When people ask “so when are you getting married?” they’re probably referring to the time of year of the calendar date, not the time of day. Most people don’t even think about time of day when they’re invited to a wedding. The late-afternoon ceremony, dinner reception is so commonplace that you may not have considered the rest of your time-of-day options. Here are some pros and cons of a wedding at each time of day (we’ve ruled out the midnight wedding in advance; if you work a night shift or all your friends are vampires, consider this your recommendation).
The wedding day is going to be filled with business and anticipation until the ceremony starts. So why not get the ceremony out of the way early, and get right to the fun part? A nine or ten o’clock ceremony gives you the opportunity for a brunch reception, and we all know that brunch is the best meal of the day.
- Pros: less downtime, good for guests with kids, Bloody Mary bar at the reception, delicious brunch food at the reception, rest of the day to party and/or relax.
- Cons: Getting up early, less time to prepare on the day of the wedding, night-owl friends will resent getting up early, early-day drinking could lead to 1) an all-day bender or 2) a nap and mid-day hangover.
If there’s no way your best man is rolling out of bed before nine, but you don’t have the budget for a full-meal reception, a ceremony at one or two o’clock might be the way to go. The mid-day option is especially good for outdoor ceremonies and receptions. You can have the ceremony, the party, and everyone can go home before dinner.
- Pros: No budget-busting meal, no late night for guests with children, easier than brunch for night owls, extended drinking/partying time.
- Cons: guests may feel slighted by the missing meal, difficult for guests to plan around, less likelihood of partying into the wee hours of the night.
This is the old standby, and for good reason. The timing tends to be more convenient for guests: the ceremony is at three or four o’clock, there’s a brief lull before the reception, then there’s the meal and dancing until nine-midnight (depending on the age and parental status of your guests). Venues may be a bit more crowded for this most popular time, but the rhythm of ceremony-dinner-party fits perfectly with wedding traditions. Children are a bit tricky at a dinner reception: usually the party starts around 7 p.m., and wee one’s bedtime is usually 7:30 or 8. Expect guests to bring children, but make an early departure.
- Pros: guests will be expecting it, full dinner for guests, plenty of time to prepare on the day.
- Cons: Venues may be full at that time, budgeting for a full dinner, tricky timing for kids.
For a more grown-up-centric wedding, consider starting after dinner. Why not have the ceremony at seven and the reception from eight-to-midnight? Instead of dinner, you’ll offer a cocktail hour with plenty of late-night snacks to keep the party going. A later start will allow parents the excuse to book a babysitter rather than try to tough out a dinner reception. What’s more, you can have the wedding on Friday night without making friends take a day off work to attend.
- Pros: no pricey dinner, easier to exclude kids, more availability at venues for Friday night, plenty of late-night party fun.
- Cons: Parents without babysitters may not attend, have to keep energy level up, older guests may check out early, late start on the honeymoon.
Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, there’s a perfect wedding time for you. Make sure to consider the convenience of your wedding hour for your guests, but in the end, it’s all about the wedding couple. Whether you want to get the hoopla over with and have a Bloody Mary or spend all day anticipating a chic after-wedding cocktail party, there’s more to picking a wedding time than just choosing a date on the calendar.