Wedding Day Timeline
You’ve decided on a wedding day. You’ve picked out the church. You’ve got your photographer. What time should the ceremony be? When should the reception start? How much time do you need for photos? Planning your wedding day time-line can be difficult. Let’s break it down and see how much time you should plan for each section of your wedding day.
Your Ceremony – typically you can expect a Justice of the Peace civil ceremony to last 30 minutes maximum. If you are planning a full mass service – you should plan a full hour to the ceremony. If you are doing a receiving line after the ceremony – plan on about 20 minutes for every 100 guests. (If you have 200 guests, your receiving line will take 40 minutes!). If it’s hot out, you do not want to keep your guests in the heat – let them get to the air conditioned reception site. Exposing your guests to extreme heat for prolonged periods of time drains their energy – and they will not be as responsive later on for dancing.
The photographs – if you are not doing photographs prior to the ceremony, you need to dedicate time to get a good formal photograph session. Typically you should plan 30 – 45 minutes for formal photos. (this does not include travel time to and from photo session location) The more family and bridal party, the longer photos will take.
Travel – obviously it takes time for your guests and the bridal party to get from point A to point B. Take into consideration any special traffic situations on your wedding day (is it near a major concert, sporting event, etc? If so, traffic may be an issue and you should either plan on circumventing this area in your travels or plan on travel taking longer than normal)
The Reception – most people start their reception with an hour social hour. If you expect to be long taking photos, you might want to extend the cocktail time to an hour and a half. Typically, at the end of cocktail hour, we do formal introductions and first dance, blessing and toast. If you are having social hour in a separate room, plan on 10 minutes to 15 minutes transition time for your guests. It will take about 30 minutes to organize introductions, introduce everyone, first dance and blessing/toast. If you are having more than 1 toast, ensure that each person knows that their toast should be brief (2-5 minutes). If someone gets up and does a 20 minute toast – that is 20 minutes that you will not have later on in your reception for dancing. Time is of utmost concern at a wedding – make sure you curtail both blessing and toast to an appropriate timeframe. We’ve seen clergy give 20 minute blessings and best men eat up 30-40 minutes for their toast.
Dinner – from start to finish, your meal service should be between 45 minutes and 75 minutes maximum. There are many facilities that drag out or are slow on meal service. If so, you should consider dancing between courses to allow for maximum dancing time and to mask the slow meal service from your guests.
Dancing – at a typical 5 hour reception – you should expect 2 – 2 1/2 hours of dancing. Everything that takes longer above, eats into this dancing time. If your concern is to have all your guests up and dancing, then you need to keep everything else in check to allow for this.