Making sure your wedding day happens all in good time
I wrote this post on planning the schedule for your wedding day while penning the previous one on setting the date, so thought I would whip it out again now while you still have your calendars and diaries at the ready.
The most important rule for time on your special day is to give yourself plenty of it – a time squeeze on your wedding day will only lead to stress, and no one wants to be stressed out and crabby on the first day of the rest of their lives.
Ceremony and reception timing
The main thing here is count backwards. What time do you want the reception to end (or what time must it end, if your venue closes at a certain time) and for you lovebirds to make your grand exit? Start there. And then?
• How long do you want for pure partying before the reception ends? That is, after all the eating, speeches, cake cutting, first dance and any other “agenda” items? Don’t forget to factor in any party games you have up your sleeve.
• How long does your venue say it will take to serve the dinner you have in mind (whether that’s a cocktail-and-nibblies style gathering or a five-course sit-down dinner)?
• Do you want to hold a cocktail hour or other entertainment before the reception kicks off?
• How long do your guests need to get from the ceremony site to the cocktail hour / reception venue?
• How long do you want for photos between your ceremony and reception? How much of that time do you need all your guests for?
• How long will your ceremony take? Religious ceremonies seem to take an hour, while civil ones are closer to thirty minutes (or even less if you’re keeping things super casual).
• Ta-dah! If you’ve gone through all those steps you’ve now figured out the latest time your ceremony can start.
Note while considering the ceremony start time that there is a growing trend toward morning wedding brunches and afternoon lunches. And as people don’t expect a large meal so early in the day, those are certainly good options for saving money. (The reception will always take up the largest slice of your wedding budget pie.)
So what timing is the Reflective Couple using on their big day? We chose to start our ceremony at 3pm, finishing between 3:30 and 3:45pm, with photos with all guests until 4pm. It takes about 15 minutes to get from our ceremony site to the reception, where cocktail hour begins at 5pm. From 4pm to 5pm the family and wedding party has pictures, and then we arrive at the reception venue around 5:15pm. We then do photos of the reception room before the guests enter, and stage first dance and cake-cutting pictures. (Our photographer will stay only for the first hour of the reception.) So then the Reflective Groom and I will join the cocktail hour between 5:30 and 5:45pm. That gives us time to mingle with guests before we get relegated to the bridal table for dinner. The reception starts at 6pm, and dinner and speeches take us through to 8:30pm. Then we have 3.5 hours for dancing before the venue closes at midnight, and then the after-party launches off at quarter past midnight (and goes until who knows when!).
Once you know the start time for your ceremony, you can again track backwards to see what time you and your fiancé need to begin your preparations for the day.
• What time must the bride and her entourage leave for the ceremony? Don’t forget to add buffer time for traffic. (And if the same car is taking the groomsmen earlier, allow time for the return trip.)
• If doing preparation photos with your bridesmaids and family before the departure, how long do you need for that?
• How long will it take you and your bridesmaids to get dressed?
• Check with your hairdresser and make-up artist what amount of time they need to get through dolling everyone up.
• Now add time for showers, teethbrushing, and any other preening that needs to be done before the professional groomers arrive.
• Hoorah! You’ve now figured out the latest time you can start getting ready. Don’t forget to allow time to eat lunch and breakfast, and any time you might need for other errands, such as finishing touches to decorations for the ceremony or reception, picking up bouquets from the florist, and such.
For my groom and I (who are shirking the superstition of not seeing each other the morning of the wedding), we are planning to take a leisurely room service breakfast at our hotel around 9:30am. At 10:30am we will part ways, for the blushing bride to shower and preen before the bridesmaids and make-up artist arrive at 11am. The hairdresser will join at midday, and the photographer will first visit the groom at 1:30pm before coming to the bride at 1:45pm, in time for a 2pm finish on hair and make-up. The car carrying the groom will depart at 2:15pm, and then return for the bride. The girls will then get dressed and bejewelled until 2:30pm, ready to depart at 2:45pm for the 3pm ceremony.
Excel at your timing
My fiancé and I are consummate planners who love to map things out in spreadsheets, and a spreadsheet is a great way to keep track of where everyone has to be and when. In a spreadsheet file, add rows corresponding to 15 minute blocks of time, so that you can accurately record each person’s whereabouts. Then add a column for the bride, for the groom, for the bridesmaids, for the guests, for any friends or family members helping with pick-ups, and also for your suppliers (especially cakes and decorations to be delivered). This will give you an at-a-glance overview of everyone’s day, and is a handy resource to pass on to your wedding party and family, so that they are also in the know and can help your day run more smoothly.
Stay on time with your timing
Are you for some reason unable to run late on the wedding day? For example, are there back-to-back bookings on your ceremony site that leave you unable to go overtime? This is the case for our Reflective wedding day, and the key solution to keeping everything punctual is communicating that requirement to everyone. Make sure your stylists build in buffer time, that the transport leaves punctually, and that the mothers know this is not an opportunity for fashionably late entrances. We are letting our troops know that we will start late for no one, and that anyone running late will simply get left behind. (Harsh, but the threat of missing the ceremony is likely to keepany divas in line!)
Best of luck with setting the timing for your wedding day, and best wishes that you’re able to stick to it!