How to Plan a Wedding Day Timeline

Setting the timings. Integral and the most fun job of all for some, the most laborious for others. Here's a guide to help.

See below for a sample structure without all the wordy bits:

2pm Ceremony

2.45pm Drinks Reception/Canapés

4.15pm Dinner

6.45pm Speeches

7.30pm Bar Opens; Cake is Cut; Cheese Stack is Unstacked; Tea and Coffee Served

8pm Evening Guests Arrive

8.15pm First Dance

8.15pm-9pm First Band Set

9pm-11pm Evening Food

9.30pm-10.15pm Second Band Set

10.15pm-Midnight DJ

 

If you want the reasoning behind the structure then:

General Considerations

Start with the most important thing for you and work the day around that. Is it that you want to have lots of time in the morning to get ready with your nearest and dearest? Or that you want to be finishing dinner and speeches as the sun sets so that you can escape with your photographer and capture the dusk light?

That being said, you don’t have to have a super important thing, maybe your important thing is that you get to marry the person that you love surrounded by the people who support you… check.

2pm Ceremony

This gives enough time for some relaxed getting ready in the morning, a visit to the hairdressers/barbers, and a laid back brunch before getting dressed up.

Consider that the earlier you start the day then longer you get to spend with all your loved ones. But watch this, don’t take it so early that you’re getting up at 6am to have your hair done (also a key reason for not having more bridesmaids than you have fingers…).

Ceremony length is going to vary from 20 minutes for the formalities up to the length of a piece of string – how long the poems/songs/speeches/readings/other entertainment all add depends on what you want to add in.

2.45pm Drinks Reception/Canapés

You’ll need to allow time for getting from the ceremony to the drinks reception area. Be that a 2 minute walk (making you very lucky!), or a 20 minute drive  (use Google Map’s “arrive by” feature to see what traffic is usually like on that day of the week).

Then the length of the reception itself, we suggest an hour for drinks and canapés then 30 minutes for seating people.

4.15pm Dinner

How long you leave for dinner is dependant on how many courses you have and how long your caterer takes to serve and clear. We allow 1 hour for starters, 1 hour for main and 30 minutes for dessert. This is more because dinner is not something to be rushed: there will always be a slow eater/long talker in your group who takes a while to finish. If your caterer says it’ll take less time than this then build in a buffer yourself.

6.45pm Speeches

How many times has a speech gone on for longer than someone said it would? Many more than it was shorter. Understandably, a lot of people are scared of public speaking, and so take the pressure off by only committing themselves to 5 minutes. In our experience (and at risk of insider trading on speech length betting) speeches last 15 minutes each. I’ve based this timeline on the classic father, groom, best man speech set up, but play around with it!

7.30pm Bar Opens; Cake Cutting; Cheese Stack Unstacking; Tea and Coffee Serving

I’ve got to get this in here, my absolute bug bear is asking someone at a table if they would like a tea or coffee, they invariably feel pushed into saying yes please (because who in their right mind says no to an offer like that…?!) then 20 minutes later when clearing their place, I find a full cup of coffee. Save the waste, set up a tea and coffee side table. Then only anyone motivated enough to get up and help themselves will drink one. This saves you money and the environment waste, so it’s a win win.

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8pm Evening Guests Arrive

If you do one thing, allow a large enough buffer between speeches and evening guest arrival time. The awkwardness of newly arrived guests hovering outside the reception room is palpable. It’s also avoidable, if you leave enough time between speeches and asking them to get there.

8.15pm First Dance

This is what they came for, it’s a nice touch to allow evening guests to be witness to the part of the day. Even if it ends up as the two of you shuffling together in the middle of the dance floor… just kiss, it’ll be romantic and everyone will get the feels.

Don’t start the dancing music too early. Give your guests a chance to digest dinner, grab a drink and wonder when they can start bringing out the moves.

8.15pm-9pm First Band Set

This is where things start to get looser. Maybe you have a band, maybe you don’t. Maybe they’ll only do 20 minute sets at a time. Who knows. What I do know about is the next bit:

9pm-11pm Evening Food

If you have a band, coincide their break with the commencement of evening food. The dance floor will have a natural emptying, the band can announce the start of the food, and everyone will find their way to the nourishment that awaits.

This time is a respectable amount of time for an evening guest to wait for food after arriving, and a long enough break for a main day guest to get hungry again after dinner.

9.30pm-10.15pm Second Band Set

Same words as the previous band set words.

10.15pm-Midnight DJ

Maybe you’ll have to finish at midnight, maybe you’ll get to dance into the wee early hours of the morning.

 

Finally, and importantly. Your wedding day timeline is a guide and structure for the day for you, your guests and your suppliers. It is not a timetable to be stuck to. The only rule for the day is that you and your partner are having fun. Unexpected things happen and adapting is part of the fun of it. Dare we say, much like the rest of your lives together…!

 

If your event is based within an hour’s drive of Stratford-upon-Avon, and want to chat to us about how we can help with your day then contact us here.