Unless you’re a Type A individual who couldn’t think of anything more fun than spreadsheets and calculations, the idea of putting together your wedding day schedule is bound to be a little nerve-wracking. How do you even start? How long is everything supposed to take? How do we make sure it all goes to plan? Lucky for you, we’ve got some fab tips for mapping out your wedding day!
The time you need to get ready the morning of your wedding is usually the most underestimated in the wedding day schedule. It’s often very hard to know how quickly your hair and makeup will be done, how long photos will take and how long it’ll take you to get to the ceremony.
Work backwards from when you’ll have to leave for the ceremony and ask your stylists how much time they think they’ll need. As a general guide, bridal hair and makeup can take up to 2 hours and an additional hour for each bridesmaid or mum.
If you can, leave about an hour for margin of error between being finished and leaving for the ceremony – no one wants to be a rushed bride, but extra time for photos and nerve-calming never hurts!
A typical civil ceremony will only last about 30 minutes and a religious service anywhere between 45 – 60 minutes. Make sure your groom and the ushers are at the ceremony venue around 45 minutes beforehand to speak with the vicar or registrar and say hello to any early guests. If you don’t have a planner then the ushers will assist guests with seating and hand out the order of service. Tip – there are always early arrivals.
If you have transport arranged to take you to your reception remember to allocate some time after the ceremony for any formal and confetti shots. You want to avoid any extra charges with your transport companies if they have to wait around for you to finish taking pictures.
Before the wedding breakfast, you’d typically have 1 ½ hours mingling time with drinks, canapés and entertainment – often called the cocktail hour or drinks reception.
This time is another great opportunity for more group shots if you want them, taking approximately 30 minutes. Save this from running over too much by planning your shots in advance and have someone gather your groups together when they are needed.
When the drinks reception is coming to an end, sneak off with the photographer and get your couples shots, the perfect time is whilst all guests are taking their seats for dinner. Once all your guests are seated and comfortable, you’ll be ready to be announced into dinner as the new Mr and Mrs!
A three-course wedding breakfast normally takes 2 hours, but always consult your caterer for their suggested timings, as it depends on headcount and the way the courses are being served. Additional courses such as palate cleansers, amuse-bouche or cheese will all add additional time.
Speeches rarely run to time! As a rule of thumb, give 10 minutes to each speaker, but allow for 15-20 minutes just in case. Be strict with your speakers to stick to these times – long, drawn-out speeches are never fun when you’ve already sat through 2 hours of dinner. Do check whether the best men need any equipment for their moment in the spotlight.
I normally allow 30 minutes between the end of the speeches and the evening entertainment. This gives guests the chance to freshen themselves up.
If you have a band, check what set lengths they have, normally this is 2 x 45/60 minute sets. Is there a DJ for in between sets? Think about whether you want the band or DJ playing to the end and if so work backwards. Never have a band playing when food is being served otherwise the dance floor will be empty. For example, you might do something like:
8pm: First dance / DJ commences
8:45 pm: Band commences
9:30 pm: Evening food served / DJ Playing / Band Break
11 pm: Band second set
11:45 pm: Band closes / DJ plays last few songs
12 am: Carriages
Make Your Own Rules
There’s no reason to stick to traditional wedding day timings unless you really want to. Ceremonies can start any time of the day and your reception doesn’t always have to be a sit-down formal meal. Why not have a morning ceremony and a boozy brunch reception? Or a late-night ceremony with a standing cocktail hour reception? Anything goes.