Timings – when to get married?

Contrary to what most people think, you have little control over the timings of the various bits of your wedding. The main thing you have control over is the time […]

Contrary to what most people think, you have little control over the timings of the various bits of your wedding. The main thing you have control over is the time you get married. After that, everything just follows along a bit like this…

  • Guests arriving – from 45 mins before the civil ceremony or church service.
  • Getting married – 30 mins for a civil ceremony, 60 for a church service + 15 mins outside the church (weather permitting)
  • Travel time between ceremony/service to reception. Try to keep this less that 20 mins.
  • Drinks reception – pretty much always 90 mins.
  • Wedding Breakfast – 90-120 mins
  • Speeches – 30 mins
  • Dancing – whatever is left over!

One of the biggest mistakes some couples make is getting married too early in the day. Your day wont last forever so dont try to make it. Of course, there may be unavoidable reasons why you need to get married relatively early – fair enough.

Timings-wise, the only difference between getting married at 12pm and getting married at 4pm is the length of everything after the speeches/wedding breakfast. The best way to work out what time to get married is to start at the end and work backwards. What time do you have to leave the venue or turn the music off in the marquee etc? Let’s say midnight. So, working backwards from midnight…

  • 24.00 finish
  • 21.00 first dance (3 hours dancing should be enough for most people)
  • 20.45 – 21.00 ‘comfort break’ after speeches. We’ve all been there!
  • 20.15 – 20.45 Speeches
  • 18.15 – 20.15 wedding breakfast + cake cutting
  • 18.00 – 18.15 get everyone into the wedding breakfast
  • 16.30 – 18.00 drinks reception (including ‘photos’)
  • 16.15 – 16.30 guests travel from ceremony/service to reception. Can be used as a cushion if no travel is required.
  • 16.00 – 16.15 guests leave church and mill about outside. This is not an issue where the civil ceremony is in the same location as the reception
  • 15.00 – 16.00 Church service or 15.30 – 16.00 for a civil ceremony.

Hands up if you were planning on getting married within an hour of 3pm? It’s just the time you get married, right? Exactly. Get married at 1pm and what happens? The dancing starts at 7ish and you have a 5 hour party. Depending on who you are and what you are doing this is a long day. Too long for most people in my experience.

I appreciate that there are other factors that will help determine what time you get married like church availability etc but in my opinion you should aim for about 3pm. It just works.

Having said all that, if you are getting married after the clocks go back (end of October) and before the clocks go forwards (april) and natural light photography is important to you then bear in mind that is pretty much dark (from a photography point of view) by 4. So, getting married at 3 means it will be photographically dark when you leave the church at 4. Get married earlier in the winter and you can really benefit from some amazing autumnal colours and low sunlight.