One of the more common predicaments that couples find themselves facing as the wedding day approaches is how to format the festivities on the day of the wedding. If you already have your wedding day booked in with us, then some of our packages have this included (Full Day of Coordination and above packages and above). But if you have decided to go it alone, then this is something that you’ll need to think about in more detail. We do offer hourly consultations which are perfect if you still feel like you need advice pulling this all together. Please drop us a line to say hi and we’ll be in touch to set up some time to meet.
So what do you need to do, and how should you pull it all together? The key is that one size doesn’t fit all, and the timeline of your day will vary depending on the style of the ceremony and reception.
Start with adding in the time to your ceremony, and advise your vendors to have their set up complete 30 minutes prior. (Your guests will generally arrive to your ceremony at least 30 minutes prior to the start time). The last thing you need is a trolley of chairs being wheeled through the middle of your guests on the day or your florist setting up pew ends as your guests take their seats. The code of practice for marriage celebrants states that your celebrant should be there at least 20 minutes prior. So don’t feel shy in being insistent on this.
Don’t Be Late!
Yes we know that some brides intend on being late on the day. But anything more than 15 minutes late may be perceived as just plain rude. You should have every intention on arriving to your ceremony right on time. Keep in mind that your photographer and videographer will still want some coverage of you with your bridal party and your parents as you get out of your car, and outside the church.
If you arrive to your ceremony on time, you will still have 10 minutes prior to you walking down the aisle for photo and video (and last minute touch ups), and it still be perfectly acceptable. The last thing you want to do is annoy your guests by making them wait, especially if it is an outdoor wedding with no shade! And if there is another booking for your church or outdoor space, you could risk a very rushed ceremony or you crossing paths with the bride for the next booking.
Most civil ceremonies will generally last 20 to 30 minutes, though you should be guided by your celebrant on this. Other religious ceremony may last upwards of 40 minutes. Whatever the length of your ceremony, after you’re married and you make your final recession you’ll be overwhelmed with congratulations from your guests.
Allow around 15 minutes to receive your warm wishes, and then around 20 minutes following this for your family photos and video. Some couples choose to entertain their guests during this time with a champagne service which generally lasts up to an hour (we can help you with just get in touch – even if you choose not to book an on the day event coordinator).
The Photography and Videography
Typically post ceremony, the new Mr and Mrs will venture out for photography and videography with their bridal party. If you are having your ceremony at the same site as your reception, this is generally the time when your canapé service and full beverage service will commence. If this isn’t the case, then you should allow travel time to each location. Be generous with this – if your wedding day is a Saturday, weekend traffic can be just as hectic as peak hour.
Once at your location, you should allow at least 45 minutes per location. Just remember, during this time, you will likely be sipping champagne as well as chatting with your bridal party about the day so far. 45 minutes flies by. Don’t forget to add in travel time back to your reception.
The Reception, Timing Considerations
Timings for the reception itself will vary according to the venue and the time of your function. Lunchtime receptions are generally in a shorter window than an evening reception. As a starting point speak to your venue manager at the reception to get their suggested timings. Here are some nuances about some of the more popular styles of reception:
- Lunch time receptions are usually in the proximity of four hours. You’ll need to compress more into a smaller time frame.
- Evening receptions are usually around five to six hours. You have the luxury of spreading your formalities out.
- Some restaurant receptions are À la carte, which means that orders will need to be taken as soon as your guests are seated, and then allow the kitchen more time to prepare individual orders. Your restaurant will usually suggest that this is the ideal time for speeches.
- The marquee or bespoke location. We always suggest being more generous with timing between each course because of the increased amount of variables: unfamiliar staff, outdoor kitchens, and the staff:guest ratio which is usually reflected in the dollar amount that you have committed to your caterer.
Whatever your timings are, make sure your venue knows about them in advance. The guests will thank you when their meals come out HOT. Nothing upsets a chef more than sending out cold food or not having food prepared on time because the run sheet has been changed at the very last minute.
The Formalities, Which Ones Will You Choose?
After reviewing your suggested timings from your reception venue, you then need to consider which formalities you want to keep, and which you’d rather do without. Here are some of the more popular formalities:
- The introduction of the bridal party by the MC, followed by the official welcome also by the MC and any housekeeping announcements.
- Speeches. Today there are no hard and fast rules about the order as we tend to do things more unconventionally than tradition would usually dictate. We usually suggest the Father of the Bride, Father of the Groom, The Bridal Party (Bridesmaids or Groomsmen), and Groom. If the Bride decides to make a speech, it’s always a nice touch to allow her to have the final say, and join her groom after his speech. Please remember less is more! Allow 5 minutes for each speaker and make them stick to it! Nothing kills a celebration more than having hours of speakers who send people to sleep.
- The kitchen at your venue will need to know who your speakers in advance, so they can watch as the concluding speakers wrap up. Your venue floor manager (or us!) will usually make a 10 minute call into the kitchen to make sure meals are promptly served once your speeches are over.
- Following your speeches, your MC can announce the cutting of the cake, followed by the first dance.
- Your farewell. If you are having a farewell circle, allow 30 minutes, otherwise a quick goodbye or a final dance with an upbeat number is a great way to finish the night.
For more resources on planning timings, check out our planning advice articles, or read through Sample Runsheets, The Rainy Day Back Up Plan. The devil is always in the detail. And rare it may be that the run sheet will hardly ever run according right down to the last minute, it’s still important to have a plan and endeavour to stick to it to ensure your evening is as seamless and as stress free as it possibly can be. And remember, if it becomes too difficult to contend with, you can always speak to Girl Friday Weddings for that extra helping hand.