Something I get asked a lot as a wedding coordinator is the suggested timings of a wedding day. It’s a question I’ve often seen asked on the many wedding Facebook pages I follow and on wedding forums too.
Obviously there are a variety of factors that will affect your timings, and these along with personal preference should always be considered. For example, my own wedding next September is going to start at 6pm because it is in santorini and we have been advised that everyone will get too hot if we don’t have it this late.
The below timings are based on having the ceremony at the same venue as the reception and in spring/summer when the light is fairly good and so timings won’t affect the photos as they would for a winter wedding.
2.30pm – Drinks reception and photos
3.30pm – Receiving line
3.40pm – Wedding breakfast followed by speeches
7pm – Evening reception to start
8pm – First dance and cake cutting
8.30pm – Evening buffet or snack food to be served
Midnight – End
As I say, these timings aren’t meant to be taken as gospel. They just tend to work and help the day to flow quite well. Some couples want a longer drinks reception as they have lots of photos planned, and that’s fine. Venues would prefer to know this in advance than to be chasing after you on the day because the food needs to be served.
A receiving line isn’t to everyone’s taste but I have found it to be quite a good idea as on the day, it can be difficult to ensure you speak to every guest. A receiving line, where the bride and groom, along with parents and/or bridal party if they wish, stand and welcome guests into the wedding breakfast, allows you to say hello and thank you for coming to each and every friend and family member in attendance.
Some couples worry about having a gap in between the end of the wedding breakfast and the start of the evening. Some venues will require this time for a turnaround of the function room, and it’s actually a good buffer in case the day runs behind (it often does a little), as it prevents evening guests turning up whilst you’re still eating – awkward. I find it’s nice to have a set time for the evening reception to start as well as it means your evening guests can feel included rather than like they’re joining the party.
That little bit of time also allows guests to get themself a drink, go outside for some fresh air, go to their room if they are staying at the venue. It also gives you as a couple a little breather and a chance to reflect on the day so far. The day goes so quickly, it’s nice to be able to take a moment.
If you’re worried that guests won’t want a full buffet after having a 3 course meal in the afternoon it’s becoming more and more popular to have something smaller like bacon rolls or fish and chip cones in the evening. The only thing to remember is that whereas venues can usually be lenient with buffets and allow catering of 70-80% total numbers, something like bacon rolls would need to be total guest numbers or you would have some guests who wouldn’t get fed.
Midnight is a good time for the end of the wedding. You’ll have no doubt been up since the early hours, on very little sleep from excitement. It’s a long and tiring day and if guests are still in the party mood they can either retire to the main bar (if the venue is a hotel and they are staying) or to the local town. Trust me, you’ll be wanting your bed by this time.