We’re just going to put this out here from the very beginning. There is a certain myth that suggests that ‘your wedding should be all about you’. While this is certainly true to some extent, we believe that the key to all successful weddings (or indeed events) is to shift your focus to your guests. What would you like them to experience? How would you like them to feel? What would you like them to remember most? In doing so, we are really confident that you will be able to stand back and observe your friends and family having a wonderful day and you in turn will have the best day of your lives.
So how does this relate to the timings of the day? We’ve highlighted five key areas where careful consideration of the timings will make a real impact on creating a wonderful celebration:
1. Start Time
Our general advice would be not to start your ceremony too early in the day. It is likely that many of your guests will be be travelling some distance to attend your wedding and asking them to arrive in time for a midday ceremony is going to put them under pressure. Starting a little later may also allow those guests who need to check in to their hotel to do so before they arrive for the wedding. Finally, does your ceremony time allow guests to have some lunch before arriving for the wedding? If not, it would be wise to consider how many canapés you allow per guest during your drinks receptions, or to choose more substantial options so your guests feel well fed.
2. Drinks Reception
This is a lovely part of the day when guests get to enjoy a glass of champagne, catch up with friends they may not have seen for some time and to reflect on how beautiful the bride looks. While all these things are lovely, we feel it’s important not to allow this section of the day to be too long. We encourage our couples that one hour and thirty minutes is a good amount of time. Too much longer than this and your guests are likely to start to get restless. If you’re planning on having some photos taken during this time, try to keep this to a maximum of 30 minutes to avoid missing out on too much of the reception. One top tip to keep this photo session swift is to send an email in the week leading up to the wedding to all guests who you would like in any group photos, so they know not to stray too far.
3. Create a Journey through your Day
We help our clients to create a journey for the guests’ experience so they are treated to something new at each stage of the day. This might be a little bag of savoury biscuits for guests to enjoy as they travel between the Ceremony and the Reception. Or an aperitif style cocktail served at the drinks reception which says something about you as a couple followed by an evening cocktail menu, including digestif style beverages like Espresso Martini and Old Fashioned. Or simply a comfortable ‘chill out’ area with a coffee and whisky station to enjoy while taking a break from dancing.
We are going to start this by saying, there are no set rules that dictate how speeches should be done. There are traditions but we always advise our clients to do what is best for them as a couple or a family. Most commonly speeches will be held once guests are seated for dinner. A Welcome Speech may start proceedings, from the Father of the Bride or Master of Ceremonies. You could choose to follow on with all the speeches at this point which would allow your bridal party to relax and enjoy the dinner knowing that their main ‘duties’ are over. Or you could decide to leave the remaining speeches until after dinner. The ‘expected’ order would be Father of the Bride, Groom and finally the Best Man but we love it when a Bride sneaks a speech in also! A toast to the happy couple is customary and we would propose Champagne any day, but if you would rather top up your guests’ glasses with the wine served at dinner, this works just as well. One top tip we do feel strongly about however is to keep the speeches succinct. Ten minutes per speaker or thirty minutes in total is the perfect balance to keep your guests entertained. Thinking about splitting the speeches between courses? Make sure you discuss this with your caterer as it may have an impact on food service.
5. Evening Guests
If you have decided to invite some additional guests for the evening festivities, be sure to consider how you can make them feel special and a valued part of the day. Allowing some time to greet them when they arrive and offering them a glass of champagne or your specially selected cocktail will avoid any awkwardness for those who have only just joined the celebrations. Allowing this time in your schedule will also give you some breathing space between dinner and the evening party, as well as an opportunity to catch up on any lost time if the schedule of the day has overrun at all.
So, a little thought about how you would like your guests to feel and what you would like them to experience at each point in the day, will enable you to create a truly luxury wedding with a perfect timeline.
SAMPLE TIMINGS (based on separate venues for the Ceremony and Reception)
2.30pm Wedding Ceremony
3.15pm Ceremony to finish and confetti moment and/ or group photos
3.35pm Guests to leave for Reception venue
3.45pm Guests to arrive at Reception venue (subject to distance)
3.45 - 5.15pm Drinks Reception
5.15pm Guests called into dinner
5.30pm Guests seated, introduction of the Bride and Groom and welcome speech (subject to number of guests/ distance)
5.45pm Based on a 3 course dinner running straight through, allow 1.5-2hrs
8.00pm Break or time to catch up on lost time. Any evening guests to arrive
8.55pm First Dance
9.00pm First Band Set
10pm Band to break and DJ set or iPod from Band
11pm Band second set
Midnight - Carriages or additional set from DJ.