If you’re at a loss when it comes to sorting your wedding day timings, don’t worry – help is at hand! Bear in mind that this is only a rough guideline, and that wedding day timings vary depending on your wedding set-up, but this is a good starting point with plenty of top tips…
You’ll know if you’ve spoken to past brides that everything starts very early on the day of the wedding! This is especially true if you have a large bridal party who are all having their hair or makeup done. We recommend speaking to your hair stylist and makeup artist about how long they’ll need, and work backwards from that. They’re the experts, so they’ll have a good idea of how long it will take them. As a rough guide, hair will take around 45 minutes per person, and 30 minutes for makeup. Bridal hair and makeup will take closer to 2-3 hours.
Don’t forget to factor in time for breakfast (we recommend something light but filling like wholemeal toast and fresh fruit), and give yourself at least half an hour to put your dress on – it always takes longer than you think! You’ll also want to talk to your photographer about any first look photographs you want to do with your dad, or giving of gifts to the bridesmaids.
As an example, if your ceremony is at 12 pm, we recommend that you start prep at 7 am. If your ceremony is at 2 pm, then start getting ready at 9 am. This may seem early, but it’s always a good idea to give yourself some leeway, especially if you’re travelling to your venue.
Arriving at the ceremony
As a rule, we advise that guests start arriving around 30 minutes before the ceremony start time, which means that your groom and ushers should aim to get there 45 minutes beforehand so that they’re ready to welcome any early guests. The bride’s mother and bridesmaids can then arrive around 15 minutes before the ceremony starts, and the bride and her father should be there 5 minutes beforehand.
Depending on whether you’re having a civil ceremony or a church service, your ceremony will last anywhere from 20 minutes up to an hour. If you’re planning a traditional receiving line, where you and your new husband greet your guests individually as they leave the ceremony, then be sure to let your photographer know, as this can easily add 30-45 minutes onto proceedings.
If you’re planning to have group photos, portraits or the confetti shot at your ceremony venue, then you’ll need to factor this into your timings – your wedding photographer will be able to advise you depending on how many shots you want.
The drinks reception and photos
Your drinks reception should be somewhere between one hour and two, to give your guests time to mingle and enjoy drinks and canapes while you take photos with your photographer. Again, your photographer will be able to let you know how much time you’ll need, but as a rule of thumb, your portraits with your new spouse will take around 30 to 45 minutes, and each group shot will take about 5 minutes. To keep things running like clockwork, we recommend having someone like the best man co-ordinate the group shots and ensure that everyone is where they’re meant to be.
The wedding breakfast
First things first – you’ll need to allow for time to round up your guests and move them into your reception space to take their seats ready for the wedding breakfast. The amount of time the actual meal will take will vary massively depending on your chosen menu. Factors such as the number of courses, whether you’re having a seated or buffet meal, and how many guests you have will affect your timing here, so liaise with your wedding caterer to get an accurate time for your wedding. Generally, we’d set aside 2 hours for the meal to take place.
Again, this will vary depending on how many people you have giving speeches, and how long they take to talk, but wedding speeches should (in theory!) take around 1o-15 minutes each. Be sure to give yourself plenty of leeway though, as speeches often run over.
The evening reception
This is when the strict timings become less of an issue! However, we have some top tips that you’ll need to take into account when planning your evening reception.
You’ll need to know how many hours of coverage your wedding photographer has agreed with you to be sure they catch important moments like the cutting of the cake and the first dance.
If you’re having evening food, then liaise with your wedding venue and wedding caterers (especially if you’re having a separate caterer like a food truck) to plan when it should be served. The last thing you want is to place the wedding breakfast and evening food too close together and end up with wastage because everyone is still full! If your day is ending at midnight, then we recommend that the evening food generally to be served around 9 pm.
Your evening guests should start arriving around half an hour after the wedding breakfast is due to end, to avoid any awkward overlaps.
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