Wedding Day Timeline
Having worked as a Wedding Coordinator for a number of years, the most common questions that I get asked are ‘how does the day flow?’ and ‘how much time should we allow?’ The answer to this question is somewhat dependent on whether you are having a church ceremony or a ceremony conducted by a registrar.
In my experience, the majority of couples have the ceremony at the same venue as the rest of the celebration - as long as the venue is licensed to do so of course! This would be a civil ceremony conducted by the local registrars. A ceremony of this kind usually takes around half an hour, sometimes a little longer if you would like more readings. You also need to factor in that you will each individually need to meet with the registrar just before the ceremony. For a heterosexual couple the groom would go first, about half an hour before the ceremony, and then take his place waiting for his bride in the ceremony room. The bride would then see the registrar about 15 minutes before the ceremony - then when she’s done it’s time to walk down the aisle! For same sex couples, it’s really up to you who goes first and how you enter the ceremony room. Perhaps have the one of you who is a bit quicker at getting ready to see the registrar first - giving your other half about 15 minutes to prepare themselves!
A church ceremony however takes a little longer, usually 45-60 minutes depending on how many readings and hymns you would like. With a church ceremony you then also need to take into consideration the distance from the church to the venue of the wedding breakfast and evening reception - how long will it take to have everyone arrive?
After the ceremony is when you would traditionally have a drinks reception, perhaps with canapes served too! An hour and a half tends to work quite nicely for this period - it should give you plenty of time to have some photographs taken as well as an opportunity to mingle with your guests. If you have a lot of specific photos that you want taken, your photographer may suggest to allow a little longer for the reception drinks.
You will then move through to the wedding breakfast. It is generally recommended to allow up to 3 hours for this, to also include time for the speeches. Do check with your venue though, as they may have a different recommendation depending on your number of guests, and they will know how long it takes them to serve the meal. It is also worth checking with those doing speeches, roughly how long theirs will be. A lot of venues will allow half an hour for all of the speeches, but if you have a Father of the Bride who is a real talker, then you might want to allow longer!
If you evening reception is taking place in the same room as the wedding breakfast, as is common in many venues, there will likely now be a turn around time. Usually this will involve you being moved into another space and perhaps have tea and coffee served. It would be safe to allow an hour for this, during which the room will be refreshed for the evening reception and your band or DJ can set up. I would recommend that you ask your evening guests to arrive during this time - this will give you the opportunity to properly greet them before moving through to the evening reception together.
A lovely opening to the evening reception is to cut the cake, and you can then go into the first dance. Ask your venue to take the wedding cake to be cut at this point, so that it can be served with the evening buffet. It’s then time to party the night away!
If you venue doesn’t have a set ceremony time when you must adhere to, then I would suggest that you decide what time you would like the evening reception to begin and work your way back from there to see what time your ceremony should be. The below timeline works well for a civil ceremony, if you opt for a church ceremony then you will need to factor in the travel time between the ceremony and reception drinks -
2.00pm - 2.30pm Ceremony
2.30pm - 4.00pm Reception Drinks
4.00pm - 7.00pm Wedding Breakfast & Speeches
7.00pm - 8.00pm Turn Around Time
8.00pm onwards Evening Reception