Naturally putting a wedding day timeline together is confusing as it’s hard to know how long everything takes! To help you out therefore, I have noted some approximate timings of major sections of your celebration to provide a good starting point. Also, be sure to ask the experts! Run everything through with your venue and check timings with your suppliers (such as your caterer/photographer/band.) They will put there requirements forward and help you fill in your gaps, as lets face it there’s nothing worse than a wedding day lull to crash those wedding day vibes!
Wedding Preparations (3-4 hours).
It’s important to get your day off to a seamlessly stress-free start. With those wedding day butterflies tingling, as the excitement builds the last thing you want is everything to feel rushed. By creating a realistic and generous wedding day timeline, you can factor in any unexpected delays and ensure your bridal prep is a memorable start to your big day.
Timings vary and are dependant on a number of factors such as the complexity of your hair/make up and size of your bridal party. You are best discussing specifics with your stylist in determining how long you will require, but generally speaking, hair and make up can take 60 to 90 minutes for the bride, and a further 30 to 45 minutes for each bridesmaids/the mother of the bride.
Remember to also allow time for photos, accessorising and gathering any items too (let’s say 30 – 45 minutes). It’s better to be relaxed and calm sipping on champagne before you leave, rather than being stressed and panicking about an unexpected last minute crisis.
Ceremony (Civil Ceremony 20-45 minutes/Religious Ceremony 45 minutes-60 minutes).
Nailing down the time of your ceremony early on in your planning process is crucial. Once you have you can take backward and forward steps in creating your full wedding day timeline. The length of the ceremony ultimately depends on whether you are having a religious or civil ceremony. Generally speaking, civil ceremonies last between 20 – 45 minutes, whilst religious ceremonies are a little longer, usually taking 45 minutes to an hour (or longer dependant on factors such as readings/ denomination).
The second element to consider is the arrival times of you and those in attendance. It is usual for the groom and his groomsmen to arrive 45 minutes prior to the ceremony and for guests to arrive 30 minutes beforehand, in ensuring everyone is seated ahead of the Bride’s arrival (typically 10 minutes before the ceremony). Take into account your times in your wedding invites and remember that the bride’s family sit on the left and the groom’s on the right!
If you are traveling from your ceremony venue, you will also need to factor in the time it takes to your reception venue. Remember not to only include travel time into your estimations but also the length of time it will take for your guests to gather their belongings, get to their cars, sort themselves out etc. Always err on the side of caution with your timings and you will do just fine 🙂
Drinks Reception (1.5-2 hours).
Let the confetti cascade and the drinks commence! As the name suggests it is usual for welcome drinks (often accompanied by a selection of canapés) to be served at this time and provides the ideal opportunity for your guests to start mingling. You may also consider some light background music to enhance the atmosphere and get those toes (albeit prematurely!) tapping.
The drinks reception also provides an opportunity for your wedding photographer to take many of your formal and group photos on the day. A quick tip – if you would like any specific photos taken with members of your family/guest list be sure to discuss a suggested list with your wedding photographer in advance. Also, by entrusting a representative who knows both families in gathering everyone will make everything much more efficient – saving yourself time and ensuring you capture the most of out of those special moments.
Wedding Breakfast/Speeches/Cake Cutting (2 1/2-3 hours).
And so it’s time to dine! This is another area where timings can quite easily fluctuate, and as eluded to earlier the best thing to do is ask the expert! Your venue or caterer will be able to guide you into how long it will take to rustle up your delicious feast. This will be based on courses, number of guests, food choices and your venue, for instance. As a general guide allow up to 2 hours for a 3 course meal.
Traditionally speeches take place after the wedding breakfast, however you may consider staggering the speeches in between courses to prevent guests becoming restless and keeping up the momentum. If you do decide to do this, let your caterer know in advance but try to ensure no speaker is allocated more than 10 minutes. Allow about 40 minutes max. any longer and you may drain your effervescent atmosphere.
Although the cutting of the cake shouldn’t take any longer than 10 minutes, it is that one photo opportunity most of those in attendance will be scrummaging around to get of you both. It also forms a muted signal that some of your guests can consider making their preparations to head home (elderly relatives/those attending with children), without appearing rude. If you are having to turn around your room for your evening reception, you will have to factor some time in for this too.
Also, if you have evening guests arriving, try and schedule them in to arrive half an hour after the conclusion of your wedding breakfast. The last thing you want is them arriving whilst everyone is still tucking into their banana parfait.
So, some food for thought! A good schedule is key to ensuring a great celebration and diverting you into avoiding any recipe for disaster. Couldn’t help myself with those two .. I’ll grab my coat ..
Evening Reception (🤷♂️ .. 4 hours plus).
To the dance floor .. It’s PARTY Time! Your first dance will signal the start of the evening festivities. How long or hard you party is up to you (although unfortunately the venue/DJ will have to bring the good times to a close at some stage!)
Sample weddings day timeline (for a 2pm wedding).
This is purely a loose guide – each wedding is unique and your timeline will be bespoke to your requirements. We have put it together to cover lot’s of the traditional elements and don’t be afraid to deviate.
- 08.00am – Rise and shine – Go grab an OJ and a bite to eat!
- 09.00am – Wedding preparations commence.
- 12.30pm – Bride/Bridal party hair and make up complete.
- 13.15pm – Groom/Groomsmen arrival at the wedding venue.
- 13.45pm – Bridesmaids arrive at the ceremony, shortly followed by the bride and her father.
- 14.00pm – Ceremony!
- 14.30pm – Congratulations and post-ceremony pictures.
- 15.00pm – Drinks reception.
- 17.00pm – Wedding breakfast.
- 18.45pm – Speeches – The father of the bride, followed by the groom and best man.
- 19.15pm – Cutting of the cake.
- 19.30pm – First dance.
- 19.45pm (onwards) – Band, DJ and lots of dancing! Enjoy the moment and party the night away!
Whether you’re at the beginning of your wedding planning process, or struggling with your schedule with only months to go, we can provide the additional help to ensure you wedding runs smoothly. Contact us and let’s discuss! Happy wedding planning!