Timelines can be confusing. You should see some of the faces that couples make when they are mentioned during planning meetings. Even if you have attended a wedding, you more than likely haven’t paid much attention to how long each individual aspect lasted. One of the biggest concerns couples have is that they want to keep their wedding moving, without feeling rushed or with weird chunks of time where nobody knows what to do. Keeping the pace of the party is important, and don’t worry… We don’t expect you to know how to do it! That’s what our event specialists are for! Regardless, we need your help and input in planning one because it’s not our wedding. It’s yours!
First, it’s worth noting that timelines are a guideline. They are not the end all, be all of your event. We understand that things don’t always go according to plan, pictures might take longer than you anticipated, or that your best man’s speech got a little out of hand when he went through discussing your entire history. Starting and ending the wedding on time are key- hitting everything in the middle in the approximate right order is important, but you usually have to adjust a little.
One of the best features of all of our venues is that you can get married right on site, and it happens far more often than you think. And become the ceremony right before the reception at the same venue with wedding party photos being taken before the ceremony is one of the more common formats we work with, I am going to start with that as my example. Don’t worry, if you are opting for religious or otherwise longer ceremonies, daytime weddings, later evening weddings, separate ceremony and reception sites, or gaps between your ceremony and reception…. I will cover all of that in the next part of this blog series.
For now, let’s review the format I mentioned above. Many weddings will fit into some version of this mold.
11:00am- Prewedding Prep: Hair and makeup, getting ready.
2:30pm- Bridal party arrives at venue
2:45pm – Wedding couple’s first look
3:00pm – Wedding party and family portraits
4:15pm- DJ arrives to setup ceremony and reception music
5:30pm- Guests begin to arrive for ceremony and pre-ceremony music starts
5:45pm – Invitation start time
6:00pm- Ceremony starts
6:30pm- Ceremony ends
6:35pm- Cocktail hour starts
7:30pm- Call to dinner
7:45pm – Introduction of wedded couple and bridal party
7:50pm- Cake cutting and photo opportunity
7:55pm – Welcome by parents
8:00pm- Dinner service begins
9:15pm- Toasts and cake
9:30pm- First dance and parent dances
9:40pm- General dancing music starts
11:00- Late night snacks served and last call
11:30pm- Guests depart
A few tips on making this all go smoothly:
Invite Time vs. Start Time
The ‘invite’ time is the time on your invitation. The earliest guests will shop up about half an hour before this, so expect it. Just like you should expect late guests. No matter the size of your guest lists, it can nearly be guaranteed that a few people will show up late. Planning your ceremony to start 10-15 minutes after your invite time will ensure that nearly every guest is seated before your walk down the aisle. There is nothing more awkward than a late arrival standing at the back of the aisle because the bridesmaids have already started taking a stroll.
Timing for dinner depends largely on 1) what type of food service you are having (plated or buffet) and 2) how large your guest list is and 3) how long it takes your guests to eat. It takes our team about 5 minutes to serve a salad course to a party of 150 guests and 7 minutes to serve entrees. Plated courses are spaced out based on how long it takes guests to eat. We will not rush them through their meal and we will not begin our next serve until the clear is completed. Having a clean slate to serve upon helps us keep our serving times low and prevents guests from feeling rushed if half a table is cleared and served while they are still eating the first part. A typical dinner service for 150 individuals will be around an hour and a half. Keep in mind that service for a buffet meal will vary from a plated meal, but trust us. We are able to give you the best idea for your particular event based on your selection.
Who wants to listen to toasts when they are hungry and want to start dancing? No one! The best time of your wedding to have a captive audience is following dinner. People are in a headspace to be attentive. Following dinner, once entrees have been cleared and champagne has been poured, it’s time for your most nearest and dearest to pour their heart out for you. Be sure to tell your toasters to take about 2-3 minutes each. Make sure the first person to give a toast tells all of the guests to please enjoy their wedding cake while people are speaking! Many times people will feel that because they have to be attentive to a speaker they need to stop everything that they are doing. Also, don’t forget to talk to your photographer! Usually vendors eat while you and your guests eat because no one wants unattractive photos of themselves munching a filet. So, provide them with a timeline prior to your event so they can be available and ready for toasts when they happen.
It may surprise you, but leaving your gorgeous wedding cake out during the dinner service for people to admire, might leave you with a few finger swishes in the buttercream. Little kids can’t keep their hands off sweets! Can you blame them? To keep your food service running smoothly and your guests happy, we encourage our couples to cut their cake following introductions so that guests can admire it during the beginning of the evening. During the entrée your cake will be taken to be cut so that following the entrée clear, champagne and cake can be served right before toasts.
You don’t have to make it official, but if you do it can be helpful to sign to people they should start preparing to (mentally) leave. Last call is the universal signal that things are about to wrap up or wind down.
Always remember that your timeline is not set in stone. There are a few factors that pace your evening, part of which is your guests. As long as you start and end at your contracted times, the events in the middle will unfold naturally and in the order that you’ve determined. Our event specialists have a great understanding of what works well and what doesn’t. If you’re worried about the pros and cons of any option, talk with them. They are there to help you, and are happy to do so.