Civil Ceremony Timings for the Big Day

Oak barn wedding venue

Oak barn wedding venue

If you and your partner are having a Civil Ceremony, which may not last as long as a church wedding, there are still timings to consider in order to ensure that the day runs smoothly. If the photographer takes too much time or the speeches are really long it can play havoc with the running order, so tell the relevant people how much time they have and give a timings list to the ushers or a couple of key guests so they can help keep things on track. Civil ceremonies take place at registry offices, venues that are approved by the local council such as hotels or stately homes, or a religious premises where the organisation has given permission and the premises has been approved by the local authority. This means that you can have the civil ceremony and the wedding breakfast at the same place rather than travelling between different venues, so it is one less thing to be worried about.

Here is an idea of a possible running order for your big day if you are having a Civil Ceremony. (If you are having a Church Ceremony see our other blog at )

11.30 guests start to arrive

12-12.15 ceremony starts

20-40 minute ceremony depending on the details of the service. A civil ceremony can include readings, songs or music, but must not have any religious element. You must exchange some formal wording if you’re getting married and you can discuss any other wording you want in the ceremony with the person conducting the wedding.You don’t need to exchange vows for a civil partnership, but you can do so if you wish. All of this will affect the length of time that the ceremony takes so it might be a good idea to have a rehearsal of everything just to be on the safe side.

1.00 drinks reception and photos. Allow a couple of hours for this and ensure that you give a list of shots that you want to the photographer in advance. Your ushers or key guests can also help to get people together for the photographs if they have a list too.

3-3.30 receiving line

3.35 Newlyweds to be announced into the room

3.36 – 5.00 wedding breakfast

5.05 cutting of the cake (optional timing)

5.10 speeches (45 minutes is average)

5.55 leave room and meet evening guests –this allows time for the room to be turned around and for the evening entertainment to be set up. If you or your guests are booked in to the hotel this also allows time to freshen up or change before the evening guests begin to arrive

6.55 guests return to room

7.05 cut cake (optional)

7.15 first dance


9-9.30 buffet to be announced

9.45-10.15 buffet is served

Second dance (try and get as many people on the dance floor first then start the dance, this will get the party going straight away)


12-1.00 carriages