Advice on how to keep your wedding day timetable in check; from the start of your ceremony to the very last dance.

One of the challenges that is often underestimated when planning a wedding, is the timing on the big day. With so many exciting elements to a wedding celebration, it is key to keep them timed well and on track.

We’ve all heard wedding stories in the past of when the drinks reception went on for too many hours, the meal was rushed, the speeches went on longer than expected and the first dance started too late. Planning the timings for your day can seem like a big task, but with help from your wedding planners, it’ll be an easy thing to tick off your checklist. The staff at your wedding venue should be fully clued up on what is going to happen – and when. The timetable of a wedding day doesn’t always go precisely to plan, but in our experience, the more detailed you make your timetable the more likely it is that your day will run seamlessly.

Planning a wedding timetable

Your wedding day typically revolves around the time of your ceremony. However, where you are getting married and where you are holding your wedding reception could have an impact on throwing the timings of your day off. If you plan to get married at the the same venue you are hosting your reception, then a toastmaster who is familiar with all of your timings, or the staff at the venue should be able to keep the day running smoothly.

If you’re getting married in a church and then need to travel to your wedding venue, then your timings may vary a little. However, if you leave enough time for all of your guests to leave the church and find your wedding venue, the timings of your day shouldn’t be affected too much. Keep in mind that weather and the traffic on the day may cause slight disruption depending on how far your guests have to travel from A to B.

Essential elements to include on your wedding timetable

Pre-ceremony preparations, including hair, beauty and getting dressed for the whole bridal party
Travel time to the wedding ceremony venue
The wedding ceremony
Photos at the ceremony venue (if not the reception venue)
Travel time from the ceremony to the reception venue
Drinks reception
Full group photo
Receiving Line (if you’re having one)
The wedding banquet
Wedding speeches
The arrival of evening guests (if you’re planning a separate evening guest list)
Cutting the wedding cake
The first dance
Introduction of the evening buffet
The last dance/end of evening

Potential time delays on the day

More often than not there is always something that happens on the day that causes a time delay. The following events could potentially throw your wedding timetable out of sync. The more familiar your wedding venue and suppliers are with your overall wedding timetable, the easier your day should flow.

Wedding décor

The set-up of any decorations that your florist or wedding venue are not doing for you may take longer than originally planned. This job should be delegated to a member of your wedding party, but it would be good to make them aware of timings. For example, when they are allowed in to the venue on the day of your wedding and what time the ceremony is etc.

Wedding photography

It’s natural to have lots of photographs taken before, during and after your wedding ceremony, but if you’re thinking of having lots of couple shots away from your group, then be sure to add this to your list as it may take longer than you think.

The receiving line

Traditionally happens either on arrival at the reception venue or prior to the meal and should only last between 20 and 30 seconds per guest. However, depending on the size of your guest list, this could take much longer. This could then potentially delay the wedding breakfast where the chef has timed your food according to the timetable. Allocate extra time to this portion of the day so that if it does run over, it won’t push the rest of your wedding plans back.

The wedding speeches

It is not uncommon for wedding speeches to run way over their allotted time at a wedding reception. Father’s of the bride might get carried away, and when it comes to the best man, there’s no telling how long his speech might be. It would be advisable to give everyone speaking at your wedding a rough guide of how long they should allow for their wedding speech in order to keep the rest of the day on track.

Planning your timetable with your wedding venue

Your wedding venue should be asking you for a detailed timetable of your day, well in advance of your actual wedding celebration. This will enable them to have welcome drinks, canapés and food prepared, not forgetting having the venue clean, decorated and organised in terms of staffing numbers for your day.

A well timed wedding reception will make a huge difference to your overall experience, and that of your guests too. Ask your wedding venue how much control/influence will they exert to keep things on schedule? Also, be sure to keep them up to date with the different elements of your day as your wedding planning journey progresses.

In the unfortunate occurrence that your wedding timetable does happen to steer in the wrong direction on your wedding day, well prepared staff should step in to speed things up and get things back on track where possible. Reading testimonials of recent married couples should give you a good idea on how their experience was with the particular venue on their special day.