The Ultimate Wedding Day Timeline
Weddings which involve any sense of waiting around are THE WORST. You want your guests to be pleasantly surprised at being ushered onto the next stage of the day, rather than utterly desperate to move on from their current situation. So, with this is mind, we have racked our teeny brains to review the gazillion weddings we have attended over the years and come up with this (self-proclaimed) magic formula. It can of course be altered to reflect your own start time, and fiddled with to incorporate any travel time (if you insist on inflicting this on your guests).
We of course realise that nearly all weddings have slightly different set-ups and structures from each other, and whilst this is our fave timeline, we do accept that there are alternatives! Would you like us to send you some different scenarios to help with your planning, for free, no strings?? Of course you would, just click here.
For the record, the below is not my own wedding day schedule. I admit we got this a bit wrong after spending so much time on the lawn quaffing bubbles and nibbling miniature food, by the time the guests got to the (unplanned) line-up, every single one of them was three sheets to the wind. Literally everyone (made for a cracking party though).
1 PM Ceremony
If you can pick your time, then we believe this is the winner. Some like to start earlier to make the day last as long as possible, understandably, however, doing so can make the morning very short and therefore stressful for the bridal party (of which you are queen). Such a short morning can also make things logistically tricky for your guests. On the flip side, a later start may lead to both you and your guests feeling confused all day and continually expressing your shock at the time, muttering conversational gems such as 'I can't believe it's 5pm (6pm, 7pm etc. etc.) already...'. Zzzzzz.
2 PM Drinks and Canapés
Drinks need to be cold and immediate, preferably handed to you the minute you set foot into the mingling space. Guests may have been sat in uncomfortable clothes, sober, for up to an hour, not to mention the trauma of getting ready and a potentially perilous journey. Yes, yes as the happy couple you will also be in need of a celebratory tipple, but believe me, the guests need it more. An instant drink in-hand, swiftly followed by the sight of circulating canapés washes away any negativity and gets that party started. Then there's the duration of this part of the day: we think it should be a good hour plus, so by allowing an hour and a half you are prepared for delays and unexpected hiccups. Once you get into two hours of free-flowing booze the wheels start to fall off and you have twitchy and drunk guests wondering when the heck they are going to be fed.
3.30 PM Let the Ushering Begin.
If you want people eating at 4pm then you need at least half an hour to get everyone to their seats, and that’s without a line-up. People faff, chat, go for a wee or simply can’t understand the Pinterest-inspired table plan that is hanging from a nearby tree. This is where your ushers will earn their thank you gift.
4.00 PM Grubs Up
This always takes longer than you think, whether you’re serving three courses, having a buffet or carving up a whole pig. Allowing two hours from start to finish is usually a safe bet.
5.00 PM (ISH) Speeches and Pud
You probably want to consult with the actual speech-givers here as they might want to get them done before eating. We are a bit of a fan of that glass being tapped as we are noshing on a delicious pud. Most weddings have three speeches and with your knowledge of the people giving them you can probably predict how long they’ll talk for. (Or not. I failed to predict that my dad, husband and the best man would talk for 30 minutes EACH. The already pissed guests were by the end completely slaughtered and trampling over each other to get to the handful of posh port-a-loo’s. Thank gawd for...
6.00 PM Coffee (and Leg Stretch)
We think it’s great to make people get up for coffee, the table plan is shot-to-shit by this point anyway with guests table-hopping and mingling like Paris Hilton. Everyone needs a breather, to wee, smoke or take a break from a dull table companion. Plus, this is a prime opportunity for the non-coffee drinkers to find the bar and consume something other than wine (make sure bar is open by now!)
7.00 PM (ISH) Cake Cutting
Even if you are not arsed about cake, or cutting it, doing so is a good way of bringing everyone back together and ensuring that they are all in roughly the same area when you kick off the music.
7.30 PM First Dance and Kick-Ass Band
And we’re off. Everything is probably running a bit behind by now so it's probably nearer to 8pm. You’ll have hopefully discussed set-timings with your band (or DJ) and have playlists for the inbetween parts, but really after this the time will mean nothing to you, except when the drunk munchies kick in and you start looking hopefully around for some…
9.00 PM Drunk Food
Timing is a tricky one here, you might want it earlier if you are having evening guests, but this works well if you aren’t. If people only finished eating dinner at around 5.30/6 an evening buffet at 7.30/8 might be somewhat overlooked. We like to cater to the slightly tiddled all-day guest! If you're unsure if you will have evening guests, why not read our post on the Evening Guest Debate.
11.30 PM Onwards...Refusal to Leave Dancefloor
Your end time will obviously depend on your venue, and your band. Midnight is probably the most common, and fine with us (as long as we know there is an after-party going on somewhere). People always want more, give the people what they want :)
As stated, if you would like to see some different scenarios then click here and we’ll send you some, totally free! I know, I know, we are too nice.