Putting together a schedule for your big day.
Figuring out when everything is going to happen on your big day can be quite a challenge. Often times I hear from brides that everything is "approximate" during the early stages of their planning. This isn't a bad thing at all, just don't try and get it all figured out at once. That's why it's called planning, it's a process.
One of the many things I want to do with the information you read on this site is to be honest, blunt and real when it comes to planning. Please don't take any of this in a negative tone. I simply want to make you aware of things that can happen, but also provide some ideas and solutions with your planning so you're not caught off guard...and yes, take away some of the stress of planning.
Start with your ceremony. Not just the time your ceremony will begin, but also the time you think the guests will start to arrive. Generally, guests arrive anywhere from an hour (or more) before the ceremony to 15 minutes before the ceremony. Each ceremony is different from one to the next.
Another thing to think about is what will be taking place before the ceremony, like going to a salon to get your hair and makeup done or possibly taking pictures prior to the ceremony. This way you can try to plan on approximate times for how long those things will last and know when you'll need to be done in time with them and get to the ceremony location.
Your ceremony might last only 20 minutes or it might last 45 minutes (or more). If you're planning on some songs being played or sung during the ceremony or certain events like the unity candle or sand ceremony, this can add extra time. Maybe your pastor/officiant has some speeches/stories about love, marriage, faith, etc., or even wants to share some stories about you within the ceremony. All of these can increase the time frame of your ceremony.
Visit with your pastor/officiant and see if you can get an approximate time of how long it will last. Doing so will not only give you a better idea, but also a better vision of your ceremony.
Starting the reception. For some couples, the reception starts right after the ceremony. Other times there is an hour or so before the reception begins...or maybe you're planning on doing pictures in between. If you're doing pictures after the ceremony, please note that the time of them can vary and may take longer or shorter than planned. I'll explain more later on this page, but for now, let's talk about the events of the reception.
The best advice I can give is to plan what events you want to take place during your reception and what order you would like for them to happen throughout the evening. If you put together or try to put together a timed schedule of events, this can add some extra stress and anything can throw off those timed moments.
Think of the events you're planning on having as a "guideline" rather than a "timeline." Trust me. I've done many weddings over the years and some weddings go just as planned, and then other times all it takes is one thing at the beginning to change what happens the rest of the night. Don't worry, that's not a bad thing, but again, guideline not a timeline.
I had a bride book me for her wedding several years ago and she was so concerned about her reception and wanted to make sure everything ran on time. She didn't want her guests to be bored, waiting around for things to happen and for the dance to start. This bride literally sent me a timed schedule of everything. I did my best to stay as close to the times as I could and they were happy with how it all turned out.
However, all it takes is something as simple as how long it takes to get everyone through the food line and eat dinner that can alter the rest of the schedule. Some dinners last 30 to 45 minutes and other times it takes a solid hour or more to get everyone through the food line. I've had some brides in the past mention to me that they think dinner will only last about 15 to 20 minutes. Yes, the wedding party might be done with dinner in that amount of time, but not everyone else and a good percentage of people might still be at their tables waiting to get in line for dinner.
Pictures after the ceremony can also cause a delay and domino effect on your plans. Whether you're doing some simple pictures or going to a few different locations, be thinking ahead to the reception. If your reception starts at 5p, but you don't think you'll be done with pictures until 6p or 7p, you have a few options to help with your guests during this waiting time.
Set up a Popcorn Bar or have some appetizers set out for the guests to munch on for a while. Food is helpful especially if you have some hungry guests waiting for dinner, plus it's in your best interest to have your guests filling up on snack items rather than alcohol early in the evening. If you're having a bar, chances are your guests that drink will go right to the bar to get a drink or two. If you have some food out, there's a better chance your guests will not drink as much at the beginning of the reception.
While it doesn't happen very often, you can also have the dinner started before you get back from pictures. I know this might sound odd to have dinner start before you and your wedding party have arrived at the venue, but I've seen it done and it helps so guests don't get restless and helps keep things moving along.
Placing the bar inside.
Another thing with having a portable bar, and this depends on where your reception will take place, is WHERE to place the bar. Some places prefer to have their portable bar set up in specific places, like in the entryway or in the hallway, while others have no problem moving them around.
After doing weddings for many years, one thing that I've seen happen most of the time is when there is a bar, guests will gather around the bar and stay there. Why? Well, first of all there is booze. Second of all they can still hear the music and enjoy it by the bar while visiting with friends and family.
As a paying bride who booked a band, DJ or music provider, having guests hang out at the bar instead of dancing can be (and I've seen it) frustrating. It can appear to the newlyweds that whoever is doing music isn't playing what people want to dance to and ends up being a reflection on them. Instead what's really happening is the guests are enjoying the music since they can still hear it, but don't feel obligated to dance and can simply visit with everyone else hanging out at the bar.
What's a solution? If your venue allows it, place the bar inside the reception room, rather than outside of it. This way, ALL the guests stay in the same room and they are free to get their drinks or dance...or both!! Guests are more likely to continue to dance if they are in the same room. Remember, it's your wedding day and you want your guests to dance and celebrate with you...and not just hang out at the bar.
If you need some help with putting together a schedule or need some ideas for your reception, feel free to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org