(Almost) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Wedding Timelines, Part III

Even more timeline examples!

wedding reception at night | APW

Morning Weddings

Morning weddings are lovely, and until recently were actually pretty much the norm (my parents, and both set of my grandparents had morning weddings). Meg had a morning wedding and has written about the pros and cons of it before. I will tell you this about morning weddings—your vendors will love you, because it is so rare for us to be able to work and have a weekend evening off. Also—who doesn’t love brunch food? Or an excuse to drink champagne. Here’s a sample morning wedding timeline:

  • 7:00am—Hair and makeup starts
  • 8:30am—Vendors arrive/Setup starts
  • 9:00am—First look and couple’s portraits
  • 9:30am—Family pictures
  • 9:30am—Guests begin to arrive
  • 10:00am—Invite time
  • 10:15 am—Ceremony starts
  • 10:45am—Ceremony concludes
  • 10:45am—Cocktail “hour” starts/Additional family photos
  • 11:30am—Brunch starts
  • 12:15pm—Toasts
  • 1:00pm—First dance
  • 1:30pm—Cake cutting/Dessert
  • 2:45pm—Couple departs
  • 3:00pm—Guests depart
  • 3:00pm—Breakdown commences
  • 4:00pm—All vendors out

Early Afternoon Weddings

Afternoon weddings are a happy medium, and they can work especially well for all-outdoor events. Not only do you not have to get up super early, but afternoon weddings still leave enough time for just the two of you to go out for dinner. (Seriously, if your reception is a meal other than dinner, and you’re not planning on hanging out with your guests later, please build room in your budget to take yourselves out to a lovely meal somewhere.) This is also a very kid-friendly timeline, which may be important to you if there are lots of small people in your life:

  • 9:00am—Hair and makeup starts
  • 9:30am—Vendors arrive/Setup starts
  • 9:30am—Getting ready photos start
  • 10:00am—First look and couple’s portraits
  • 10:45am—Family pictures
  • 11:00am—Guests begin to arrive
  • 1:00pm—Invite time
  • 1:15pm—Ceremony starts
  • 1:35pm—Ceremony concludes
  • 1:40pm—Cocktail “hour” starts/Additional family photos
  • 2:30pm—Lunch starts
  • 3:00pm—Toasts
  • 3:30pm—First dance
  • 5:00pm—Cake cutting/Dessert
  • 6:15pm—Couple departs
  • 6:30pm—Guests depart
  • 6:30pm—Breakdown commences
  • 7:30pm—All vendors out

Later Evening Weddings

I love a good evening party myself, so if you want people to party until midnight, then a later-in-the-evening wedding is a good bet. It should be noted that the evening wedding tends not to be particularly kid friendly, so if you have a large number of little ones you’d like to include in your festivities, then an evening wedding may not be the best option for you (few kids are going to make it to a dinner that’s past their bedtime without a meltdown…). Of course the biggest win from an evening wedding, as far as I’m concerned, is that you can start your wedding day off by sleeping in! Here’s how that would look:

  • 1:00pm—Hair and makeup start
  • 4:30pm—Vendors arrive for setup
  • 4:30pm—Pre-ceremony photos
  • 5:30pm—Guests begin to arrive/Couple arrives
  • 6:30pm—Invite time
  • 6:45pm—Ceremony starts
  • 7:00pm—Ceremony ends/Guests move to cocktail hour
  • 8:00pm—Guests move to dinner
  • 9:30pm—Cake cutting/Dessert served/Toasts
  • 9:45pm—Dancing
  • 11:45pm—End time/Guests out
  • 12:45am—Breakdown done/Vendors depart

Open House Receptions

Maybe you’re having a small wedding, or a private religious ceremony, but still want to celebrate with your broader community. Or your wedding is far away from where you grew up, so you want to do a second reception for your childhood and family friends. Enter the open house reception. The beautiful thing about an open house reception is that it can kind of be anything you want. Some examples of what it can look like:

  • 2:00pm–5:00pm—Cake, champagne, and punch. People will drop by, say hi, have some cake—done!
  • 4:00pm–9:00pm—Hors d’oeuvres, wine and beer, cheese and fruit platters. People will come for a little longer, linger a little longer, but still not expect a full party or wedding.

The key is to call it an open house and put the end time (along with the start time) on the invitation. That way people know exactly what to expect, and they know that they should just plan on dropping by for an hour or so. “Please join us in celebrating the recent marriage of Maude and Pat at an open house reception. 4:00–9:00pm on Saturday, March 30, 2013, at the home of The Smiths, 123 Main Street, Oakland, California.”

Cocktail Party Style Reception

I will admit that this is actually my favorite type of wedding reception, probably because cocktail parties are my favorite types of parties. For a cocktail style reception you don’t need tables or seating for everyone, although you should have some scattered throughout, particularly if you’re going to have older guests. The key is continuous rounds of food, with some heavier things around “dinner” time, and a menu that consists of food that can be eaten standing up (so, no knives, but forks are fine!) and served on smaller plates (because, big plates are awkward when you have to hold them standing up). A cocktail reception might look something like the following:

  • 3:00pm—Vendors arrive for setup
  • 4:30pm—Guests begin to arrive
  • 5:00pm—Invite time
  • 5:15pm—Ceremony starts
  • 5:30pm—Ceremony ends
  • 5:30pm—First round of food comes out/Bar opens
  • 5:30pm—Music starts inside
  • 6:30pm—Pre-sunset portraits
  • 6:45pm—“Dinner” rounds of food come out
  • 7:07pm—Sunset
  • 7:15pm—Toasts
  • 7:30pm—First dance
  • 8:00pm—Couple’s “Thank You” toast followed by cake cutting
  • 9:00pm—Couple and guests depart
  • 10:00pm—Breakdown done/Vendors out

We know that even with three long posts on the subject, this still doesn’t entirely cover the multitude of logistical question you guys have about weddings, timelines, and making sure nobody gets hungry or cranky during your wedding. So this isn’t the last you’ll see of Elizabeth. Which means you’re still welcome to leave your timeline questions in the comments, and we’ll do our best to address them in a future post. 

Elizabeth Clayton

Elizabeth has been planning weddings since 2006, and has done so full time under the Lowe House Events banner since 2011. She considers herself incredibly lucky to get to work on events full time—it just doesn’t get much better than going to a party most weekends because it’s your job.

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  • Mary Jo S.

    These are all great, but they were all pretty much the same length from invite time to guests out. Is there any chance we could see a shorter timeline, say 3 hours for ceremony and reception together?

    • Amy Hawkins

      Not to say that you “can’t” have a three hour wedding, but I would strongly suggest doing the math before you make this decision. How many guests will you have? How long would you like to spend speaking to each guest, at minimum? (e.g. if Granny flew in all the way from Kalamazoo to be there, and you talked to her for less than X minutes, would you feel bad? How long would you *like* to be able to spend with each guest, ideally?)

      For instance, for an average US wedding with 120 guests, if you wanted to talk to every guest for 5 minutes…. it would take you TEN HOURS to accomplish that task. If you wanted to just talk to each guest for just one single minute, it would still take you two hours to do it! Yeesh!

      Now, this might not be a big deal for you if you are having a much smaller wedding. And clearly it’s dependent on your own definition of how long you’d like to spend with your guests. But it’s definitely something to consider when deciding how long your reception should last.

      • Mary Jo S.

        We are having other events over the weekend, so talking to everyone isn’t my real concern. Really, I just want to know how much time to allot for each activity on a shortened timeline. I have no idea how things will take. We are limited to 3 hours by the venue, and we really can’t change that now.

      • I’m guessing there are many reasons that couples may be considering a shorter wedding/reception besides not wanting to spend a lot of time with the loved ones they invited to be part of their celebration! Anecdata: our venue offers a very strict window for weddings: 6pm-8pm setup, 8pm-12am ceremony & reception, 12am-1am breakdown. Period. It’s a working bookstore, and moving the timeline earlier means they lose out on business hours, so if we want to start at, say, 7pm in order to stretch to a more standard evening wedding length of 5 hours (and have dinner before 9:30pm, which is pretty normal in NYC but not super kid-friendly) we’d be paying a premium that’s more than we can afford. It’s not that we don’t want to spend time with our guests, but having our wedding at this place was important to us and so we’re respecting the site rules. Given those rules, it would be great to see an example of a slightly compressed timeline that would still leave everyone feeling taken care of.

        • Amy

          Ack, I just retead my comment and realized it sounds a bit preachy – my apologies! I certainly didn’t mean to imply that if you have a short wedding it means you don’t want to talk to your guests! I only meant that if you haven’t done the math, it can be a bit… startling.

          I would say for a 3 hour timeline, the key would be to do all your getting ready, photos, that sort of thing outside the time window, and have minimal or simple decorations. You wouldn’t have time to serve a sit down dinner I don’t think. From there it mostly depends on what aspects of a typical wedding you want to have vs skip. It’s hard to give a timeline because its really up to you what parts to have vs not. You wouldn’t have time, for instance, to do toasts, a first dance, a cake cutting, bouquet toss AND a longer ceremony. So you’ll have to pick and choose where you want to spend your limited time. Theoretically, you could skip all the typical wedding stuff and just have a three hour party. At some point during the party, gather everyone to one spot and exchange vows. Simple and done! Or if you want some of the other things, I’d start by figuring out how long it will take for all your guests to get food (I think this was covered in an earlier post in this series? How long it takes X people to get through a buffet line?) Subtract that from your total time, pad it for good measure, then figure 10-15 min each for stuff like a bouquet toss, toasts, etc. Ceremony could be anywhere from 10 min to 30+ depending on what you want in it. Font forget to add in some time at the beginning and end for guests to arrive/clear out (15 min each?) Hope that helps! (Disclaimer, I am not a wedding planner. Just tend to be good with logistical stuff like this)

          • No worries, you didn’t sound preachy and I’m sorry my wording seemed to imply that was my reaction!

            These are all good ideas for how to work within time restrictions, some of which we are doing already (all photos outside defined “wedding” time-block; SUPER minimal decorations) and some which are helping to coalesce some vague thoughts we are still batting around. Thank you for laying out some really well-considered options!

      • Eva

        Now I am worried about my timeline! We had planned a short wedding, and now I am wondering if it is not enough time. We will have roughly 70 guests, about half will be traveling.

        10:30 am: guests arrive
        11:00: ceremony starts
        11:30: “coffee break”: family photos, musicians arrive
        12pm: brunch
        12:30: toasts
        1:00: dessert
        1:30: musicians depart
        2:00: we leave
        3pm: cleanup

        We are not having:
        -first look
        -hair and makeup (we’ll do this at home earlier)

        I wanted to have a simple, fairly short event, but now I’m concerned that it isn’t long enough. Does this sound reasonable? Or should I contact my vendors to add more time?

        • Kat

          Not to make you all worried but I think adding in some extra time for the photos/coffee break time might be a good idea! Add an extra half hour at 11:30 to push your brunch back to starting at 12:30pm. For whatever reason pictures will take a bit longer than you think and you’ll want some time to visit with people. Have some mini muffins circulating with the coffee and mimosas or a salmon platter to help tide people over a bit.

          The day goes by super fast anyways, taking an extra 30 minutes to enjoy it.

        • Amy Hawkins

          To me your timeline looks good but it looks a little idealized — with no room for anything to run late. Don’t underestimate how long it takes to distribute food to 70 people!

          Looking at it, I think you could add 15 minutes to the coffee break, and 15 minutes to the brunch and actually keep the rest pretty much the same and still have the short wedding you are wanting. That extra time during the food parts will make it a lot easier to guarantee no one has to rush to eat their food.

          11:30: “coffee break”: family photos, musicians arrive
          12:15: brunch
          1:00: toasts
          1:30: dessert
          2:00: musicians depart
          2:30: we leave
          3pm: cleanup


  • Jennie

    Yes! Thank you Elizabeth! I didn’t know until I read this post that the reception I’ve been dreaming of is a Cocktail Party Style Reception. Not only do I have a name for it (so I can reduce the side-eye I get when I try and explain it to family members), but now I have a timeline! yayyy

    • Shelly

      Jennie ~ we had a cocktail reception immediately following our (3:30 PM) ceremony. We even used that language on our invitations: “Cocktail Reception to follow” – so that gave people the expectation that there would be some food, some drink, but not a full-on meal.

      Hope that yours works out just great!

    • Caroline

      We’re thinking we will do a cocktail reception, (and yes, helpful to know my idea has a name), but at lunchtime.

    • I know! The cocktail reception and morning wedding timelines look fantastic. Now I just have to figure out which one works best for us!

      • Do both! We are :)

        • Oh, my grandmother would be so scandalized :) Might be worth it. What does your wedding look like, Pippa?

          • Well to be honest, the timeline is freaking me out at the moment, mainly because we’re having the ceremony and reception at the same venue and I don’t want to leave our guests waiting around for too long in between while we have photos but neither of us wants to see each other before the ceremony… sigh.

            Anyway, we’re having a morning ceremony (approx 10ish) with a lunchtime cocktail-style reception starting at around noon. Then the guests are out of there by 4, 5 at the latest. It keeps the day light and not so full-on for us. Needless to say we haven’t got the timeline finalised, but hope that helps :)

    • Madison

      I have been seriously arguing with my mother about my cocktail reception. She insists that people will be expecting dinner because of the time of day, and that the cocktail reception will not be enough food. It’s a late evening wedding (because of the May- New Orleans heat) starting at 7:30.
      Any advice on feeding folks? Should I invest $7 a person for some meatier (pasta or roast…) food?

  • Rowany

    In Part II, Weekend Weddings were part of the “next up” line-up, but they’re not included here. Will we see some more about those in the future?

    Also wanted to add –if you’re having it outdoors, think about the lighting! One piece of advice that was really helpful from the venue owner was that before late afternoon (I think she said 3 or 4), the light can get in the guests’ eyes during the ceremony. This is of course particular to our specific site, but maybe think about what direction everyone is facing if you’re considering an early afternoon wedding.

    • Maddie

      Yes, Elizabeth actually realized that a wedding weekend probably deserves a post of its own, so she’ll hopefully be tackling that sometime in the future on its own!

    • Nina

      Just wanted to add to your great comment (“think about the lighting”) that you should think about the sun… as in sunburn! Our [lovely, wonderful, wouldn’t-change-a-thing] morning wedding almost exactly followed the timeline that Elizabeth posted above. Which meant that all our guests and we were outdoors, facing south, for a 45min ceremony as the sun climbed towards noon. Although I don’t think anybody minded wearing sunglasses at the time, several of us (including the bride!) could boast some pretty sunburns by the end of the day. Also, I can say from experience that post-ceremony family portraits outside under the high noon sun are not the most flattering. Just something to consider.

  • “…evening wedding tends not to be particularly kid friendly, so if you have a large number of little ones you’d like to include in your festivities, then an evening wedding may not be the best option for you (few kids are going to make it to a dinner that’s past their bedtime without a meltdown…).”

    This is one of my worries. We are having our wedding at a children’s museum and want it to be kid-welcome (many friends and relatives has little one). But we can’t even start until after 6, because the museum doesn’t close until 5. Granted, it is on the longest day of the year (solstice!) but I am thinking of ways to deal with the kid thing.

    Plan #1 is to hire a few babysitters, to be in charge of a “kids area” on the lower floor of the museum (in the 5 and under play area). Plan #2 is to have some napping space in the quiet/nursing room and the comfy baby play area. But I’m not sure if this will be enough.

    Plan #3 is also to talk to the parents I will be inviting and asking them for suggestions, since they know their own kids.

    • Another part of the plan is to have the food ready to go immediately after the ceremony, so that hungry kids can get food right away.

    • bess

      I have the same issue (and same date, assuming you are getting married this year). One thing I have discovered is that though I was clear from the get-go that it’s a kid-friendly wedding, a lot of my kid-having friends are pretty excited for a night without kids, so they are leaving them at home/getting sitters. So you might have fewer than you think. But basically I am planning on what you have indicated, having kids’ food (like a little bar w crackers, fruit, etc) as well as some passed “fancy grilled cheeses” that my caterer says everyone of all ages always likes, all IMMEDIATELY after the ceremony.

      • Next year, actually. But congratulations!

        Well, some of the kids are going to be inevitable: my nephew, my fiance’s niece and nephew, and my god-daughter and her brother (who are also the children of my officiant). But you do raise a good point. I don’t mind if people decide not to bring the kids, but I think that by having a few good people on hand being paid specifically to watch over the young ones and plenty of activities for them, it will make it easier for those who can’t leave their kids at home.

      • Fancy grilled cheeses– YUM!

  • Emily

    I’d be interested in hearing Elizabeth’s and others’ thoughts on timing of yichud (the Jewish custom for the couple to go off on their own right after the ceremony), especially considering how to deal with family pictures you can’t do beforehand, and especially if you have to move locations to the reception (and at first glace have a tight window to do so).

    Really looking forward to to the weekend wedding timeline! Just starting to work on that now.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      We didn’t formally have yichud, but in retrospect we had the opportunity, even with family photos after the ceremony.

      Before the wedding, we told family to go straight downstairs after the ceremony and wait for the venue to clear out. We had a few people who were specially asked to herd family. We spent this time with our families, also waiting (and meeting our new in-laws for the first time), but we could have gone into a private room and had yichud then.

      Photos also took less time than anticipated. We were alone in the ceremony venue for 10-20 minutes after the photos, with the photographer, all the guests, and all the family already sent over to the reception venue (where there was food and wine waiting for them). So this was another opportunity.

      If you’re going to do yichud, I’d especially advise thinking about the timeline and the necessary spaces when looking at venues. What I describe requires a big space for the ceremony, a medium-sized space for all the family, and a small space for yichud. If you’re having the ceremony and reception at the same place, you need even more rooms.

    • Nina

      Sounds like you might want to consider doing those family portraits not during the cocktail hour, but at some other point at the reception site. That way you can do your yichud, everyone else can move on to the reception site (and you don’t have to feel guilty about holding up the timeline). Then you can show up at the reception site and either do family portraits there during the cocktail hour, or at some point during the dinner (depending if they are group shots or smaller shots with grandma).

      Also, talk to your photographer about this. Our photographer was invaluable for helping us to figure out what timeline would make sense, especially for those “transition” times and family portrait times. They have a LOT of experience coordinating this sort of thing.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        Exactly! to asking the photographer. I was annoyed when photographers asked for our timeline 13 months before the wedding. No planning guide said we needed it anywhere close to that soon! But as we got better at interviewing photographers, a couple were really helpful with drawing up our timeline. (a caterer, too) And one of the most helpful books we had in planning our wedding was a handbook for wedding photographers which had typical timelines.

        • Emily

          Thanks for the suggestions! I like the idea of being flexible with family photo locations, and checking in with the photographer.

  • anon

    Is there a typo in the example of afternoon wedding or will guests actually show up two hours before the invite time because it is scheduled arouond lunch?

  • Thanks for laying this out!

  • Amy March

    I think if you’re having either an extended 2 hour cocktail hour or a whole 4 hour cocktail reception, you do need more than some scattered seating. That’s a long time for anyone to be on their feet, especially in pretty party heels, and at some point you need to assume most of your guests will be more comfortable grabbing a chair. (unless it’s an open house, and they’re expected to leave at that point).

    • ruth

      I agree that you can’t expect people to stand up for that long. Also, I think it’s risky to only appetize people when they’re at a wedding reception during dinner time. There would have to be a whole lot of heavy apps, and you’d still have a situation where those who wanted a substantial meal that evening would have to eat before 4:30 or after 9:00.

      • Samantha

        We are doing a cocktail reception over dinner time but we are doing a lot of heavy hors d’oeurves. I don’t think it matters if people are only eating finger foods as long as they get enough food to be full as if they had dinner. That being said some of the things we are doing are a pulled pork slider station, stuffed mushrooms, mini meatballs, etc. So we really worked to choose foods that were filling but could still be eaten while mingling and sans large plate and knife. Dinner doesn’t have to mean a sit down meal, it’s just more important what types of finger foods you are serving and if you are serving a substantial amount. Also a dessert bar to top it all off will leave our guests full I think!

  • Emilie

    How many chairs and tables do you rent for scattered seating? Is seating for 60% of the guests enough? Too much?

    • From what I have heard, 60-70% is the sweet spot.

      I really want a cocktail reception (not least because we basically need to be out the door by nine, but also because 3-4 bites of tons of food is my ideal food situation), but my big concern is . . . where do people stash their stuff? Like, at every wedding I’ve been to, I’ve got my purse, my flip flops (for serious dancing purposes), a jacket/scarf if it’s cold, etc etc. And I just dump that stuff under my seat at my table, you know? So where do people keep their stuff at a cocktail reception?

  • All these timelines seem a bit different to over here in Scotland, our days are much longer, if somebody could write a bit about them that would be awesome. Our ceremony is at 2pm (most common time for ceremonys i think), then there are a couple of hours to drink champagne and take photos, Speeches are at 4.30pm and dinner served at 5pm, we are then having evening guests arrive at 7.30 and dancing 8pm til midnight. Sometimes an evening buffet or bacon rolls are served around 10pm with the cake. I would also be interested in hearing timelines from other countries as I had naively assumed we were all the same. xox

    • JJ

      Yes- same here in England Ashleigh (Guessing most of UK is similar). 2pm or 2.30pm seems to be the most common time to get married and the timeline generally goes as you mentioned. People are still drinking and dancing past 11pm even though the ceremony started hours and hours earlier. The time always flies by though. We have a lot of North American guests coming to our wedding so I wonder if they are going to find this strange.
      Until a couple of months ago in England we couldn’t even get married later than 6pm, even if you wanted to. I had thought it was similar in the USA/Canada until we were invited to a wedding over there and it started at 6.30pm. I like our early starts and late finishes- lots more time for fun and partying!

    • The typical Australian timeline is not too dissimilar to the first post on wedding timelines. Usually the ceremony will be on a Saturday, at 3.30 or 4, fairly short, with a good 2 hours between the end and the start time of the reception. (Usually different venues too.) Then there will be drinks for an hour or so before the couple arrives for a sit-down meal and it will go until midnight. Hence us trying to plan a morning wedding followed by a lunchtime cocktail reception, both at the same venue, on a Monday, 3 hours out of the main city is causing our heads to spin!!

  • Elizabeth

    How early do some guests arrive to wedding? We expected that people would begin to show up 15 – 20 minutes before the invitation time to our 2:00 PM ceremony, and anticipated starting at 2:15. In the Early Afternoon Timeline, guests start arriving at 11:00 AM for a 1:00 PM wedding!

    I can see how that would make sense if you are considering when your wedding party arrives and their dates. I hadn’t really thought what to do with these folks, except hope that they’ll be able to go with the flow while they wedding party’s getting ready and taking pics.

    • Emma Bingham

      I think that was a typo on her part. Can you tell me how your wedding went and what time you started getting ready? I can’t decide how much time ahead I need to start getting fancy. We are doing pictures before and our wedding also starts at 2 pm.

  • I’m wondering about a later evening wedding with a sunset ceremony and a cake and champagne reception/dessert only reception. Would that be much different from the later evening reception described?

    • Amy March

      I would think you’d need to start later- if you’re not serving dinner, you need to make sure that your guests have time to eat dinner beforehand.

      • Maddy

        What time do you think is late enough. I wanted to start at 7, and specified in the invites that it was a cocktail reception.

  • anna

    Would it be weird to start an afternoon wedding at noon? We were originally thinking 11 am, but I feel like I will feel so rushed and stressed trying to get ready that I could really use an extra hour. But I worry that guests will be grumpy with us for having the ceremony at a typical meal hour. With an 11 am invite time/11:15 start, we would have had cocktails from 11:30-12:30, followed by lunch at 12:30. If we push everything back an hour, folks will have to wait until 1:30 for lunch, although there will be appetizers during the cocktail hour.

    • kyley

      I regularly eat lunch at 1:30; I don’t think that’s an unreasonable time at all. Also, you’re guests are grownups. If they see a noon-start time, and they know they will be hungry for lunch at noon, they can pack themselves a granola bar! Personally, as a guest, I would appreciate the later start time so I could take my own time getting ready, too.

  • eva

    maybe i missed it, but is there a little bit about a weekend wedding anywhere? i thought the PART 2 section said it might be here, thanks!

  • Emilie

    How early is too early for a ceremony? We were thinking a 9am, or even 8am ceremony. Does anybody have any experience with this?

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  • Caitlin

    I am getting married in a park where our ceremony will only be a 3 minute walk to the reception location. The hard part is the area where our reception is held opens for set up at 5pm (NOT begore) and closes at midnight.
    Because of this I’m thinking of not having a cocktail hour to give my vendors the maximum time to set up. I am thinking of having the ceremony start at 5:45, and move almost straight from the ceremony to the reception.
    I’m not having a large wedding, 70 people. And we’re having a caterer that cooks fresh on site and does a serving line/buffet line for the dinner.
    Any ideas or advice on how to give my vendors time but still have plenty of wedding time is appreciated.

  • I am having a morning wedding and do not want to do first look photos. I want to see my fiance for the first time as I’m walking down the aisle :) I also think that guest would prefer to eat immediately – since it may well be their first meal of the day. So that means no break between ceremony and reception. Do you think I could take photos after brunch and still look good? I also want to have a long siesta – like 4 or 5 hours then a big party at my parents house which will be where drinking and dancing will happen. This will be catered as well but have a more casual atmosphere and where I may end up inviting others that I couldn’t fit into the morning wedding budget. ( such as my many sorority sisters). Does this sound like a viable option? Has anyone done something of this sort? Do you think my guests will be exhausted or maybe get drunk during siesta and show up wasted to the second party? Thoughts, opinions, tips are all greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    • Emily

      This is exactly the timeline we are looking for our wedding in September! Did it work? Are there things we should look out for?

  • Sush

    Our wedding ceremony was originally going to be at 1:30pm, but with a switch of location we now have a 3pm slot. I am kind of freaking out. I was originally planning for the bridal party and close friends to have photos and time together on a limo bus in between ceremony and reception (which we would get to around 5:30) but now everything seems to be messed up. Anyone out there have any suggestions? Do we do pictures before and just travel to the reception with the guests? Still make a separate entrance? Have a later dinner? Any help is appreciated!

  • Jessica

    I am having a late morning wedding. The invite time is 11am. My guest count is about 60 people, and we are planning on a buffet brunch. My fiance and I are NOT doing “first look” pictures (its the one tradition we are sticking to). The ceremony will be non-traditional, but still a bit long (45 min), meaning the guest will be released for the reception at about noon. I am assuming most of my guests will not have eaten yet, and will be quite hungry. How can I do pictures, eat, AND do toasts without upsetting the flow or making my guests cankerous from hunger? Also since it is a “brunch wedding” there is no alcohol being served — that’s for the much later after party (: — so having a cocktail hour wouldn’t work. How can I have my cake and eat it too? Thanks much!!

  • Bfyte

    We are having two ceremonies in one day! Im not getting any rest, a 10a hindu ceremony & a 5pm traditional western ceremony! At least there is a break in between to change outfits & hair. But how early do i have to get up? And how early do i start prepping for ceremony #2?

  • Lauren

    Your timeline for the early afternoon wedding is off: 11am guests arrive, 1pm invite time?

  • Alesha

    Will there be a post (or is there one already) regarding set up and breakdown timelines? It was mentioned in Part II of this series but I haven’t seen it. Thanks

  • Amy

    We are having our wedding at a golf course in July. Our ceremony is at 630 pm cocktail hour form 7-8 and then food stations that run from 8-10 followed by dancing until 1 am. what I’m having trouble with is how to fit in speeches (MOH, Best man, My parents, grooms mom, and groom and myself). Also when to fit in our first dance, and father daughter mother son dances. Do we do them before the food? Wait until food is done or try to break them up in amongst the food. With a plated dinner there are natural time for speeches between courses but we don’t have that with food stations.

  • Blondie

    We are having a cocktail style reception on a boat. We have no wedding party and planning on doing pictures earlier in the day. Our timeline is 6:30pm boarding, 6:50pm departing the harbor and 7:05pm ceremony and the boat will return at 10:00pm. We are having a cash bar, and heavy hors d’ oeuvres and cupcakes for dessert. We would like to do toasts, thank you’s and possibly a first dance. We are just playing music off of an ipod to keep it simple. Do you have suggestions for a timeline?

  • Crystal Wallis

    So, one of my options for a venue won’t let me use the space after 9pm- or rather, the event has to end by 9 and vendors and everything out by 10. i don’t know why they won’t extend it only an hour or 30 minutes, but apparently they won’t. I’m super worried about not having enough time for everything, and feeling rushed. Our ceremony will likely be 4pm, as we can’t use the reception site before 4:30 and the reception site is a short walk from the ceremony site. Is 4:30 to 9 going to be enough time for a reception?

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