The biggest wedding timings mistakes to avoid

·6-min read

Wedding planning can be a complete nightmare – trust me, as a fellow bride-to-be, I know. But have you started thinking about what the best time to get married is? As the world's most indecisive person who finds herself paralysed over major decisions at the best of times, organising something as seemingly innocuous as the timings for my wedding day has turned me into a frenzied ball of anxiety.

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The most popular time to get married is 1pm or 2pm, but with 350,000 weddings set to take place in 2022 according to statistics from the UK Weddings Task Force, you might not have been able to secure the perfect slot. So how do you make your day flow if you're stuck with a 4pm registrar booking, or you've got a 12pm ceremony and are plagued with visions of the day dragging on and guests twiddling their thumbs?

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We asked Sophie Rymer, Operations Manager at Grade I listed and medieval moated venue Birtsmorton Court near Malvern, Worcestershire, for her expert advice about getting your wedding day timings just right.

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What is the best time of day to get married?

While it's true that the coveted 1-2pm slots ensure there isn't as much downtime for guests to get bored (or too drunk!), if you haven't managed to get an early afternoon ceremony booking, don't worry. It depends on how you want your big day to play out.

Sophie advises thinking about whether you want evening guests first and foremost. "If there are a lot of extra people bringing new energy to the party for the evening, go a little earlier, if there isn't you can pretty much get married at whatever time you'd like to," she says.


Sophie Rymer from Birtsmorton Court talks us through the ideal wedding timings. Photo: ©Jarek Lepak

If you're planning on having friends or colleagues arrive after the wedding breakfast or think evening food is a must, go for the earlier booking. If not, later in the day might work best.

What are the biggest timing mistakes to avoid?

It's not about the time per say, but more about how you choose to fill the hours. Sophie explains: "For me, the biggest mistake made with timings is having a chunk of time during the day or evening celebrations when nothing is really happening. Guests' energy quickly drops when there's nothing for them to do."

Consider booking a band to liven things up after the sit-down meal. This gives people something to focus on before the dancefloor gets going and creates a talking point among your guests. A cheaper option might be hiring a photobooth or providing garden games.


Think carefully about the timings of your wedding day

On the flip side, if you've booked a later ceremony time, be very strict with your timings and ask your master of ceremonies to keep things snappy and flowing throughout the day.

What are the best timings for your wedding reception?

Sophie says it's imperative to kick things off in a timely manner straight after the ceremony, and to ensure it takes up just the right amount of time – not too long and not too short! Two hours is ideal; enough time to get around and chat to everyone, take photos and enjoy canapés, but not so long that guests start to get itchy feet and impatient for dinner.

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A key piece of advice? "Background music is a must. It helps add to the atmosphere and allows for guests to settle into the day from the off," Sophie reveals.

What are the best timings for your wedding breakfast?

The wedding breakfast typically works well mid to late afternoon, leading into the early evening. Couples often feel anxious that guests won't get lunch, meaning it's a very long wait for a meal, so make sure you include the meal time on the invite, giving guests the opportunity to plan ahead.


Warn your guests about what time they'll be sitting down to eat. Photo: ©Oobaloos Photography

Serving canapés is a good way to create a talking point amongst your guests and will make the afternoon pass quicker.

What are the best timings for your speeches?

Speeches can be a huge time waster – or time spinner if you need to kill some time! We've all been at a wedding where the father of the bride rambles on for hours, however, so make sure to give speech-makers a strict time limit.

"I'm a big fan of keeping all three speeches together, it doesn't matter hugely if this is before the starters or after the meal has finished," Sophie says. "If the groom is going to be nervous or knows his best man is going to be, do them before the wedding breakfast, if not, save them for after and let guests have something to eat first. It's also nice to consider doing them between the main course and dessert, that works well.

"I always advise couples to avoid having the speeches between the starter and main course. It's really problematic for caterers as they don't know how long speeches will last and cooking perfectly for 100 guests with no exact idea of timings can cause a real headache and risk overdone meat."


Schedule your evening guests' arrival meticulously. Photo: ©Katie Hamilton

She continues: "It's become quite popular to split the speeches between each course. If this is the plan, allow a little extra time for this part of the day as getting toast drinks poured, speeches started and guests seated does take time."

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What are the best timings for your evening guests to arrive?

Ideally, tell evening guests to arrive half an hour after the meal has finished. There's nothing worse for evening guests than arriving midway through the speeches, causing embarrassment for all parties. Allowing a little time after the day's celebrations have ended means that if things have run behind schedule, there's the opportunity to catch up before the other guests arrive.

Also, remember that if you're getting married on a weekday, your guests are likely to be coming straight after work, so there's no point asking them to arrive at 5pm.

Evening guests may travel for the party, however, so try to avoid inviting them to arrive any later than 8pm, unless you plan to keep going until the early hours!

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