Wedding Day Timings
If you’re struggling to put together your schedule and don’t know how long to factor in for each element of your day then don’t worry, you are not alone!
Wedding day timings are possibly one of the hardest things to gauge, particularly if your wedding is the first large-scale event you’ve ever organised! Whilst there’s no one-size-fits-all template, I wanted to give you a rough guide of how long to allow for each part of your Big Day with some top tips sprinkled throughout!
So let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
What time you start your bridal prep and the amount of time you allow for this will ultimately depend on several factors including:
- The size of your bridal party.
- The complexity of your hair and makeup.
- Whether you are having an individual hair and make-up artist or a team
- How much you prepare in advance.
- The time of your ceremony.
- The distance between where you are getting ready and your ceremony location.
- Whether you plan on having any photos with your bridal party prior to your ceremony.
The best starting point when it comes to working out how much time to allow is to ask the expert! If you are having your hair and makeup done professionally then ask your hair and make-up artist how long they think they will take. I asked my favourite expert Carla Haley and she said as a general rule, allow a couple of hours for bridal hair and make-up and an additional 45 to 75 minutes for each member of your wedding party).
Work back from the start of your ceremony and factor in travel, putting on your dress (this takes longer than you think so give yourself at least 30 mins!) and timings from your hair and make-up artist. This will give you a rough idea of your starting time!
Remember to factor breakfast and lunch (and of course a glass of bubbles!) into your bridal prep!
If your bridal party are doing their own hair and make-up then ask them how long they think it will take them to get ready and then double it! Overexcited bridesmaids will always take longer to get ready than they think!
Leave a margin of error of around 1 hour… This will ensure that you are ready in plenty of time and can enjoy the morning.
When it comes to your ceremony and timings there are 2 elements to consider:
Firstly, what time should everyone arrive at the ceremony?
As a general guide I usually advise the following:
- Groom, Best Man / Men and Ushers – 45 minutes before the ceremony.
- Guests – 30 minutes before the ceremony.
- Groom’s parents – 15 minutes before the ceremony.
- Mother of the Bride and Bridesmaids – 10 minutes before the ceremony.
- Bride and Father of the Bride – 5 minutes before the ceremony.
Secondly, how long should you allow for your ceremony?
This will ultimately depend on whether you are having a Religious Ceremony, a Non-Religious Ceremony, or a Civil Wedding / Partnership…
- Non-religious Ceremony – 20 to 45 minutes.
- Civil Wedding / Partnership – 30 to 45 minutes.
- Religious Ceremony – 60 to 90 minutes.
You may want to use your ceremony location for some group pictures and the confetti shot. If you do then remember to factor this into your timings.
Allow 1 ½ to 2 hours for your drinks reception as this will give your photographer plenty of time for your group and personal portrait shots. It will also give you enough time to mingle with your guests and enjoy your canapés and bubbles.
If you want a longer drinks reception then it is essential to your keep your guests entertained and provide plenty of drinks and canapés!
Group & Portrait Photos
The number of group photos you want will ultimately determine how long your photographer will need. However, as a general rule of thumb allow 5 minutes per group photo and at least 30 minutes for your personal portrait shots.
Make sure everything runs like clockwork by asking your photographer to scope out some potential backgrounds in advance. If they are like me they will do this anyway 😉
At your wedding photographer consultation ensure they make a list of different photos and combinations of your family and wedding party that you don’t want them to miss. Then arrange for the relevant people to gather at a designated spot right after your ceremony so that nobody goes AWOL (to the bar) when they’re needed for group shots!
Give somebody trustworthy (and someone who knows the difference between your dad and your distant uncle) the job of rounding everyone up for group photos and chasing any stragglers! This person should be the photographers best friend by the end of the group photos!
Seating your Guests
Allow up to 30 minutes for guests to move from the drinks reception to the location of your Wedding Breakfast and for them to then find their seats.
If you are planning on having a receiving line then allow an additional 40 minutes on top of this.
Designate at least a couple of your Bridesmaids or Ushers to direct guests, assist with the receiving line and speed up any loitering guests!
This is a perfect opportunity for you and your new husband/wife to steal some time together. Whether that’s using the time for a little one-on-one time or indeed to capture those couple’s shots.
Allow no more than 30 to 40 minutes for your speeches with each speaker allocated up to 10 minutes. It is important to try and stick to these timings as speeches that take any longer normally result in fidgety guests and your evening may lose momentum!
If you ask your speakers how long they think they’ll take always double it! From experience, I have never known a speech to run to time!
The best starting point when it comes to working out how much time to allocate for your Wedding Breakfast is to once again ask the expert!
Your caterers will be able to give you a guide on how long they think their service will take depending on the number of guests, choice of food, number of courses, number of catering staff and type of venue.
As a general guide allow up to 2 hours for a 3-course meal.
Once the evening reception has begun timings can often go out the window!
However, there are some key elements that need to be factored into your schedule as otherwise they can easily be forgotten in the excitement of the evening’s festivities!
I, therefore, suggest you factor in the first dance, cutting the cake and throwing the bouquet no later than 45 minutes after the end of their wedding breakfast. This will also ensure that the photographer manages to capture everything before they leave.
If you have invited evening guests ask them to turn up at least 30 minutes after your wedding breakfast. If for any reason your wedding breakfast overruns the last thing you want is to have evening guests turning up whilst people are still eating!
Each wedding is unique and timings will vary drastically between different celebrations. Use the above as a loose guide, but don’t feel like you’re doing it wrong if you want to deviate – it’s your day after all! Also, this covers lot’s of the traditional elements of a wedding and you may want to skip parts of these to suit you as a couple!