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A REAL wedding-day timeline...

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

Me, when people say the speeches will last 10 mins... Snapped by Chloe Mary Photo

Practical and achievable wedding timelines are somewhat illusive, and instead often totally bizarre (I just read one which allocated 30 minutes for dinner... Are they eating out of a trough?!) and it's normally one of the biggest 'WTF's' couple's come across during their planning - So here I've popped together some insider know-how on how long to REALLY budget for those key moments (side-note: If you want it to actually go really smoothly, just get a coordinator in - of course!)

Guest arrival + The ceremony

An hour before (seriously)

Oh if only we lived in a world where everyone was always as good at time-keeping as slightly nervous wedding guests! You'll say 1:30pm ,you'll probably not even plan to be there until 10 minutes before, but trust me, the British public are genetically programmed to fear, above all else, being late for a wedding ceremony. I had one guest turn up to a wedding 90 minutes early - so I put him to work setting out chairs....

Photographs + Guest transport

30-40 minutes

Thinking you'll just whizz down the aisle, take a quick confetti shot and hop aboard? Pop along to your local farm, round up 100 chickens, make them all stand still for a group shot, attempt to get them onto a double decker bus.

ANYTHING involving your beautiful guests will take twice as long as you think, so rather than stressing out, just allocate double the time - remember also, the more portraits you choose to have, the more family members you must source from the loo/ having a cheeky smoke/ prematurely boarding said bus.

Reception drinks + Canapés

1- 1.5 hours

Probably the most delicate of balances to strike - receptions should be long enough for everyone to take a breather, have a glass or two of bubbles and try something tasty; but short enough to avoid casual nudity, heatstroke and mass starvation. Factor in 15 minutes here for you both to sneak off, eat some of the canapés you paid for and have a couple of newlywed shots (photographic or alcoholic, I'll leave it to you).

The Meal (3 courses/ Family Style) + Speeches

Meal: 1 Hour 45 Minutes (including service and clear up)

Speeches: Who knows...

Top Tip: Don't intersperse speeches between courses. There, I've said it, controversial I know but remember the chicken analogy? Now these chickens have had some booze, are feeling emotional and realise this is their moment to shine. In the build up to giving a speech every single person will say 'I'll keep it short, I'm too nervous, it'll be maximum 5 minutes' and then, half a bottle of Bolly later and they are ready. to. go. There's nothing quite as painful as listening to a funny, heartfelt speech whilst also watching mountains of delicious hot food slowly go cold....

Allocate roughly 20 minutes for your starter, 40 minutes for the main and another 20 for the dessert and you'll be flying.

Everything Else

Don't worry - beyond 8pm everyone will have had so much wine neither they, nor you, will care.

Kidding! But the evening can be a lot more flexible, plus it gives you a chance to catch up on any run-overs from the meal / the surprise singalong Uncle Martin kicked off and so on.... Here are a couple of closing top tips from me to you:

Cake Cutting

If you're wanting to serve it as dessert, do this during your drinks reception - it gives your caterer plenty of time to get it chilled and cut. If you want it for a late-night snack, do it just before your first dance!


Always need a break (they aren't machines!) so make sure you've got some playlists ready to go for in-between. Normally 15 minutes per 45 minute set will do the trick.

Late Night Food

If you're guests have just spent the best part of 2 hours eating, they are NOT going to be hungry for at least another few hours (plus, they'll want to focus on throwing some shapes to burn off the cals). Meal finished around 7? Aim off for snacks around 10pm - This also is a great way to sober people up and start winding down the evening if needed!

Now you've got your timeline, who's going to make sure it's stuck to? Take a step back and hand it over to an OTD Coordinator - This is our jam after all! You can check out my services here for a little more info...

Happy Planning! Love, Kate x

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