Updated: Jul 19
Planning your wedding and wondering how you are going to time your day? What aspects do you really need to focus on and how do you avoid timing issues. Keep reading to find out my top tips on planning your perfect wedding timeline using my wedding coordination experience on what to do and what to avoid.
1. Focus on your important times.
Focus on the times that will influence everything. Start with your ceremony time. If you are having a registry lead wedding, they will provide you with a time for your ceremony and there is little you can change about this but it also gives you a solid time to work with for the rest of your timeline. The same is true if you opt for a Church of England ceremony as they can also be very particular as to the time of your ceremony. Once you have settled on your ceremony time you can then work out the other times such as the time you ask your guests to arrive, the time of your drinks reception and the time you ask your guests to sit down for the wedding breakfast. If you are having a registry lead wedding this normally doesn't take more than 20 minutes for them to conduct your ceremony and if you are having a Church of England ceremony this can take up to an hour but might be a shorter time frame. Find out how long your ceremony is going to take to workout when your guests are going to make their way from the ceremony location to the drinks reception.
2. Try to give enough time for the different aspects of your day.
A big mistake that can be made by couples is either giving too little time or giving too much time. Finding that balance is easier than you think. Work with the times you know specifically and then also think about what you need to get done in those time frames.
Starting with giving your guests enough time to arrive, work out where they need to go within your venue etc and then make their way to their seats. A good half an hour is a good time frame before your ceremony time. Make sure to include the arrival time on the invitations otherwise if you just give your ceremony time, you will find your guests only arriving at the time of your ceremony which isn't ideal.
Secondly think very carefully about your drinks reception time. I honestly would say that the golden timing is 1.5 hours from when your guests arrive at the drinks reception till you ask them to sit down for the wedding breakfast. When they arrive at the drinks reception will depend on the location of your ceremony and if there is any traveling required or if its just a quick walk from one part of a venue to another part of the venue. Also keep in mind that your guests will become fidgety and most likely hungry.
3. Work closely with your suppliers on the timings of the day.
What I mean by this is, if they are suppliers that will be there during the wedding day itself (i.e. caterers, bar, band/DJ etc) then you need to work with them on working out the best way to sort out your timing. For instance if your band needs to set up and it is going to take them 30 min to set up and do a sound check, you need to work out the best time for them to be able to do this given everything else and if you want to avoid as much noise as possible. Speak to your caterers and find out how long it is going to take for your menu to be served in it's entirety (this will be an estimate as this can only be roughly guessed at based on experience) and to work out when to have your speeches.
4. Plan your speeches carefully...
I suggest that the best time for you to have your speeches is after your main course. Your guests will have had something to eat so will be feeling more amenable to listen to your speeches. If you want to you can do this before you serve dessert as this guarantees that your guests will still be in their seats and you don't have to try get them back into their seats. Also give your speakers time limits and try to avoid guests getting up to give ad hoc speeches.
5. Try to avoid leaving big gaps...
Avoid leaving big gaps for your guests to do nothing or for them to linger too much as this causes confusion. What do I mean by this? Avoid leaving a big gap between your drinks reception and your guests actually eating. Make sure that you serve your first course as soon as is possible after your guests have all seated them selves and you have been welcomed in and seated your selves down. Speak to your catering company about this. Another time where guests are left lingering is after the food has been cleared away and before the cake or the dancing starts and they are never quite sure what to do with themselves. If you are giving everyone a chance to go to the bathroom and to get themselves a drink etc before you do your first dance, let them know this. Make an announcement and let them know that they have this opportunity to go do those things and then at x time you will be doing your first dance. This leaves them in little doubt as to what is expected of them.
6. Know when your suppliers are going to be arriving at your venue.
Knowing when your suppliers are due to arrive is an important aspect to your wedding day timeline. You need to know when they are planning on arriving as this may affect your set up. If your hire items are due to arrive after your florist is planning on arriving and your hire items include your tables and chairs, this could cause a problem, how is your florist to do their floral arrangements on the tables if they are not there when they arrive? Unless you find these times out you can't try to change the times that items are delivered or visa versa. Ideally you want your hire items either delivered to your venue the day before if possible and if not you want them delivered first thing the morning of your wedding day. This means that when your catering team arrive to do their set up and your florist arrives to do their set up, they have the hire items to work with.
7. Know when your suppliers are due to leave or finish.
You need to know when your suppliers are due to finish if they are working at your wedding, such as your catering team, your bar, your photographer, your string quartet or your band. This influences your timeline in a few ways. First times such as when your bar is due to leave is most likely the best time for you and your guests to start thinking about leaving or when your band does their last set, do you need to hire or work out another way of providing music for your guests or will this coincide with when you plan on leaving yourselves. Another element to think about in relation to this is, are they going to pack up when they leave (if they have had a long day and night and they finish very late they most likely won't want to pack up at 1am) or are they planning on coming back the next day to collect their equipment or the items they hired out to you. If this is the case then you need to inform your venue of the fact that they will be coming first thing in the morning to collect their items or find out from the venue the times that suit them for the suppliers to come clear away.
8. Be realistic with your times
Try to take into account how long things are going to take. Give enough time for photographs during the drinks reception but don't make your guests wait too long. Think about how long it's going to take your guests to get from point A to point B. Be realistic and don't over estimate. If they need to drive from the ceremony point, try to time how long the drive is going to take at the time on the same day of the week and time of day that your guests will be driving those roads, also try to keep an eye out for any road works that might be taking place which will affect your travel time. Be realistic about how long your meal overall will take to finish. Don't cut yourself short and have stress about times running over and bands/DJ's waiting to start their set and having to wait about an horror more, cutting short the time that they play (which is usually based on the type of package you buy into from them and some can be very strict about not playing over the time that they are contracted for). Discuss your timings with your suppliers.