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Do Weddings Start On Time? [When Should Everyone Arrive?]

Whether you are a guest or the bride to be, you’ll likely want to know whether weddings typically start on time. Nobody wants to be that person who rocks up late, or causes a scene. And if you are the bride, then your arrival is… quite a big deal.

So, do weddings start on time? Most weddings do start on time, particularly those that are held in a church. However, there are benefits to starting 15 minutes later than the time you specify on your wedding invitations. This ensures all guests arrive on time and there are not any last-minute arrivals

In fact, I actually surveyed 28 brides on the topic.

I wanted to find out exactly how many weddings went according to schedule.

And what’s better than a sample on weddings that have already taken place.

After polling the brides, here is what the research showed:

Started On Time15
Started Late3
Started Early4
Not Sure6
Grand Total28

Or, expressed differently:

54% of weddings started on time!

At least in this sample size.

But that’s certainly the majority.

And of course, not all brides made note of the time when it all started.

6 were not sure.

It’s fair. They had other things going on.

But we can logically assume that at least 3 of them did start on time.

Which boost the numbers further.

So it is fair to conclude, weddings do tend to start on time.

Let us now take a closer look at the timeliness of a wedding.

Starting with when everyone should begin to arrive.

What Time Should You Arrive At A Wedding

The time you should arrive at the wedding will generally depend on who you are! Guests, for instance, will need to arrive at a different time to those in the bridal party. And then there are even nuisances there too.

Neverthless, proper timing etiqute is essential for a wedding.

However you are looking to attend, it’s essential that you are punctual and arrive when expected.

So, let us now take a closer look at when each particular attendee should look to arrive:

  • Ushers – the first to arrive, up to an hour before the start of the ceremony. Ushers will help prepare the venue, help people park, greet guests upon arrival, and show guests to the seats so they need to arrive sufficiently early!
  • Groom and Groomsmen – around 45 minutes before the start of the ceremony. Here they can have photos taken with the rest of the groom’s party.
  • Bride – 5 minutes to 15 minutes before – depending on whether the bride is arriving for the start of the ceremony or a little earlier to take pictures.
  • General Guests – 15-30 minutes before the start time – as stated on the wedding invitation.

Of course, there are always going to be personal circumstances that may impact when everyone does, and can arrive.

That being said, there are general expectations, and the more formal the ceremony, the higher the importance it will be to stick to the schedule!

What Is A Good Time For A Wedding To Start?

A good time for a wedding to start is one that will allow sufficient time for everything to flow well and naturally. It will afford everyone sufficient time to get ready, get to the venue, and take their place.

It will of course come down to context and circumstances, but for those looking to have a morning ceremony – one that starts at around 11 a.m. generally works well.

Depending on travel arrangements, this will mean that it shouldn’t be too early of a start for everyone, particularly the bride who will likely want to spend some time doing her hair and makup.

At 11 a.m. it should also be nice and bright for the ceremony itself, although this is somewhat outside of your control – especially depending on the season and the weather for the particular day.

For an afternoon wedding, a ceremony that starts at around 2 p.m is commonly recommended.

This way, it gives plenty of additional time in the morning, without starting to late.

Remember, a wedding day is a long one. Attendees, and guests, are unlikely to have eaten much.

So, the longer they have to wait around for the wedding breakfast, and what could be their first real meal of the day, is not ideal.

Regardless of whether it is a morning or afternoon ceremony, what is important is that a balance is struck between having sufficient time without overestimating and leaving too much time that the timeline suffers as a consequence.

For this reason, a wedding planner can be a great resource here, providing their knowledge, expertise, and experience to help ensure the timeline is organized, and planned, appropriately.

Wedding Invites – Arrival Time or Event Time?

If you are the couple, and in the process of organizing your wedding invitations, you may be wondering how to approach them.

Should you put down the actual ceremony time, or should you give the guests some extra lee-way here?

Well, there is not a simple or straightforward answer here. You’ll often see and hear different recommendations based on where you look or whom you speak with.

On the one hand, there is the argument that you should not give your guest an arrival time.

Instead, you only specifiy on your invite when the ceremony is due to start.

Here, the logic suggests that people will get to the venue a little bit earlier. To give them time to take their seats etc.

However, we all know what some people are like.

And then there is the added pressure of looking nice for a wedding which can cause last-minute stress and panic and delays people further.

They may not be familiar with the parking, the venue, then they may want to go to the toilet ahead of the ceremony.

So it stands to question whether everyone is going to be as punctual as required.

The other recommendation, therefore, is to put down a time somewhat before you are due to start the ceremony. Say 30 minutes before.

Those in this camp will say that it gives additional time to factor in all these little delays.

It also prevents anyone from causing a scene, albeit inadvertently, if they were to arrive late. Or risk not being let in and missing it altogether.

Problem is, if your guests are punctual, they could be hanging around a long time.

And we all know people who are even more punctual than they need to be.

So in reality, it’s certainly a tricky one and can lead to confusion on what to do.

From researching around, and speaking to a number of experts on the topic, however, here is what you should probably do.

Meet somewhere in the middle.

Put down on your wedding invites a smaller amount of additional time – around 10-15 minutes.

It tends to work out for both extremes, relatively well.

It will of course depend a lot on your own circumstances.

How many people are invited, what the venue is like, what is parking like, the weather (the season), etc?

You do need to take all these factors into consideration.

Waiting around will be better for the guests in the height of the summer, than the winter for instance.

Nevertheless, affording some additional time is generally better than not providing enough.

Or at the very least, being very clear on the time you are intending to kick off.

Maybe even adding a note to the RSVP page or wedding website about the punctuality your guests will need to follow.


Weddings do generally start on time and many brides can attest to it.

54% of our studied sample, in fact.

For this reason, it is essential that you are punctual at a wedding – arriving when you are to be expected.

Of course, this will differ depending on who you are and in what capacity you will be attending.

Ultimately, the communication the couple sends out before the big day, is certainly paramount.

It should be clearly stated. Everyone needs to be made aware. And it should be a consistent, reliable message.