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ptionne of the first thoughts once you have booked your wedding venue is most likely going to be – What time should I get married at? I’ve photographed hundreds of weddings and seen all kinds of times that people have chosen to get married. From an 11am church ceremony to a 3.3opm civil ceremony and everything in between. So what is the best time to get married? Well, I think it depends on a number of different factors:

What time of year?


The time of year can have an impact on the best time to get married if you are wanting to have enough light after the ceremony to take some portrait and group photographs. In the depths of winter the sun is usually setting around 4pm, but if you have a particularly dark day due to the weather it can be too dark by 3.30pm. So a winter wedding you ideally want to have it at 2pm at the latest if having a civil ceremony and 1.30pm for a church wedding. Both should give you at least an hour and a half of your drinks reception where it will still be light.

The other option for a winter wedding is that you could have portraits and group shots before the ceremony if you aren’t bothered about keeping the reveal to the end of the aisle. I have had couples do a first look or even get ready together before the ceremony and take advantage of doing some portraits before the ceremony even happens. Remember, just because traditionally the first time you see each other is at the end of the aisle – it doesn’t mean you have to stick to tradition.

Summer weddings on the other hand there is a lot more light so there is of course no restriction on light, however it can be wise to avoid having your portrait and groups when the sun is highest in the sky and strongest. A 12pm civil ceremony will be finished by 12.30pm and means that your reception would be taking place between 12.30pm and 2pm which is usually the worst part of the day in the summer to have photographs as the sun is so strong and high it can create very strong shadows. The upside to this however is that usually it means you have more time after the meal to take some photographs in softer light

How many locations?


Think about logistics when you plan your wedding ceremony time. How much travel is involved from getting from the prep location to the ceremony and then onto the reception? If you are getting ready, married and having the reception at the same location then you don’t need to plan for travel time at all. However if you are getting married at a church with the reception elsewhere then you need to factor in two journeys from the bridal prep address to the church and from the church to the reception location. A 12pm ceremony at a church with a 30 minute journey time from the bridal prep location means getting up very early to start getting ready. On the flip side, a 3pm ceremony at a church with a 30 minute journey to your reception location results in you not having as much time for your celebration after the ceremony.

The lull


Theres an amount of time between the meal and speeches finishing and the evening entertainment starting that us wedding suppliers call “The Lull”. Think about how long this time will be and what you and your guests are planning to do with this time. It can be a great idea to organise some entertainment in this period such as a Casino, close up magician or even a band. A wedding is a long day for you and your guests and the Lull can become a little tiring for everyone if there is nothing to do. If you aren’t planning on organising any entertainment during this part of your day then consider making sure your organise the time of your ceremony such that the Lull is short.

When should we do our first dance?


First dances always work best if they are before the evening buffet at around 8pm to 8.30pm. That means the buffet can come out at 9pm and everyone can eat then let the food go down so they are ready for the proper dancing by 10pm. You don’t want your buffet to come out too early because your guests only ate a three course meal a few hours ago, but you also don’t want it too late as your evening guests are hungry. If you open the buffet before you do your dance then people are still eating and queuing for it whilst you are dancing. You don’t want to do your first dance too late because you want to get it out of the way and generally people will stay off the dance floor until it is done so I’ve always found the best time is about 30 mins before the buffet so you get it out the way and then there’s time for people to have a couple of songs dancing with you before people go back to some drinking and eating from the buffet for an hour or so before they are ready to throw up some proper shapes.

How long do things take anyway?


For many people getting married is the first time they have ever been to a wedding at all so it’s not always obvious how long things take at a wedding so here’s a general time frame:

  • Civil Ceremony – 15-25 mins depending on readings
  • Church of England Church Ceremony – 45 mins
  • Catholic Church Ceremony –  1 hour
  • Drinks reception – usually 1.5 hours but can be an hour or 2 hours depending on your venue
  • Meal – a three course meal with around 60 guests is usually 1.5 to 2 hours. 100 guests would be more like 2 to 2.5 hours. A buffet is usually an hour
  • Speeches – can be as short as 5 mins or as long as 2 hours. Relly depends on how many people talking and what they have to say.

So, what’s the best time then?

In my opinion the best time is between 1pm and 2pm.

A 2pm civil ceremony usually ends by 2.30pm then give 1.5 hours for the drinks reception taking you to 4pm for the meal. By the time everyone has found their seat you are normally walking through the door at about 4.15pm and the meal would finish by 6.15pm ish. Then speeches of say 30 mins to 45 mins taking you to 7pm. Organise your first dance for around 8.15pm which gives you time to welcome your evening guests but the lull isn’t too long that people get bored and tired. Bring the buffet out at 9pm and everyone has eaten and is ready to proper dance at around 10pm.

I’ve always found these timings to work really well for weddings. Take into account all of the above and adjust each section for the light, time of year, travel to venues and number of guests etc and you should be well on your way to a perfectly timed wedding!