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The Definitive Guide to your Wedding Day Timings

Everybody wants their wedding day to be perfect and everything to run like clockwork, the key to this is planning not just what you want for your wedding, but also the timings.

Maggie Taylor, Met Events Ltd  Timings_for_your_Wedding_Day.jpg

When planning your wedding day, there are three aspects that you need to consider.

 Firstly, and right at the beginning of your planning, think about what time the wedding should be

  • Secondly, and before drawing up a detailed plan, think about what might go wrong so that you can plan for any eventualities
  • Thirdly, draw up your detailed timed plan ensuring those running your day are aware

What Time is Best?

When thinking about what time to have your wedding, there is a lot to consider. It is important to remember that there is a long gap between the wedding ceremony and the time you will all eat at the reception.

For example, you may think that 1.00 sounds ideal – a lunchtime wedding!  However, if you are getting married at 1.00, most of your guests will have to leave home before mid-day so may not be able to have lunch first.  The ceremony will last at least half an hour, so allowing for the bride to be late and for photos afterwards, you will not leave for the reception until at least 2.00. Once you arrive at the reception venue, there will be further photos, so the earliest you will sit down for your meal will be 3.00 – probably later.  If you are also having the speeches before the meal (so that the men can relax and enjoy a drink) then it is clear that you won’t be eating until after 4.00 – very late for that lovely lunchtime wedding.

You also need to think about whether you are having an evening reception. If so, do you want the two receptions far enough apart for people to go home and change in between, or are you going to carry straight on from the daytime reception to the evening one? Another consideration for your evening reception is that you will want the daytime guests to have finished their meal before the evening guests start to arrive.

Of course, all this is dependent on when your registrar or minister of religion is available and also when your church or civil venue is available. So, if you can’t get the time you really want, don’t panic – just work around what is available.

For example, if you have a lunchtime wedding, maybe your caterers would serve additional canapés instead of the starter – this way your guests can eat whilst the photos are being taken and won’t be complaining about being hungry. Another possibility might be to offer mini picnics as people leave the church or ceremony venue. If you have a lot of small children at the wedding, it may also be worth arranging to serve their meal or a snack early so that they are fairly quiet.

And if you believe that the timings won’t give you a big enough gap between the daytime and evening receptions, why not invite your evening guests to join you at a specific time for the cutting of the cake or the speeches and toasts – this would be a lovely way of welcoming them in and allowing them to share in a little of the day’s celebrations too.

What Can Go Wrong?

When you’re planning your wedding day timetable, no matter how thorough your planning, always build in a bit of emergency time. Delays and problems can hit even the most meticulously planned wedding!  Think about how you would cope if you faced one of the following examples from recent weddings.

Half an hour before a blessing at the couple’s own home, the groom discovered that the drains had blocked and urgently needed clearing.

For another wedding, the bride woke up on her wedding day to see a six-inch deep blanket of snow outside.

In both these cases, the wedding went ahead on time, because the couples had planned for delays.

In the first case, the groom knew that problems can crop up in an old house, so had set his clothes out the night before the wedding and had also arranged that everybody else would have finished in the shower-room an hour before the wedding so that he knew the shower would be free.

In the second case, the bride and groom knew that snow had been forecast and arranged alternative transport with friends who had 4x4’s. However, the car company rang the bride on the morning to say that they would be able to make it as long as everybody could be ready to be picked up half an hour earlier than previously agreed. So the bride arrived on time, and in her carefully-chosen Rolls Royce.

So, think about the details of your own wedding day and any problems you might encounter, and build these into your timetable.

Your Wedding Timetable

The following timetable gives you approximate countdown timings based on a 3pm wedding.

Don’t forget to adjust the times to allow for the possible emergencies you have identified, and remember to give a copy of your timetable to your wedding planner so that he or she can iron out any problems. If you do not have a planner ensure all those key people involved in your day have a copy of this so they know where to be and when.


1st Thing


  • Although you’re really excited, try and have a bit of a lie-in – you’ll appreciate the rest later. Maybe somebody will bring you breakfast in bed?
  • Have a nice bath or shower
  • Do any remaining packing for the honeymoon – don’t forget your passport, money and toothbrush!

4 hours before


  • Bride, bridesmaids and mums have their hair and make-up done. Send instructions to the Bridesmaids around whether they should wash their hair the night before etc
  • If you’re having it done at home, you could open a bottle of Bucks Fizz to get the party started, but don’t drink too much!
  • Bouquet and buttonholes delivered or collected

2 hours before


  • Bride and bridesmaids get dressed, jewellery on, etc
  • Groom and best man get dressed and ready

1 hour before


  • Photographer and videographer arrive at the bride’s home for photos of the bride with her parents and bridesmaids
  • Groom and best man set off for the ceremony – maybe stopping for a quick drink with the ushers on their way (but not too many)

30 mins before


  • Cars arrive at the bride’s home and may put any items needing to go directly to the reception in the boot
  • Ushers arrive at the ceremony venue to greet guests, give them orders of service and direct them to their seats (bride’s family to the left, groom’s family to the right)
  • Bride’s mother and bridesmaids set off for the ceremony
  • Groom’s parents set off for the ceremony

20 mins before


  • Groom and best man arrive at the ceremony venue
  • Photographer arrives at the ceremony venue for photos of the groom and best man
  • Pre-ceremony music begins
  • Bride and her father set off for the ceremony

10 mins before


  • Bridesmaids and bride’s mother arrive at the ceremony venue
  • Groom’s parents arrive at the ceremony venue

5 mins before


  • Ushers escort groom’s parents and bride’s mother to their seats, then go to their own seats
  • Groom and best man take their position



  • Celebrant/registrar takes his/her position at the front and gives out any announcements



  • Bride and her father arrive at the ceremony venue
  • Photographer takes photos of the bride and her father getting out of the car and entering the venue
  • Processional music starts
  • Guests all stand
  • Bride, her father and bridesmaids enter the venue and walk up the aisle (bridesmaids can go in front or behind, whichever the bride prefers.  The celebrant may lead this procession
  • The ceremony begins

½ hour after


  • The ceremony ends (some ceremonies last an hour, so check before finalising the remaining times)
  • Photos are taken, confetti thrown, etc outside/inside the ceremony venue

1 hour after


  • Bride and groom depart for further photos at the reception venue
  • Guests depart for the reception venue
  • Best man ensures all guests have transport and directions before departing for the reception venue

1½ hours after


  • Guests arrive at the reception
  • Drinks are served to guests

1¾ hours after


  • Bride and groom arrive at the reception (this will be earlier if there is no photo-stop on the way)
  • Canapés may be served

2¼ hours after


  • Guests take their seats for the meal
  • The speeches may be before or after the meal, whichever you prefer

 From here onwards, the timetable is entirely down to the type of meal you have chosen, the speed of service at your venue and your choice of entertainment. So don’t worry about a thing – just relax and enjoy the rest of your Big Day.

With thanks to Jonathan Ryan of www.WeddingsByRyan.com for the photograph


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