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How To Plan Your Wedding Day Timeline

No couple wants their guests to feel like they are just hanging around on your wedding day, but you also don’t want to rush through events either. This post is to help you work out your perfect wedding day timings based on a typical UK wedding. Of course this will depend on your venue, but it’ll give you a starting point.

Your Wedding Timeline Breakdown

In terms of start times, usually a UK wedding begins anytime between 1 – 3pm. Another way to decide your ceremony time is to look at when your venue closes and work backwards from there. If you are outside of the UK and getting married here, then don’t be surprised if many venues close at about 11 pm – midnight, it’s kind of the norm. But, there are a few hidden gems who allow you to carry on partying! Okay, let’s get started:

Pre-ceremony – Always allow 30 minutes for your guests to arrive and get settled. If you have notoriously late friends or family then do tell them to arrive earlier. Ideally, you want suppliers to be all set up and away an hour before the ceremony starts. I know this can’t always be the case because of access times for some venues, but it’s a guide.

The Ceremony – A religious ceremony lasts between 45 minutes to an hour. Whereas a celebrant-led or civil ceremony usually lasts around 30 minutes. This is also dependent on the extra details you choose to include with hymns, readings, poems and personalised elements; the more you add in, the longer your ceremony will be.

Your Drinks Reception – I’d advise about 1 and a half, maybe 2 hours if you have a lot of guests. An hour goes by so fast, and you won’t have time to say hello to all your guests as your family and couples’ photos will take a chunk of that time. Though the caveat here is that it will also depend on the number of guests. If you have an intimate wedding of 30 guests, with no games or reception entertainment, then 2 hours will feel too long. But for 100 – 200 guests, a longer period of time is definitely needed.

Moving from Drinks to Dinner – This is key when calculating timings and many couples forget to think about it. Moving from drinks to dinner can take anything from 15 to 30 minutes. This includes gathering guests, checking your wedding seating plan and then finding their seat. Again, this will depend on the size of your venue and guest numbers, and obviously if you are changing venues then you need to factor in actual travel time too.

The Speeches – As a general rule, I’d allow 10 minutes per person. There’s usually 3 speeches, so that’s half an hour already. Some might need a little less time and some a little more, but this is a good starting allowance. Do talk to whoever is doing your speeches and let them know their allocated time. Many couples like to do the speeches at the beginning so they no longer feel nervous and can relax and enjoy the meal. Traditionally, speeches come at the end but this is down to personal preference.

Your Wedding Breakfast – For a typical 3 course seated meal it is best to allow 2 hours. Some caterers might say an hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes, but it’s always best to overestimate here. You can also have speeches in between courses, but do talk with your caterer so they can advise when it’s most suitable. If you are doing food stations, carving at tables or perhaps a 2-course meal, then chat with your caterer on how this will affect timings.

The Wedding Party – This begins when your meal and speeches finish until your venue closes. It is worth checking what time your bar closes vs guest departure time too, as some venues will say they need to close the bar 30 minutes before guests depart. Also advise your guests the latest time they should book their taxis home.

I hope you found this post useful, and you can start planning your wedding day. If you are in need of any wedding planning services, check out my Full Service Wedding Planning or Partial Planning services.

Photo credit: Ferri Photography


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