Time After Time

Every now and again between sharing all of my clients' gorgeous weddings with you, I like to provide a little wisdom to help with the planning process. This post is all about choosing a starting time for your ceremony!

All couples have to ask themselves at some point, usually when signing contracts or designing their wedding invitations: 'What time should we start our ceremony?'  Determining your ceremony start time is the key decision that will affect the rest of your timing for your wedding. You want to make sure you select the correct start time so you utilize your hours wisely! 

There are several factors to think about when determining what time of day you should begin your wedding. Here are a few things to consider:

● How much time do you have at the venue? Is it a block of set hours that you can move the start and stop time or is it a set time frame?  Are there any restrictions at the venue to be aware of? A few examples being; Are there other events on property that day to know about? Do they have a noise ordinance to adhere to? Do late night hours come with an additional charge?

● Is set up and tear down included in your time block? A planner, catering team & other vendors typically need two hours to set up and one hour to break down. Make sure that time is accounted for in your contract.

● If you are getting married at a church and having the reception at a separate location it is important to know the timing guidelines for both venues and to make sure they match up correctly.  Make sure to consider transportation time from the church to the reception venue when calculating the start of your reception. 

● How long do you expect your ceremony to last? I’ve been to ceremonies that have lasted only five minutes and others that are over an hour. Knowing how long your ceremony will be can affect more than just the timing of your reception. If you are going directly into the cocktail hour, the catering team and bartenders use your estimated ceremony time to properly plan when to pre pour beer and wine and when to begin heating food.

● What time is sunset? If you are getting married in July and the sun doesn’t set until 10PM, perhaps you want to start a bit later. If you are getting married in December and the sun will be down by 5PM, perhaps you should begin earlier.  Plan your daylight hours carefully! 

● How do you wish to spend your reception time? Couples who are foodies may want a five course dinner and so the majority of the time is spend on food service. Others may want the majority of the night spent boogying down on the dance floor. Once you know where you want to spend your time make sure your vendors are contracted properly! For example, if you want a three hour dance party, make sure your band is contracted for that minimum amount of time!  

I get the question ‘how long should our wedding be?' a lot. A standard wedding from start to finish is roughly six hours. How you break up that amount of time is up to you! Below is a general timeline that I see quite a bit:

5:00 – 5:30: Ceremony
5:30 – 6:30: Cocktail Hour
6:30 – 8:00: Dinner
8:00 – 8:30: Traditions (Speeches, cutting the cake, first dances, etc.)
8:30 – 11:00: Dancing

Once you have your timing set, make sure to communicate this to your vendors! Caterers base their staffing hours and bar service on your timeline. Depending on when you end your night, there may be a ‘late night pick up fee’ from rental companies. And make sure to plan your photographer’s arrival and departure so they can capture the moments you consider most important! 

I hope you have found these tips helpful in setting the ceremony start time for your wedding! Mark your invitations accordingly and happy planning!! 

Special thanks to photographers Barbie Hull, Melissa Kilner, Katie Parra, and Shane Macomber for these amazing photos!