, whether that’s walking to your home, where you are having a marquee reception, or whether you have put on a coach and guests need to drive to a local venue. I would always advice your caterers / bar company / musicians to be ready for your drinks reception based on your ceremony finishing and a guest dive bombing it out of the Church and racing to the reception at full steam ahead. You’ll be surprised at how quickly some guests can make it to the party following the ceremony.
If your ceremony is taking place at the same venue as your reception, your travel time will probably be eliminated from the schedule as you will more than likely walk straight into your drinks reception. Your suppliers will be preparing for your canapes and cocktails when you walk into your ceremony, so they are good to go when you run out a newly married couple.
Seating guests for dinner! This is the next time element you should factor in; it takes time to move a large number of guests, get them to find their seats on a table plan and then go and sit down, without being diverted to the bar on the way. I would allow 20 minutes to get guests seated – this is something your wedding planner, venue or caterer will do but if you want to plan your schedule, bear in mind guests will need to start sitting earlier than you plan to serve dinner.
A typical three course wedding breakfast for approximately 100 guests would usually take about two hours to serve and clear away, ready for you to start your speeches, (which unfortunately I cannot advice you on regarding timings). I personally think a speech should be between 10-20 minutes maximum, as the guests have to sit through three of them, if not more! People’s attention spans can waver if they have to sit for too long after a big meal. (If you are writing a speech at the moment, don’t forget to read my top tips for speeches in my blog). It might be a good idea to ask the people giving a speech to practice it and let you know how long it is. I would then also add on an additional 5 minutes to their time, as they may take a little longer on the day.
After the speeches, it’s always a nice idea to add in a break. Put on a tea and coffee station, allow guests to check into their rooms or just relax before the dancing begins. This means if you do overrun, you have time before your evening guests arrive. It also means that your suppliers can either turn the room around for the party and band / DJ have time to set up.
If you are going to put on evening food, I would consider what time the wedding breakfast will have finished and leave it a good few hours before bringing out any more food. Guests will appreciate a later evening snack but not just after a three-course meal.
If you are having a band, most groups will perform sets, typically 45 minutes to an hour long, with about half an hour break in between, where they play music on their sound system.
And finally, your reception will finish when either your venue tells you to (this is due to licensing and noise levels), or when your parents have had enough (if you are having a marquee in their garden), or when the last guest is standing.
So here is a mock wedding day schedule based on a Civil ceremony all at one venue:
12:30 guests arrive for the ceremony
01:00 the bride walks down the aisle and the ceremony begins
01:20 the ceremony finishes, and guests make their way outside to throw natural confetti
01:30 drinks reception on the lawns with cocktails and canapes
02:30 begin to ask guests to take their seats
02:55 announce the newly married couple in to dinner
03:00 dinner is served
05:00 speeches x 3 (Father of the Bride, Groom, Best Man)
06:00 break (room turn around)
07:30 evening reception begins
08:00 first dance
09:30 evening food
Photograph by Matt Brown