Choosing the Start Time for Your Ceremony
Of the more than 70 couples I meet with each year to discuss wedding plans, it amazes me that none have been advised by any of their vendors on matters related to start times. Brides are surprised to hear that the wedding rarely starts at the time printed on the invitation. When I give them the usual run down on why this is so, they usually make different decisions about what to list on their invitations.
There is a formula to use when deciding the timeline of your event, especially the start time of the ceremony. Look, folks are just not on time for anything. They are late for dinner, movies, plays, work, school, doctors appointments -- you name it. Punctuality is a challenge for most, a chronic problem for many. Add to that natural challenge the typical unfamiliarity with the venue they are driving to and their normal lateness increases. This propensity for lateness can be expressed using the following formula:
Number of expected attendees divided by 25 times 8-10 minutes = Minutes ceremony will start later than time on invitation.
Now, there are wedding "coordinators" and other folks at the venues and some organizers that will disagree. But after officiating hundreds of weddings and organizing and running dozens of major entertainment events, I can tell you it is as much a reality as the sun rising in the east. You can ignore this fact, or you can take action that will keep you on a schedule that you'll be happy with.
So what to do? Use the formula above and add the lateness time to the actual time you want the ceremony to start. So, if you actually want the wedding ceremony to start at 5:00pm, and you are expecting 100 guests, you will do yourself a great favor by putting 4:30pm on the invitation. Your guests will be there and settled and the ceremony can start nicely at 5:00-5:15pm. Now, don't tell any of the guests or wedding party members that you expect the ceremony to start late. And give the caterer 5pm as the start time with the ceremony lasting no more than 30 minutes.
Lastly, don't worry about folks getting there at 4:30pm. They have gone through the trouble of getting dressed up, purchasing you a gift, and have made the commitment to come to your event. If they sit for 30 minutes watching the goings on as last minute details are handled, the 30 minutes will fly by. They will not be inconvenienced at all. Remember, a smooth start to a wedding ceremony will lay the groundwork for a great event. And making the proper timing decisions will prevent the large number of stragglers coming in between the groomsmen, bridesmaids, and the bride! You will be so glad you did!
- Rev. Lance Orndorff is with Virginia, Maryland, DC Wedding Officiant in Alexandria, VA, and has been a WedPlan Member since May 2005.