What Time Should We Tell Guests to Arrive for Our Wedding Ceremony?
Is the start time when the ceremony begins, or should you build in a buffer?
When you're putting together your wedding invitations, it's important to pay special attention to the time you put down for your ceremony. While you want guests to arrive at the time you advise, you likely won't actually start the ceremony until about fifteen minutes later. Though, there are a few factors to consider that could affect this critical invitation detail. Here, we take a look at what to contemplate before finalizing the time.
Sort out the details.
Firstly, you'll want to speak with your venue, wedding planner, coordinator, or anyone else who might be part of the ceremony setup to determine the best time to tell guests to arrive. There may circumstances that cause a very specific schedule protocol to be followed when it comes to ceremony timing. For example, some traditional religious venues will only allow you and your wedding guests to occupy the space for a window of exactly one hour, allowing for 15 minutes of arrivals followed by a 45-minute service. Or, if your ceremony is taking place at an outdoor venue where guests will need to walk 10 minutes from the entrance to the ceremony area, you'll need to pad the timing so you're not walking down the aisle right at the time they arrive.
Pad the timing.
Always pad the timing for your ceremony by at least ten to fifteen minutes (i.e. invitation may say 4 p.m. but you'll actually start the ceremony at 4:15). This allows a little leeway for guests to run late, find their seats and file in at an appropriate pace. If you're serving pre-ceremony drinks, you can usually get away with padding the timing by 20 to 30 minutes but you'll need your ushers to make the rounds encouraging guests to be seated about five minutes before starting the ceremony.
Take arrivals into consideration.
If all of your guests will be arriving via shuttles you've provided, you can usually get away with a short window of about 10 to 15 minutes from the time all the shuttles arrive to getting everyone seated. However, if guests are driving and parking themselves, you may want to allow a little more time and serve non-alcoholic drinks or glasses of bubbly on arrival. You can't wait for all the latecomers, but you'll want to allow yourself that extra time in the timeline so you don't feel stressed about not starting exactly when the invitation says.