You may feel you want to make use of the whole day and yes I totally agree with you. BUT getting married too early means that your day will start super early and depending on the amount of bridesmaids you have to get ready this may turn out very stressful indeed. Bear in mind too that if you are a morning person your bridesmaids may not be. An ideal time to get married is around 1pm or 2pm.
If you are having a church service then this time is ideal for getting from one venue to another and allowing your guests to drive there too as well as some photographs outside the church. If it’s a civil service you are having then 2pm onwards is good. This will still mean you have to start quite early (depending on number of bridesmaids and how many are having hair and makeup) but you will get time to enjoy the morning and be calm and most of all had time to be pampered and to feel beautiful.
Guests will have time to travel and the day will unfold for them quite naturally. A church service can take up to an hour depending on your religion. Civil services are often shorter 30 minutes, but if you personalise them with readings they may take up to 45 minutes.
If your budget is tight the the later in the day is better because you don’t have to feed and entertain for as long. Some of my brides want the same amount of guests at the day reception as well as the night. In this case 3pm or 4pm is a lovely time to marry. The day flows into the night time and all the guests stay with you and once the food is served you can really do what you like.
It makes no difference if you go over after speeches, no one else is coming and the entertainment you hire will go with the flow. You may also only need to feed people once and then have a little snack later in the evening without the need for a full blown buffet.
I would recommend no more than 90 minutes. This gives you time for photographs, it gives your guests time to mingle, chat and catch up. I would recommend you have something to entertain them or something to do during this time. Perhaps you can have a pianist playing or a solo singer, or a mix and mingle artist.There are certainly many things you can do at this time depending on the style and theme and venue of course. (That is for another blog later in the week!) Perhaps a guest book with a instant polaroid for your guests to use during this time. Things like this break the ice and encourage guests to feel involved in the day.
If your drinks reception is too long people will be starving and they will drink more. There is nothing worse than many guests getting shall we say “worse for wear” before the wedding breakfast. You can serve canapés during this time or light bites to satisfy their hunger pangs until the wedding breakfast. Also the food you have paid so much for at the venue will start to ruin if you run over too long.
I always recommend to my couples that they hand out an order of service. This way everyone knows when they are going to eat. It allows people to pace themselves and realise they wont have to wait hours for food. It also gives you the chance to include a bit about yourselves, perhaps explain who the wedding party is and if you are marrying in an unusual or historic venue you can give some background on that.
It does not have to be elaborate, often I get flat cards printed up that match the stationery. These are given out by the ushers and best man as the guests enter the ceremony. It’s a nice keepsake and if you give one to the ladies along with confetti, it makes for a great confetti shot if you want one.
Allow two hours for this. Depending on the speeches this can sometimes be longer. You don’t want to rush through dinner and you want to give the time everyone needs to say the lovely things about you! If the room for your evening celebration is in the same one as the wedding breakfast make sure you allow enough time before you invite the evening guests for the staff at the venue to turn the room around. Allow an hour for this. Especially if a band is setting up or a DJ. You can ask them when you book them how long they need but generally an hour is good. This time can be used for your guests to retire the bar area or lounge and relax whilst their dinner goes down. They may want to check in too if the venue is where everyone is staying.
Depending on your entertainment think about when you are going to serve the evening buffet. You dont want to have it served whilst your band is in full swing. Often it is good for the band or DJ to open the night with your first dance or cutting the cake. Then followed by the bands first set/or DJ. Most bands either do 2 x one hour sessions, or 2 x 45 minutes or sometimes three. You need to think about what you do when they are resting. You can run an Ipod during this time or most bands will play background music. Be sure there is not too much lag in between the buffet and the band starting again. The atmosphere can be lost easily and it’s hard to get going again. Work out the timings so the band finishes the evening, that way your guests will rock right till the end.