A well-organised event can only happen when someone controls the timing. Even a simple wedding needs things to happen at certain times to avoid ruining dinner, having a band set-up on time, or for the carriages to be arriving at the end of the party, not as it begins!
With that in mind, here are some key areas to put into your wedding planner or spreadsheet, with some thoughts first.
What’s the best time for a wedding to start?
The wedding starts before the wedding breakfast, so it all hangs of this time. A 3pm wedding makes for a very different meal than a 12 noon one. Planning this is key to the success of your event, but it’s down to you and your ideal success.
- Getting married at 12pm is seen as the best time as it gives you an aim for a 2-3pm wedding breakfast.
- A 1pm wedding is close to lunch but pushes the meal back to 4/5pm in some cases.
- A 2pm wedding means that your guests can probably eat before they get to you – if they’re warned and advised to do so.
- A 3pm wedding means you’ll likely have to go for a later meal and potentially not have evening guests unless you invite them for 8pm.
All of this entirely depends on how you’re running the event, but the difference of a few hours here makes a big difference later - especially if you have to have carriages at 12 midnight due to venue restrictions.
12 noon is a popular time for the wedding as it gives you and the guests plenty of time to eat a hearty breakfast, experience the wedding ceremony, nibble on some canapes, and then eat at around 3pm.
Once you’ve set the timing (and booked the ceremony with your choice of church or civil ceremony) you’ll be ready to plan the timing for the rest of the day.
Clearly, the distance between the wedding ceremony location and the venue are key to all this. Getting married in the same place (a real benefit of a hotel) means zero travel time and an extra hour in most cases. This can be used for photos or entertainment or mingling.
FREE: Wedding planning schedule download - Customisable excel sheet to plan your wedding.
How long is your reception going to be?
The length of reception (for drinks and canapes) will drive decisions on how much food and drink you need and of course the need for bigger nibbles, over a taste of something to keep the guests amused and not hungry.
Plying your guests with booze for two hours without feeding them is best avoided. There’s always an Aunty or Uncle who needs to be kept just the right side of tipsy.
The reception duration time will depend on:
- The wedding breakfast venue distance (further away will need more time for all guests to arrive)
- Where are people staying? On-site will mean you’ll need less time, but further away will affect it more.
- When are you providing meals? Aiming for this as an end point will help your reception planning which can be a good buffer and flexible time you can play with.
- Are there other things to get done during this time like photos, videos, check-ins, parking, guest book signings, family traditions, and anything else you want to throw in.
If you’re going over an hour though, please do consider the food you’re going to serve as many guests will be hungry by now.
How long is your wedding breakfast?
Fun fact: Why is it called a wedding breakfast?
The wedding breakfast gets its name thanks to the meal being the first meal that a married couple have together after they are wed. The new day together begins from the moment of their marriage. To add to the tradition, some couples used to fast from the night before and this was then their ‘breakfast’ meal.
The length of the wedding breakfast will depend on some key elements of your wedding day plans. You’ll need to know whether you’re having:
- Two or three courses
- Wedding speeches
- Coffee and cake
The main two things to plan are the meal courses and speeches and these will have a strong impact on the time it takes to serve, clear, and eat with the added unknown of the wedding speeches and toasts at the end or beginning. Although you can advise the speech givers of your timetable and expected duration.
A three-course meal will take around three hours, but this will not factor in the speeches or any entertainment you have planned. Hosting more people will probably affect the service time, too.
When should you do the speeches at a wedding?
The kitchen would probably prefer that you do the speeches at the end of the meal. The guests would, too. Having 20-30 minutes of speeches when the food is ready and the guests are hungry isn’t always a good idea, especially for a 12pm wedding as this can really push back that first meal since breakfast for many of your guests.
If you do have the speeches beforehand, consider having them after the starter has been eaten at least.
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We’ve seen our fair share of weddings and this gives us the insight and expertise to ask the right questions to give you exactly what you need for your big day.
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