The traditional running order of a wedding day

09 Jul 2019

While your wedding can run to your choice of timings, the traditional running order is a good place to start when creating your schedule

Image: Olivia Bauso via Unsplash

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Keeping to a schedule is crucial in the smooth operation of your wedding day. Once all parties are informed and everyone knows where to be and when, the transitions between each stage of the day should be seamless. 

Looking at the traditional running order of a wedding day can be helpful when working out timings, however this is by no means a structure that you have to follow - this is simply a guide. When working out your wedding schedule, you should have a running order in place before you assign times. 

When you've finalised your schedule, share it with your wedding planner/co-ordinator, master of ceremonies or toastmaster, as well as ushers and best man so they can ensure the order of the day is followed. You may also wish to set up an 'order of the day' board or display so guests know what to expect and when. Here's an idea of how your schedule could run...

Wedding preparations (3-4 hours)

The bride and groom traditionally get ready separately on the morning of the wedding. Bridesmaids, the maid of honour and mother of the bride get ready with the bride, while the groom is joined by his ushers and best men. If you have a large entourage to get ready i.e. more than four bridesmaids for hair and make-up, speak to your hair and make-up artist/s to discuss additional time needed. Photos will also be taken during this time. 

The wedding ceremony (30-45 minutes)

Following preparations, the wedding ceremony typically takes place early afternoon. The groom and ushers should arrive at least 30-45 minutes before the start time, when - if you're having a civil ceremony - the pre-wedding interview will be undertaken for both the bride and groom. Depending on how many readings and/or songs you have chosen, ceremonies usually last 30-45 minutes. Take a look at the answers to these key questions regarding your wedding ceremony


Image: Banter Snaps via Unsplash

Drinks reception (1.5-2 hours)

After the confetti shot, guests will gather for the drinks reception where canapés can also be served. This is a chance for guests to mingle and for group shots to be taken. Your photographer may also request that you and your new husband or wife are whisked away for a few shots on your own. 

Wedding breakfast (1.5-2 hours)

The bride and groom is announced in to the wedding breakfast room and food is served. Your venue team and caterers will work together to advise how long you should leave for the wedding breakfast and come the day, ensure timings are adhered to. 


Image: Annie Gray via Unsplash

Speeches (1 hour)

While the speeches traditionally take place after the wedding breakfast, there is also a traditional order in which various members of the party should speak. The father of the bride is the first to take the floor, followed by the groom and finally, the best man. Click here to find out more about the content of the speeches and how long each speaker should talk for. 

Cutting of the cake (5-10 minutes)

A symbol of the bride and groom's union and a promise to provide for another, the cake cutting is a wedding moment that most guests will want a picture of so allow enough time for photos to be taken. The cake is then taken away by the venue team who will cut it for you and serve it later in the evening. This is also the point when the venue team will turn around the wedding breakfast room if you're having the evening party in the same room. The bride and groom may also be taken for more photos before the sun goes down. 


Image: Jason Leung via Unsplash

First dance (5-10 minutes)

Guests will gather around the dance floor for the first dance, which signals the start of the evening party. Whether you have a band or DJ to play your chosen song, you can request that they invite all guests on the dance floor halfway through and/or play an upbeat and up-tempo track straight after to get everyone dancing. 

Evening reception (4 hours plus)

Evening guests tend to arrive from 7pm and the evening food is usually served around 8pm. If you have invited children as daytime guests, you may want to ask your caterers to provide a small buffet of nibbles for them earlier than 8pm to keep hunger pangs at bay.

After an evening of dancing, weddings tend to finish around 11.30pm to midnight - the bride and groom are entitled to slip away early or stay until the end to bid their guests farewell. 


Image: Analise Benevide via Unsplash

Your wedding day will fly by so while timings are key, it's also essential that you take a few moments during the day to soak up the atmosphere and spend some time with your husband or wife. Take a breather during the quieter interludes and go for a walk, or if you're staying at the venue have a few minutes alone in your room. Weddings can be overwhelming, so pace yourself and savour each moment of your special day. 

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