What actually happens at a wedding?

How long does each part last?

This article plans to outline the typical UK wedding timeline as well as an experience timeline.

An experience timeline shows what you and your guests will be doing at each point of the day. It’s important to remember the guests on your day. Your day will go super-fast…

Your guest’s will appear a little slower.

So considering everyone’s experiences will ensure for a blast of a wedding day for all.

Here is a typical UK wedding timeline:

timeline for UK wedding day

UK wedding timeline in video

From 10am to 12 midnight, follow the wedding day journey in this video. Then read below for full details on each part of the day.

Let’s breakdown each part:


Wedding preparation

Bride with hairdresser

It is traditional for each member of the couple to get ready separately. Your photographer will be keen to start at this point.

Before they arrive, have a good breakfast. Then, leave plenty of time for any hair, makeup and dressing that is required. The groom tends to have far less to do here. It is likely that he will pop down the pub for a pint at this time. Usually with the best man, his ushers and close family.

Professional transport will arrive early for you to be driven to your venue. Relax (if you can!) and enjoy the ride.



Bride and groom at altar

This usually takes place in the afternoon, anytime between 12 and 2.30pm. The groom must arrive at least 45 minutes earlier.  The bride will arrive perhaps 10 minutes before hand.

If you are having a civil ceremony or non-religious one, the registrar will need to speak with you both at some point before the start. They will check that you understand what will happen and any details will be checked. If something is wrong on your marriage certificate, it is an expensive pain! So do leave time for this.

A religious ceremony takes around an hour and a non-religious one between 20 and 30 minutes.

Guests will be arriving around half an hour before the ceremony and they will often have a brief chat with the groom to wish him good luck.

1.30 pm

Wedding drinks reception

Woman drinking Pimms drinks reception

Straight away, your guests will want to congratulate you. But first, grab a drink! You may not get a moment otherwise.

Very soon, the confetti parade will take place. Perhaps immediately after you leave the ceremony room. Sadly, you won’t get time to relax and enjoy this time like your guests will. You will be taken away by your photographer. On your return, any group and family shots will also be taken. Gathering everyone can be a little stressful. Leave the hard work to your best man/ushers.

This will be the fist time your guests get to grab a drink and they will relax. They may get hungry so some canapés, cakes or other food options are advisable.

Live music or other forms of entertainment are common here as it helps to elevate the atmosphere and set for a great day ahead. For a full breakdown of a great wedding drinks reception take a look at my guide here.

3.30 pm

Wedding breakfast

Table at wedding breakfast

This is the name for your meal. Whether you choose a full 3 course meal, afternoon tea, BBQ or fish and chips it will be called your wedding breakfast.

Your guests will take their seats as you wait outside. This is the first moment you will get to yourselves so don’t rush inside. Instead…

Take a moment to enjoy one another’s company as this will be very rare for the rest of the day.

You will be announced into the room by your emcee, venue or wedding coordinator. This will of course be to huge applause and it’s a lovely moment.

Again, some live music is a popular choice here as well as a wedding magician circulating the tables between courses to keep up the mood.

5.30 pm

The speeches

Laughing at brides speech

A dangerous time.

You need these to be short, sharp and to the point.

Otherwise, guests tire quickly after having eaten. Any children will have the urge to run around aimlessly and make lots of noise if the speeches drag. And the adults will feel exactly the same. But they are far more polite and will simply drift off into a daydream.

So ensure for a tight schedule here. Learn more about this in my wedding speech guide.

Having said this, there is a growing trend to have the speeches before the wedding breakfast. This is so that the speech takers can actually relax and eat rather than worry through the whole meal.

The speeches typically take the following order:

  • Father of the bride (or mother)
  • Groom
  • (Sometimes followed by the bride nowadays)
  • Best man

6.00 – 7.00/7.30 pm

The dead time!

Card magician at Easton Grange, Suffolk

This is the time when people don’t really know what to do!

Generally, everyone has had a few drinks by this now and they are just mingling. This is a great time for you to chat with friends and family after an intense few hours. Most you will not have had the chance to catch up with until now.

Everyone will be asked to leave the room as the venue staff turn the room around for the evening reception. And you will probably be taken by your photographer for the ‘Golden hour’ photo session.

Perhaps consider some form of entertainment for everyone here just to keep the day flowing well. Maybe mini golf, a photobooth or a magician.

7.00 pm

Evening reception

Couple cutting a wedding cake

Now the evening guests will begin to arrive. New faces and the DJ/band beginning will bring an energised feel to the day. It’s party time!



Cake cutting

This is a very traditional moment in UK weddings but I have noticed that less emphasis is placed on it nowadays. It’s up to you. You want to make a show of it or not?

The tradition is that this is a symbol of the couples promise to provide for one another. Don’t worry, it’s not a kids party. You don’t need to stand there frantically cutting the whole thing up. Just slice it. The venue will take it away and do the hard work for you.

I have a really controversial opinion on cake cutting. You can find out why in the first pdf you receive of my wedding planning guide: novice to expert in 30 days. Sign up here:

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Fist dance and into the evening party

This is the last of the formal part of the day. Everyone gathers around you both on the dancefloor and your chosen first song is played by the DJ or band. At the end, invite everyone up to an upbeat song to truly get the party started.

It’s customary to provide some light food too such as a BBQ, buffet or hog roast.

You will wrap up anytime between 11.30 and midnight.

But wait!

That’s what will happen from your perspective. What happens from your guests’ viewpoint?

It’s so important to keep them happy all day to avoid long lulls and boredom. Here is an slightly different timeline which describes both your experience with a guest experience. It also highlights a potential issue which could damage your day…

Timeline for wedding with guest experience

Worried about the guests tiring at those mingling points?

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