A wedding ceremony is the foundation of every wedding celebration. Above and beyond the religious or sentimental and/or traditional significance it also is the first impression made. The right planning can make or break this moment and often a bride and groom in planning search to get this just right to accommodate guests. There are many factors like weather, venue, sunset and more to take into consideration.
Ok, let’s get one big thing out of the way right upfront. There are more and more wedding ceremonies taking place outside of the church these days. That’s just fact, and you can’t blame couples with so many gorgeous options available to them. Many venues have one or multiple ceremony designated areas to provide the perfect place for “I do!”
So, with many ceremonies taking place at the venue what is the proper time structure and how does one plan for this ahead of the reception? Well, as a professional wedding DJ and having provided music and sound for thousands of events over my 30+ year career with Music In Motion Entertainment I can tell you it all breaks down to a simple formula.
Most wedding venues provide a 5 hour reception. If you are having your ceremony in a church or off site then you need to calculate the ceremony time along with the drive time for guests to get to the venue. Also consider whether or not you want to have a receiving line after the ceremony or just time to chat with guests. But, if the ceremony is at the venue there is a seamless connection from the ceremony to the reception.
So what is the right answer for timing? Well, there is no right answer but simply do this calculation. And as far as your ceremony on site at a venue you want to plan for a 1 hour block. This 60 minute block can be broken down into (2) 30 minute segments. Prelude followed by the ceremony. What is prelude?
Prelude is the time before a wedding ceremony in which guests arrive, get settled and seated. The best way to approach this is to have music begin at the beginning of prelude to set the mood as the guests arrive. NOT with the walk down of the bride! It allows for a building of anticipation for the big moment. But there is another crucial reason to have a prelude added into your ceremony.
Guests are never all on time. If you want to walk the isle at 5:00pm then you should have the guests arrive at 4:30pm. This will allow for the late arrivals to still all big in their seats and ready so you can make your big entrance without empty chairs or guests trying to sneak in ahead of the bride.
If the venue offers a 30 minute ceremony make sure you add an additional 30 minutes for prelude so you can know the guests will have a proper welcome to your wedding. Also, never cut into your 5 hour reception with a ceremony because your wedding day goes by fast enough. Why cut it shorter by having a ceremony run over into the reception time allocated?
Also, it is my humble opinion as a music provider to absolutely have music playing during that first 30 minutes, whether recorded or performed live. It really is a mood setter. Would a bride walk the isle without music? Well, it can be just as awkward having guests arrive and be seated for a ceremony without background music. My musicians who work for my company Music In Motion often explain that the 30 minute prelude is their “personal concert” for the guests. Otherwise they are performing only a few songs during the ceremony.
One final thought on prelude. When getting invitations make a decision as to the time the bride will enter. Often couples will make the mistake of putting that time down as the start of the ceremony. Nope, if you want to begin walking in at 5:00pm then put 4:30pm on your invitations asking the guest to arrive 30 minutes prior.
Now for the ceremony, its all a calculation. Sit down with your wedding officiant, pastor, rabbi….. etc etc and go over the service from tip to toe. Will you be having readers, a candle lighting/ sand ceremony, presentation of roses? Or just a straight forward ceremony? Do a run through, calculate the time and then plan on the time it takes to get from ceremony site to reception site and you are getting places.
A ceremony can be perfect. Just plan ahead, do the math and leave room for delays. Add a 30 minute prelude for the guests to arrive and make sure you have the right time factored for your guests to go from ceremony to reception. Do this and your path to “I DO” will be one of the most memorable of your lives.
Mike Fernino – Founder of Music In Motion Entertainment, Oxford CT