After meeting with hundreds of brides and grooms, a few questions that seemed to always come up: “What is a good time to start and end my wedding?” AND “how long do most weddings usually last?”. Many couples are unfamiliar with the planning and preparation for their wedding, since this is usually their first time doing so. Our Los Angeles Wedding DJs have planned thousands of weddings and have advised all of our couples on timeline structure and the duration of the event.
Most people feel that a wedding is a huge party that should go all night long and the music should never stop. Although it is true that it’s a big celebration of a couple’s unity and two families joining together, there is much more to it than that. Unlike a simple birthday party, graduation party or similar event, a wedding typically has many more elements and activities to it that need to be timed properly and have the all participants ready and in their proper places.
Weddings generally start later in the day (around 4pm), so you get those beautiful photos in the daylight but don’t burn up when the sun is at it’s hottest. This makes for a perfect time to have the ceremony, especially if it is being held outdoors. This is when everyone – especially coming from the perspective of being in a suit and tie – can still sit and enjoy the Bride & Groom’s vows and the “first kiss” as married couple.
Generally, after the ceremony concludes, the event continues with cocktail hour , then the reception begins, followed by the grand entrance of the wedding party, the first dance for the newlyweds, and then dinner. It’s pleasing to have the sun cascading as you’re mingling with your guests and eating a delicious catered meal. Depending on the time of year, after the couple has had a chance to enjoy the food and say hi to a most of their friends and relatives they are taken away by the photographers to take some sunset pictures and get those amazing shots of the sun dropping behind the horizon as they share a kiss. Keep in Mind: In the middle of the summer, the sunset times are later, so generally the photo session for sunset is pushed back until after dinner, toasts, and the first few special dances (Father/Daughter & Mother/Son).
Once all the guests are pleasantly stuffed and they’ve had some cocktails, the night usually progresses to toasts/speeches, followed by special dances, usually we start with the “Parent Dances” (the Father/Daughter and Groom/Mother or Mother/Son Dances) and then the night starts to focus more on the dancing. In our experience, guests feel more inclined to dance once it begins to get darker on the dance floor.
Our LA Wedding DJs really like to pack the dance floor, so we try to play our Bride & Groom’s requests, including a vast array of modern hits, classics and any songs we know will get everyone to join in, but the wedding activities do not stop there. We still have cake cutting, bouquet toss, garter removal and toss and many times the Bride & Groom like to take a moment, usually during the cake cutting, to say “thank you’s” to all of their guests and family. A Wedding is full of scheduled events and special moments that many clients forget about when thinking of the planning process.
For the couples who believe their guests can go all night, keep in mind that they have been there all day and night, sometimes it’s very hot, they’re stuffed and most likely had a few cocktails, or a lot in some cases! Also, you have friends and family of all different ages and the older guests and the children will most likely be heading home earlier than the rest. Your younger crowd will stay for dancing and keep the party going but you’ll notice a level of fatigue. The best DJ’s can keep the dance floor packed but we can’t do anything for tired feet and the heat created by the dance floor. People need breaks sometime.
At the end of your event there will be a “last dance”. That last song that everyone can soak up the night and really take in the last moments with the new couple and one more chance to Whoop & Holler and Cheer for the Bride & Groom and their new future together. For this, you want most of your guests to still be there. We’ve seen those situations where less than a handful of people remain and the last dance and grand exit is a bit lackluster, this usually happens because the couple wanted their wedding to last longer than it should have, and they milked the contracted time to the end, leaving them with only a few guests to send them off into married life. You want the night to end with a bang, on a high note! You want a venue full of people cheering you on as you ride away in a car, or board a shuttle with all of your closest friends and family. After a 6 hour day most people will feel exhausted, next, add hor’ d’oeuvres, drinks, a full meal, speeches, toasts and dancing…and EMOTION, lots and lots of emotion, and you’ve got a night that can drain even the best partiers. It’s a great idea to have a wedding full of fun activities and a packed dancefloor but be aware that if you go until the break of dawn you may not have anything left by the end. We suggest 6 hours for a full effect that leaves people wanting more but enjoying all they got from the night. As an example, Let’s assume a start time of 4:00PM, meaning you should start your Ceremony Prelude Music at 4pm, the Ceremony goes down the aisle at 4:30pm, the cocktail hour is at 5:00pm, the Reception begins at 6:00pm with Grand Entrance and First Dance occurring at approximately 6:15pm, and dinner service beginning at 6:30pm, toasts/speeches at 7:15-30PM, Father Daughter/Mother-Son Dances at 7:45pm followed immediately by Open Dance Floor, Cake Cutting at 8:30PM followed by Bouquet * Garter Toss, Open Dancing, Last Dance at 9:50PM, Sendoff at 10:00PM, End of a wonderful event! Obviously, the example here is a fairly light but typical wedding schedule, so if you have other things you’d like to do, like a Money Dance, Anniversary Dance, Slide Show, other special dances, speeches, or highlights…you may consider a 7 hour event, otherwise your dance time will be impacted, and you will have a very tight schedule.
Maybe you’ve been to a wedding in another part of the world that lasted until 5am, or your cousins wedding was an all nighted because “she married a middle eastern guy and they party all night”…Keep in mind, certain cultures have weddings that can last for several days and they plan celebrations that are expected to go on and on…if yours isn’t one of these, it’s OK! We guarantee if you book 6-7 hours with a great Wedding DJ, host great food and drinks, select a beautiful venue (which could very well be your own backyard), and hire a great staff, your wedding will seem like the greatest event in history, and certainly the greatest day of your life. Your friends and family will agree. We hope that our experience has helped you figure out the duration that makes the most sense and the best start and end times for your wedding and all the fun in between. Happy planning to you and yours!