One of the questions we get asked time and time again is how do we work out our wedding timeline? What time should we be getting married? How long should our speeches take? What time should we ask guests to arrive? Well we have put together some tips on how to write your wedding day timeline to help. Because before you do anything else, you need to plan your timings! How else will you and your guests know when to show up?
1. Where to start?
As strange as it sounds, we’d recommend starting at the end. IE starting with what time will your evening guests be arriving and working backwards. This way you can work backwards through your day to make sure you include all the things that are important. For example, your sunset pictures, as your golden hour pictures aren’t to be missed! Or to make sure your evening guests aren’t arriving too early and walking in while you and your day guests are still eating or finishing off the speeches.
2. How many for Hair & Make up?
Now back to the beginning. Before you divide your ceremony time, let’s look at your wedding morning. How many for hair and make up (including Mums x 2 and yourself as it soon adds up)? Hair & make up usually takes 1 hour per person, possibly an hour and a half if you’re the bride. Therefore, Bride, 2 x mums and 5 bridesmaids for example = 8 which equates to 8 hours hair and make up. We recommend hair and make up being finished 2 hours before your ceremony (we’ll explain why below). So now you might not want an 11am ceremony as this would mean starting hair and make up at 1:00am! To help you can half the make up times by having 2 hair stylists and 2 make up artists which in this scenario would make it a 5am start and not as bad but it will cost more so maybe something to consider when working out how many Bridesmaids you’re going to have. Or maybe with all this in mind, you might decide a later 1pm ceremony and 7am Hair & make up start time might be more reasonable.
3. How long do you need before the ceremony?
Now why do you need to be ready 2hrs before your ceremony? Let’s stick with the 11am ceremony time, and a civil ceremony with registrars as an example. Your registrars will arrive around an hour before the ceremony time. So in this example, they would arrive at 10am to meet you and your fiancé separately, each meeting can take around 15 minutes. As soon as you’ve finished your registrar meeting, you and your bridal party will be heading straight down the aisle. Therefore, you want to allow yourself time to get dressed, have all of your first look photos, morning photos, final loo trips and everything ready before you sit down with them. Having hair and make up finished 2 hours before the ceremony allows time for all of this.
Example so far with 2 x hair and 2 make up artists for 8 girls this is where we are up to..
5am – Hair and make up x 4 hours for 8 girls
9am – Everyone gets dressed
9:30 – Pre pictures and videos/group shots
10am – All guests arrive as registrars meet you both one after the other (or you can also choose to meet the registrars together as well if you’d prefer)
10:50am – Bridal party finishes with registrars and heads down to ceremony room ready to walk down the aisle
11am – Ceremony
It’s important to remember that the old tradition of “the Bride is always late” cannot happen for a civil ceremony. The registrars usually have multiple weddings in a day. If they’re kept waiting too long, they can stand up and leave in order to get to the next wedding in time. Giving yourself plenty of cushion time on your wedding morning will prevent any stress or panic. In an ideal world, your wedding morning will be nice and calm to settle those last minute nerves and enjoy the getting ready excitement.
4. What time to invite your day guests?
Again, an hour before your ceremony is recommended. Remember you are walking down the aisle at 11am, this means by 10:45/50 your guests need to be seated and ready for you to make your entrance. The venue and bar will be open so they can come in and relax, they usually need the loo and to sort their hair etc. If you have parents attending with younger guests, remember they will need more time to get settled. Depending on guest numbers we would start seating your guests at 10:30am (half an hour before) obviously with guest numbers things do differ (100+ guests take a lot longer to seat than 30-50 guests). You don’t want anyone arriving as you’re about to walk down the aisle.
5. How long does the ceremony take?
Now for your ceremony time. A church ceremony generally takes 1 hour. You’ll also want to add in travel time for both parties. Have a think about how you’re getting to the church, are you having cars to pick you up? Is it the same car taking you both separately? In which case, you’ll need to allow time for the car to make the journey once to the church and time for it to return to pick you up. Registrar/Civil ceremonies usually take 20-30 minutes, depending on your readings and your ceremony option. Celebrant led ceremonies usually last around 45 mins to over an hour as they like to share your stories and make it slightly more personal to you both.
6. Time to Mingle
After your ceremony, you’ll want to put in time for your confetti throw picture, group shots and your “mingling hour”. Remember there is already so much going on at this point, you need time for some of your couple photos, there are the group shots to get, your guests will be hungry so PLEASE FEED THEM! Canapés are a must. Plus they will all want a word so “mingling” is definitely the word for this time. Again the more guests the more time you need so 50 guests will mean an hour and a half is fine but with 120+ guests you may need 2 hours to allow everyone to get a drink and have the chance to say hi. We always recommend your group shots are smashed out straight after your confetti before your guests disperse and you lose them all. It also gets them over and done with so you and your guests can enjoy a drink, a canapé and a catch up!
7. Couple Photos
Couple shots are so important, it’s not everyday you are dressed up like this and have spent so much on hair/make up/dresses and suits so make the most of this 30-40 mins off for just the two of you to take it all in. We promise, you’ll want this time during the day, to make the most of it and enjoy some rare time together on your wedding day.
8. Please welcome the Newlyweds…
Now for announcing in, speeches, and your meal….. We (as your venue) have seated your guests and are going to play the best music chosen by you to erupt your room as you walk in. Why speeches first? There is a whole blog on its own and here is the link – https://thiefhall.co.uk/10-tips-on-writing-delivering-a-wedding-speech-2/ . Then we recommend a one or two course meal. Your guests have had incredible starters (your canapés) and now they are ready for the mains (hopefully served to the tables as a buffet upsets your guests sat at the back as it takes longer for them to be served). Now to save time and money you could have cut your cake before speeches and use this as your dessert course or dessert station.
9. Party Time
Time for the party! There is the small worry of an after meal lull which can be avoided with some fun entertainment as your evening guests arrive and lift the spirits of the guests who have been with you eating and drinking all day. Live music, a magician milling around, Photo Booth set up, outside games, an ice cream van are all good suggestions for this room change hour as your band or DJ sets up. If you have over 30 night guests they will arrive hungry so this is also the perfect time to begin evening food as they will grab theirs first and your day guests will naturally hold off for a while which will in turn mean there is no huge queue later on which is the worst party killer.
10. Now to put it all together…
Now if you can fit your sunset into this time (if it is winter you may have even enjoyed your sunset pics after your confetti and group shots) but if possible this is the perfect time for the last of your couple pics (hopefully an inferno of a glowing sunset before you are announced into your first dance and then the party takes the night away.
So let’s string all of the above together for let’s say a September wedding with 7pm sunset and (6-7pm golden hour). We have moved the ceremony back as the evening guests would have been arriving at 4pm otherwise and then decided to book the registrars for 1pm and will be asking day guests to arrive at 12 noon and night guests 6:30 for 7pm. If you have a lot of evening guests (over 50) a soft time invite time (6:30 for 7 instead of 7pm alone or even between 6:30 & 7:30pm) will help to disperse them all coming to see you both as they arrive at the same time.
7am – Hair and make up x 4 hours for 8 girls
11am – Everyone gets dressed
11:30 – Pre pictures and videos/group shots
12 noon – All guests arrive as registrars meet you both
1pm – Ceremony
1:30pm – Confetti, group shots, canapés, arrival drinks and mingling hour
2:30 – Couple shots
3:00pm Arrive back and have 10 mins off as your guests are seated
(Finally a loo break)
3:30pm – Announce you into speeches (usually 3 x 10 mins each)
4:00pm – Mains served
5:00pm – Desserts Served
6pm – Evening Room Change around
6-7pm – Golden hour and last couple photos
6:30 for 7pm (or 7:30pm) – Evening guests arrive as the entertainment wakes up sleepy day guests and evening food starts serving.
7:30 – Cake cut if you didn’t do it earlier and first dance