The Timing Of It All

Since we’re not having our ceremony in a church, the timing of all the events for our wedding day are pretty much up for grabs. In renting the area by the lake, we have it for the entire day… same goes for the reception tent. I really like the freedom of being able to schedule things however we want, but having the whole day open gives us a lot of freedom. We had to narrow it down so decided to work backwards.

The reception has to end at midnight, which I think is a good time for the party to end anyway. If we figure dinner will take a little over an hour and we want around three hours of dancing and drunken merriment, that means dinner needs to start around 7:30PM. Mr. Sundae and I have always liked the idea of a sunset ceremony, so we followed Miss Lovebird’s handy advice and checked out According to the site, the sun will set at approximately 6:55PM on our wedding day. That would obviously be cutting it pretty close to dinner, so we figured if we start the ceremony around 6PM, the sun will be on it’s way to setting while we say “I do.”

I had been having The Great Picture Debate in my head for quite awhile… like many people I was struggling with whether to have that magical moment of seeing each other for the first time when I walk down the aisle, or to make the day a little smoother and take pictures beforehand. Once we started working on our timeline, it was clear that the only way to have a sunset ceremony and end the reception at midnight is to take pictures beforehand. I am cool with it, I’ve made my peace 😉 We’ll have a private moment where we see each other for the first time that day (with photographers in tow, of course), and once Mr. Sundae suggested we meet at the end of a pier, I was sold. These Mel Barlow pictures immediately popped into my head:

Swoon. I love every single detail about that wedding! If we get even one picture that looks remotely as good I’ll blow it up life size and hang it in our living room.

The ceremony site and reception site are literally about 3 minutes apart, so our guests won’t need that much time to transfer from one place to another. We decided that we could also save a little cash and get to the party portion of the evening quicker if we skipped a cocktail hour, kind of a controversial decision but one that we’re happy with. A few tweaks might still be required, but for all of you who are creating your own timelines I thought it might be helpful to share ours:

6:00PM – 6:20PM Ceremony

6:20PM – 7:00PM Guests transfer to reception site, grab a drink and find their seats

7:00PM – 7:30 PM Announce wedding party, first dance, toasts

7:30PM – 8:30 PM Dinner

8:30PM – 9:00 PM Cut the cake, Father/daughter and Mother/Son dances

9:00PM – 12:00AM Let the dancing begin!

I’ve built in some cushion time but the whole thing is flexible. If the ceremony doesn’t end until 6:30, if the toasts run over and the dinner doesn’t start until 7:45, it really doesn’t matter. All that will mean is that there will be 2 1/2 hours of dancing instead of 3 😉

How did you decide on your timeline? Are you adding in any “cushion time” in case things don’t go quite as planned?


Mrs. Sundae

Chicago/Lake Geneva, WI
Wedding Date:
September 2008
Dance With My Dad
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  1. Member
    jma19 496 posts, Helper bee @ 4:36 pm

    I think having the ceremony start when you are is good since the sun won’t actually be setting behind you since you’re on the western side of Lake Michigan. That way there will be a little more light when you start, and hopefully you’ll get some really cool reflections off the clouds that could make for an amazing backdrop.

  2. Guest Icon Guest
    May, Guest @ 4:58 pm

    ohhh those pictures are dreamy!!!

  3. Guest Icon Guest
    SRC, Guest @ 5:01 pm

    Keep in mind that the “sunset” time is the time that the sun has actually gone below the horizon and you can’t see it anymore (except for the ambient light). So the sun will probably be pretty low anyway during your ceremony depending on where it is and the time of year and whatnot. It will probably end up being “at sunset” in the pretty picture, traditional sense of the phrase 🙂

  4. Guest Icon Guest
    endb, Guest @ 5:20 pm

    our timeline was dictated by the fact that I didn’t want to be eating dinner super late. So our ceremony is at 5:30, cocktails immedately following for 1 hr, dinner should be served by 7:30. All formalities should be wrapped up and dancing underway by 9, reception over by 11:30.

    the down side to all of this is that I now realize it will be full-on daylight for our photos…I was hoping for more of a sunset vibe too. Oh well.

  5. Guest Icon Guest
    Michelle, Guest @ 5:58 pm

    Great timeline. I worked on mine yesterday and got some great suggestions from girls on theknot regarding the order of my events. My final draft looks similiar to yours!

  6. Guest Icon Guest
    GetMarried4Less, Guest @ 7:45 pm

    since we absolutely have to start our recption before 2pm in order to qualify for lunch prices, I decided to set the ceremony time for 11am. this way if something goes wrong, if things start late, we should still make it to our banquet center in plenty enough time before 2pm.

    currently, our reception is scheduled to start at 12:30pm.

  7. Guest Icon Guest
    lil pinkie, Guest @ 8:57 pm

    Everytime I see the picture of the sundae on the blog it makes me hungry!! haha Just had to share 😛

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