For today’s blog post I am going to offer my advice and top tips on wedding day timings, specifically for winter weddings.
Wedding day timings can be difficult to gauge, especially as you are unlikely to have organised such a large-scale event before, and winter weddings are particularly tricky as you have the fading light to contend with much earlier in the day!
It goes without saying that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all template for wedding day timings, but hopefully once you’ve read through this post you will have a much better idea of how long you’ll need to allow for each part of your day.
So, let’s start from the beginning…
The time your bridal prep should begin will depend on a number of factors, mainly;
the complexity of your bridal look
the size of your bridal party
the time of your ceremony
how long you need to allow to travel to your ceremony location
whether or not you want photos of the bridal party before you leave
If you are having your hair and makeup done professionally, ask your stylist how long they will need to create your bridal look. As a rough guide, I would suggest allowing around 2 hours for bride’s hair and makeup, and an additional 45 minutes for each member of the bridal party.
Once you’ve figured out how long it will take, you can work backwards from the ceremony time to find the time you’ll need to start getting ready. You’ll need to factor in around 30 minutes for getting into your dress (it always takes longer than you think!) and travel time to your ceremony venue.
Don’t forget to eat! It’s a long day, so you’ll need to be well fuelled.
It’s safer to overestimate the timings, and allow around an hour margin - just in case!
First of all, what time should everyone be arriving?
Generally I would suggest that the groom and his Best Man/Ushers arrive at the ceremony location around 45 minutes before the ceremony is due to start. That way, there are people there to welcome your guests and assist with getting everybody seated.
Ask guests to arrive 30 minutes before - they’ll have enough time for a quick catch-up with family/friends and will be seated in time for you to make your grand entrance. This also helps to avoid any latecomers arriving at the same time as the bride!
Groom’s parents should aim to arrive around 15 minutes before, with the Bride, Bridesmaids, Mother of the Bride & Father of the Bride (or whoever is accompanying you down the aisle) should arrive 5 minutes before the ceremony starts.
How long the ceremony itself will last depends very much on whether you are having a religious, civil or non-religious ceremony.
Again, speak to whoever is leading your ceremony as they will be able to give you guidance on this.
Top Tip: Don’t forget to factor in time at the end if you would like your group photos and confetti shot at your ceremony location.
Allowing 1 1/2 - 2 hours for your drinks reception should give you plenty of time to mingle with your guests and enjoy your bubbles and canapés.
It also allows enough time for your photographer to work their way around getting those all important shots of your loved ones enjoying themselves.
If you are keen to have a longer drinks reception, it’s essential to provide entertainment and plenty of food and drink for your guests to keep them happy and comfortable.
Speak to your photographer about timings - they will be best placed to advise you of when to schedule your photos, taking in to account the number of group photos you’d like, the time of your ceremony and wedding breakfast, and given the light fades a lot quicker during the winter months, the time you have for photos will be more restricted.
As a general rule, aim to allow around 5 minutes per group photo plus at least 30 minutes for your couples/portrait shots. Make a list of the photos that are ‘must-haves’ so that your photographer can make sure they get all of those.
It will help to speed up the process if all of the relevant people are gathered - ask your ushers to help chase up any stragglers.
Call for dinner
If you’re having a sit-down meal, your guests should be called to dinner around 30 minutes before your meal is being served. Bare in mind that if you are having speeches before your meal, you’ll have to let your caterers know to push the service time back. Ask your bridal party to help direct guests to their seats to speed up the process a little.
Top Tip: I know it’s a bit of a cliche, but your wedding day will really go so quickly! Use this time whilst your guests are preoccupied to take a step back and spend a few peaceful minutes with your new spouse!
Try to keep speeches to around 30 - 40 minutes in total to avoid restless guests, especially if you’re having speeches before your wedding breakfast. Ask your speakers how long they expect to be speaking for - and then double it! Speeches very rarely run to schedule!
Once again the best way to figure out timings for your wedding breakfast is to ask the experts! Your caterers will be able to advise you how long their service will take based on the number of guests, choice of food, the number of staff and so on.
As a general rule, allow up to 2 hours for a 3-course wedding breakfast.
Once the evening reception rolls around we can start to be a bit more relaxed with timings. There are some key elements that you might want to factor in, such as your first dance and cake cutting, before they get forgotten in the excitement of the evening! Don’t leave these too late into the evening, especially if you’d like your photographer / videographer to capture them before they head off!
Top Tip: If you are inviting additional evening guests, ask them to arrive 30 minutes after the end of your wedding breakfast - at least this way if you do overrun, you won’t have more guests turning up whilst you’re still eating.
So there you have it - a loose guide for how to figure out your wedding day timings. As I said at the beginning there isn’t a one-size-fits-all template, and there might be traditional elements that I have included here that you feel don’t suit you as a couple and want to skip. Don’t feel like you’re doing it wrong if you deviate from the suggestions above, it is your day after all, and you should do what feels right for you.
If you need some additional help to pull your schedule together please do have a look at my Wedding Planning Services, and give me a call if you think I can help!