How to plan timings for your wedding day

If you’re not working with a wedding planner, planning a wedding can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. This isn’t something you’ve done before and it’s not like you can just take an online course and find out everything you need to know. So today I wanted to write a blog post about how to figure out your timings for everything on the wedding day. Think of this as your online course 😉 So grab a cup of your favourite whatever, grab some snacks and have a pen and paper at the ready.

how to plan your wedding day timings

First things first, write down the time of your ceremony. If you don’t yet have a time for your ceremony this is a good place to start but feel free to read to the end of this post as it might help you with the decision making on that.

So what time does your ceremony start and how long will it last.

We’ll then move on to the next main event in the day. It’s easier to figure out the times for the main events throughout the day and go from there. So your first main event will be getting ready (which I will get to later), the next main event is the ceremony and then the next event after that is likely to be your meal. Now one thing to remember with the meal is that it can take around 15 minutes, depending on the size of your wedding, to get everyone seated for the meal. When I put a wedding schedule together with my couples I will make sure I make a note of the time guests are being seated. I know that I want to get some photos of the room set up and looking pretty before everyone goes in there. So the time everyone is being seated is definitely something to pay attention to as well as the time of the meal.

So, how do you know what time guests should be seated at your wedding. I think it’s a good idea to have an hour and a half to two hours between the end of the ceremony and everyone being seated for the meal. This is not including any travel time between different venues. An hour and a half is a nice amount of time to get any family photos taken that you may want. I usually set aside about half an hour for this. You’ve got enough time to see your wedding guests and you should still have some time to be alone just the two of you and take in the day. This is a nice time to get some photo of the two of you together as well.

Now, I did say an hour and a half to two hours. I always think it’s worth having a bit of flexibility with your wedding timings. I think this is a good idea from a weather point of view and just for any unplanned events that may pop up on the day. If it is raining at the time you had set aside for family photos, by having a bit of extra time to play with between the end of the ceremony and the meal, you have time to wait to see if the rain eases or stops to do the photos. This has helped me out on more than one occasion where we have had time to wait for the rain to stop and have been able to do the family photos outside. I’ve also had situations where the rain hasn’t stopped but we’ve had that extra time to clear the ceremony room at the weddng venue and have done the group photos inside. I have also had weddings with not as much time to play with and we have done family photos under umbrellas or inside the church. We work with whatever weather comes our way on the wedding day but a flexible wedding schedule will help take any stress away from the day and keep everyone happy and having the best time.

confetti at a rainy wedding natural family wedding photo

Ok so now you should have a time for your ceremony, ceremony ending, any travel  time and your guests being seated for the meal. Now, sometimes as guests get seated a receiving line happens, which is essentially a way for you and your parents to say hello to every guests. You usually all line up at the enterance to the dining room and as your guests walk in you greet them. It can take a very long time and there is no guarantee how long exactly it will take because you don’t know how long each person will stop with you for. You often only get a few moments with each guest and don’t get the opportunity for a proper chat. Why not take that time and spend it with your guests in a more relaxed way. You’ve got more chance of having a proper chat with everyone without loosing time on your day with a receiving line.

So, everyone is seated, now, do you want to have your speeches before your meal or after the meal. I personally have my preferred option as to what I think works best but I know some people have a certain idea in their mind as to when they want to do speeches. Feel free to send me an email or a message if you want to chat about this further though.

Once you have timings for everyone being seated and knowing at what point you’ll be doing speeces. You can get in touch with your caterers to let them know your plans and find out from them how long you’ll need to set aside for your meal. This will obviously vary depending on how many courses you’re having and how many guests you’ve got.

natural wedding photos of speeches wedding speech guests reacting to wedding speeches

If you’re taking notes at this point you should now have times for, ceremomy, ceremony ending, any travel time you may need to add in, getting seated, meal and speeches. Once you know how long you’ll need for the meal you can add on a timing for any evening guests arriving, cake cutting and your first dance. I personally think it works well to keep the flow of the day going nicely and not having too much of a long break. At this point in the day guests are usually pretty keen to get on the dance floor so it’s good to keep the momentum going. As an example, if you think speeches may finish around 7pm your evening guests could arrive at 7:30pm. You could then cut the cake and go straight into the first dance at 8pm, or 8:30 if you’ve got quite a few evening guests arriving.

cutting the wedding cake at Losely Park wedding first dance at Harmans Cross Village HallThat’s the timings pretty much sorted from the ceremony onwards, so now you can think about your timings before the ceremony. I always think the timings for the wedding morning are so important.

It’s so easy for time to run away from you on the wedding morning. You’ve put so much effort into planning this day and it’s finally here. You want everything to be perfect but you also want everything to feel nice a relaxed. Things can be lovely and calm and then all of a sudden it’s 10 minutes before you have to leave for the ceremony and you’re still getting your make up done. This is gonna cause stress and I don’t want that for you on your wedding day.
Once you know what time you need to be at the ceremony you will then know what time you have to leave. I would recommend planing on being completely ready to leave at least half an hour BEFORE THIS. You’ll be surprised but that half an hour can quite easily disappear and you’ll be so grateful for it on the day. You’ve never got ready for your wedding day before, it’s new, you’re nervous, excited, you want everything to be just right. Time will disappear without you realizing. If you’ve allowed for that time to disappear it won’t add any un-nessasary stress.

One small thing to remember here, if you’re not getting ready at the same venue as the ceremony you’re photographer is likely to leave before you do. They will want to get to the ceremony in good time to park up and get some photos of guests and the Groom before Bridesmaids and Bride arrive. It might be worth getting in touch with your photographer if you think this might effect you and you want to discuss it a bit more.

Bride getting make up on So you now know the time you want to be ready to leave and the real time you need to leave. At this point (if it’s close enough to the wedding), if you have a wedding car, it might be worth getting in touch with them to ask what time they want to take you to the ceremony. It’s worth just checking that you’re on the same page before you start discussing timings with your other wedding suppliers.

Next, have an idea of how long it will take you and your bridesmaids to get dressed. Spoiler alert, this will take longer than it took in the shop when you tried on your dress. Without the dress fitters around you’ll be figuring it out just you and your bridesmaids or mum.

(Tip! Why not plan a fun evening, maybe the night of the stag do when your other half is not around. To try on the dress at home with your bridesmaids. You may as well get a bit of extra fun out of the dress and it will be a great way practice getting into it and eliminating any issues that you don’t want poping up on the wedding day)

Bride puts on boho wedding dress At this point you might be thinking, no it’s fine, I don’t need to plan all this extra time, I’ll be ready on time and if I’m not they’ll just wait for me. If I had a pound for every time I hear “don’t worry the ceremony can’t start without you”!! It’s true! The ceremony can’t start without you, but just think about it from this side of things. If you’re late for the ceremony, the ceremony will end late but your meal has still been planned for a certain time. This means the time between your ceremony ending and your guests being seated has reduced! This has the potential to make your day feel more rushed than it needs to be. Feel free to totally ignore all or any of these tips but these are just pointers that I think will help to make your day nice and relaxed and as stress free as possible.

natural photo of bride with bridesmaids (I love it when Brides have such a relaxed morning that they have time to give out gifts and get some pre ceremony photos)

Here are the timings you hopefully have written down now, ready to leave for the ceremony, ceremony, ceremony ending, any travel time, everyone seated, meal, speeches, evening guests arriving, cake cutting and first dance.

Once you’ve got those bits figured out you can pretty much hand the rest of it over to your wedding suppliers. This can be done a bit closer to the wedding.

How do you know when to start your hair and make up on the wedding day. If you get in touch with your hair and make up artist and let them know the time you want to be ready to start getting dressed, they will know what time they need to arrive to make sure they get you ready on time.

Same goes for any other suppliers, your florist, photographer, any drivers, the band or dj. If you email them letting them know the times you have for things they can let you know the times they need to be where. It may seem a bit overwhelming when you start to think about your wedding timings and what time everyone needs to be where. Once you’ve got your timings for your main events on the wedding day the suppliers you’re paying to make your day amazing will help you out with the rest 🙂

 

Before every wedding day I go through wedding timings with couples so I know where I have to be and when, to capture the day as it happens. If you want to pick my brains about anything with your wedding timings though, give me a shout I’m more tha happy to help.

natural wedding photo of bride and groom

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