Structuring Your Day - Insights from a Wedding Venue
So, you’ve got the ceremony and reception venue/s in your sights, you’ve picked a day and date and you are ready take the plunge and book; such a momentous occasion, another box ticked and now you can just feel the first bubbles of excitement...this is really happening, I’M GETTING MARRIED- ARRGH!
Hang on, have you really considered the structure of your day yet? This may seem like a rather boring detail, but many brides and grooms will steam ahead, book a date and time, and then when it reaches our planning meetings they suddenly say “ah, in retrospect we probably should have booked our ceremony an hour earlier or later” as this directly correlates to meal service times, evening guest arrival times and the length of your evening shindig. I’d say the most important factor to consider is the food service times, because hungry guests tend to be a little grumpy and compensate with alcohol. I’ve spoken to so many brides and grooms who say “remember that wedding we went to, a couple of glasses of champagne went straight to my head on an empty stomach I can barely remember the wedding breakfast! I don’t want that at our wedding.”
This, however, does not mean you have to overcompensate with food, with careful planning there’s no need to add anything out of the ordinary; it really is a simple case of timing and thinking logically.
What time to choose? Well of course, this is entirely your choice, but here are the factors you should take into consideration before making your decision:
Are you staying at the venue the night before your ceremony, if so do you have unlimited access to your room/preparation space or is there a check-out time to consider and work around? This could directly impact upon the most suitable ceremony time for you.
If you are getting married and holding the reception at different venues, what is the travel time? Bear in mind a religious ceremony lasts for an average of an hour, a civil ceremony is usually 30-45 minutes depending on the number of readings and content.
As a guideline, I would recommend allowing at least an hour and a half for your post ceremony drinks reception prior to serving the wedding breakfast, to ensure adequate time for photographs, in addition to the ceremony and potential travel time, this could be anything up to 3 hours from ceremony start time, to sitting down for your wedding breakfast.
Allow at least two hours for your wedding breakfast and speeches (if they are indeed taking place before/after the wedding breakfast – you may choose to do them in the evening or not at all).
Allow an adequate break between your wedding breakfast and evening buffet to ensure you don’t have wastage and cater to everyone’s needs. Some venues will allow you to cater for less than the full number of evening guests. This is a real pet hate of mine! I would strongly advise against this, you have the danger of not providing enough, you simply can’t anticipate how hungry your guests will be and this will be an overall negative impression of your day if you run out of food.
If your evening guests are arriving at 7.30, why not serve the evening buffet at 9.30/10pm when everyone is hungry. You can cleverly explain in your evening invitation by saying ‘late night nibbles’ or even ‘midnight feast’ if your venue offers this, therefore implying people should eat before they come but there will be food later. -
Some venues will dictate your timing of the full day, however most will have some flexibility and the more bespoke and unique venues will allow you full control (providing guidance) to suit your specific needs.
If you choose to have a 12 o’clock ceremony time, realistically your guests will probably start eating the wedding breakfast at around 2.30-3pm. If you choose a 2pm ceremony, it will be as late as 4.30-5pm when people eat. Maybe consider putting a rough timeline in the invitations if you want to ensure guests eat prior to the ceremony, or add canapés to bridge the gap
Hopefully this will help you have an idea of the structure of your day from the very start of this exciting process, and take out a lot of the wondering and “what should I do?” moments, and incessant opinions from other people. So long as you’ve taken these factors into account and you’re happy with your decisions, you know you’ve considered it from all angles.