The secret to keeping to your wedding day timings

I’m Getting Married In The Morning – Get Me To The Church On Time!

Image Courtesy of FNS Wedding Photography
Rolex Watch

Wedding day timings…..what a subject this is! Do weddings ever run to time? Well yes, they do but only because of the intervention of one or two people along the way.

Even the best organised bride will lose track of time along the way whilst she’s getting ready. So the key to a successful schedule for the day is to know exactly (or as near as humanly possible) how long each part of your day is likely to take.

It’s never too early to start preparing things now – so if you are having a hairdresser visit you on the morning then have a trial of your wedding day hair and see how long it takes to achieve the look you want. The same applies for make-up. If however you are going to a salon then you need to have a trial but also a practise run on the same day of the week (& if possible time) as you are getting married. Traffic from your house to the salon will be quite different on a Saturday morning to a Tuesday afternoon for example. Also check that there is nothing happening locally (such as an “important” football match) which may affect traffic conditions not only for you getting places but also for people such a make-up artists, florists, hairdressers, photographers, cars getting to you. If you know of anything happening make sure you alter your suppliers because they may be unaware.

So….we’ve tackled the things you can do to minimize the chances of you being late due to outside influences but what about the basics of just now long thing are likely to take on the day? You’ve probably never organized a wedding before so from this point of view probably have no idea whatsoever what to expect. For example – would you have any idea how long it is going to take to get your 100 guests out of the church after the ceremony? (15 to 20 minutes is the answer to this one – could be longer if you have lots of elderly guest of young children)

So here goes with a (very rough!) idea to wedding day timings:

  • Bride putting on the dress, assisted by bridesmaids & mum: 15 – 30 minutes (this assumes all makeup etc. has been done first).
  • Bride putting on veil & shoes: 5 mins minimum.
  • Photographs with bride & dad at house or on way to civil ceremony: 5 – 10 mins minimum.
  • Bride exiting car and entering church: 5 mins minimum, add 5 minutes if taking posed photos exiting car and with dad and bridesmaids outside the church.
  • Church service: 45 minutes minimum – often longer for Catholic services or where there are a lot of readings.
  • Civil ceremony service: 15 – 20 mins depending on how many readings. Remember that the registrar will want to see you both individually before the ceremony and this will take around 5 – 10 minutes each).
  • Posed photographs outside the church – add 5 – 10 minutes on if you are having the bells rung as none of the guests or yourselves will be able to either hear the photographer or yourselves speaking. For one group of everyone 10 minutes to get everyone organized. Add around 5 minutes per additional group unless you have a very fast & efficient photographer (such as ourselves!) who with organization can do this quicker.
  • From arriving at the venue to include the drinks reception you should allow a minimum of 1.5 to 2 hrs prior to the time you wish to sit down for your wedding breakfast.
  • Receiving line: this really depends on who you are having in your receiving line (as in just you two or you two + parents from each side) and how many guests but receiving lines can go on for an awful long time. If you allow 5 – 7 seconds for each guest to speak to each person in the receiving line you won’t be far out. This doesn’t sound very long but in reality receiving lines do add-on around a minimum of 1/2 hour to the sitting down time on the day. Some people will pause to talk longer than you expect whilst others will simply pass through. Receiving lines can be very boring all round. Most receiving lines are done for the benefit of the couples’s parents rather than the couple themselves.
  • Wedding breakfast: Of course this depends on the speed of the venue but an average 3 course + coffee wedding breakfast will take around 1.5 hrs, for 4 courses add 1/2 hour and 1/2 for each additional course.
  • Speeches – how long is a piece of string? Of course some people talk for England and some hardly at all. Average speech time from our observations to include Father of the Bride, Groom and Best Man around 20 minutes to 1/2 hour with the giving of gifts often taking up the most time during the speeches.
  • Turnaround time between wedding breakfast and evening reception (if using the same room). The venue will advise you specifically on this but most venues take around 1 – 1.5 hrs to do this. You need to allow extra time if a band is setting up in the room for the evening entertainment.
  • First dance – it should be noted that first dances very rarely happen at the time they are expected. So if you are booking your photographer on a set number of hours and you want the times to include your first dance you need to allow yourselves plenty of leeway on this one. We are very often informed that the first dance will happen at around 8.30 whereas in reality it is normally around 9.00 – 9.30. Lots of things can affect the time of the first dance; all of them will be beyond your control on the day to a large degree. For example: the venue may take longer to turn the room around (this may not be their fault – sometimes guests lingering in the room after the wedding breakfast can hold things up), often the band may take longer to set up than you or they expect, guests may disappear to freshen up and not return at the allotted time.

We hope this has been a useful little guide to your wedding day timings. Wedding days can run to time but it does require meticulous planning and a little bit of luck! Some key people on the day (such as the photographers) can keep an eye on the times and gently keep you to time with being quick and efficient with the posing of formal groups for example and not taking an endless amount of time outside the church. They are also likely to be the ones who are most aware of the time when you are getting ready – very few brides have a watch on or are clock watching. Bridesmaids can often be so chilled out and fussing around the bride that they lose track of time and don’t get their own dresses on in time!

The one thing that is for certain and which happens on virtually every wedding day is that after the day has passed the couple will say to us “We don’t know where the time went. All that planning and the day was over in a flash.” So our advice would be to try to savor every single minute as best you can and make sure that your photographer is the best you can afford and so they can fill in the gaps later with fantastic photos of moments in time you didn’t know or don’t recall happening. With the right photographers time really can stand still.

© Sharon Malone