Determine what time the sun sets on your wedding day
Wedding planners use a general guideline to determine what time a wedding should start. This amazingly simple rule of thumb works for almost every wedding! First research what time the sun sets at your wedding venue on your wedding date and simply deduct 3 hours from this time to determine a reasonable ceremony start time. This is because usually the guest arrival and ceremony will take one hour, the pre-drinks and photos will take 2 hours and your guests would usually enter the reception venue as the sun sets and you are taking your “golden hour” couple photos outside.
Confirm with the venue what time setup can begin and what time the venue closes
Setup time is especially important so this should be a consideration when finalizing your wedding start time. If your wedding venue hosts back to back weddings and there is another celebration the day before yours, your wedding planner may need to organize a very early morning setup time in order to complete the décor arrangements required. The venue closing time is also something to think about as it may be rather expensive to extend the venue hire from the usual midnight end time to 01h00 or 02h00. You may want to shift your wedding start time earlier to have enough time for a considerable dancing period before midnight.
Determine the duration of your wedding ceremony
The length of your ceremony is often determined by your religious background and what additional formalities you feel are important to include. The usual ceremony length, including only the legal formalities, is about 15 minutes, however your wedding planner could extend the ceremony to include your specifications such as hymns, readings, communion, unity candle lighting etc.
Decide if you would like your guests to experience the sunset during pre-drinks
After the ceremony is complete, guests will often mingle informally enjoying drinks and snacks while the bridal party and immediate family take photographs. If you would like your guests to stay outside and enjoy the sunset before entering the reception venue, all the formal photographs including your couple sunset shoot would be taken at one after the other. An alternative option could be for your wedding planner to usher guests inside the reception venue slightly earlier and enjoy the first course before sunset. After your starter course is served, you could discreetly go outside around sunset time to capture 20 minutes of sunset shots while all your guests are enjoying their meals. This would complete your proceedings earlier in the evening and allow for longer dancing period.
Confirm with the caterer how long each menu course will take to serve and clear
The amount of time a catering company takes to serve a wedding meal is often determined by the how quickly the meal can be plated and how much of the meal can be plated ahead of time. For a wedding of 100 guests, the service of a cold plated meal will take around 15 minutes. For a hot plated meal this can be as long as 30 minutes. Your wedding planner will also need to allocate time for the staff to clear all the guest’s plates which usually takes roughly 10 minutes per course.
Confirm how many people will be saying speeches and assign a time allocation to each speech
Wedding speeches are often very personal and special for the bridal couple, however for the guests they are usually the more relaxed part of the celebration. To keep all your guests entertained, we would recommend no more than 60 minutes of speeches. Your wedding planner could divide this time into six 10-minute speeches or four 15-minute speeches. Friends speeches are usually around 10 minutes while the father of the bride and the groom’s speeches are usually between 15 and 20 minutes.
Finalise how many hours your photographer and videographer are booked for and what you would like them to capture
It is often helpful to first determine if you would like your photographer and videographer to capture you and your bridal party getting ready. This would ascertain at what time the photographer and videographer start their assigned package hours. If your wedding ceremony starts at 15h00, and you are getting ready within 10 minutes of the ceremony venue, the photographer and videographer would usually arrive two hours before therefore at 13h00. This would include 1 hour for getting ready shots and 1 hour for transport to the venue and guest arrival shots. If you assume the wedding photography and videography package includes 9 hours of coverage, this will mean their departure time would be 22h00.
It should be your wedding planner’s aim to therefore schedule the first dance no later than 21h30 so that the photographer is able to capture this as well as guests dancing before their departure. You may also want to include your bouquet and garter toss shortly after the first dance to ensure this is captured as well.
Speak with the makeup and hair stylists to confirm how long they will need to complete the required styling
Make up artists and hair stylists often work with assistants and alongside one another to ensure you and your bridal party are ready in time for your wedding ceremony. Usually bridesmaid’s makeup and hair styling takes roughly 90 minutes. Bridal makeup and hair styling can take up to 3 hours. These time allocations are dependent on the style choices for both the bride and bridesmaids however they are great guidelines used by wedding planners.
If you are having a second dress and look change, confirm if you can get changed at the venue
Usually brides who are wearing a second dress either get changed during pre-drinks, before the reception entrance, or during the reception, before the first dance. Either way it is important to confirm that there is an area at the wedding venue where this change can be completed otherwise significant time should be allocated by the wedding planner to transporting the bride back to the accommodation to change.
Estimate how long you would like to assign to the dancing period of the reception
If you are a couple who love dancing and mingling informally with your loved ones, the last part of the reception could be an especially important part of your wedding celebration. Usually venues charge extra for venue hire after midnight and therefore you should aim to have the formalities and the meal wrapped up with enough time for your dancing period.
Rule of thumb for wedding planners is to try and wrap up the formalities by 21h30 at the latest so that you have at least 2.5 hours of time on the dance floor!