I have previously written about timings and how crucial time considerations are to your whole wedding day in terms of ensuring that it runs smoothly. The time of your ceremony will dictate the entire day and I always advise that early is best, say, 11am, 12 midday or 1pm latest.
When I provide the Disco Entertainment at an evening wedding party, again, timings are important to get the best out of your wedding party. My advice is always to put on your evening wedding reception invitations for the guests to arrive at 7.30/8pm. Any earlier there is no gain and most evening guests, if invited to an evening party, would probably not turn up at 7pm anyway. The other issue is that even for a 1pm wedding ceremony, especially if not at the wedding reception venue, the sit-down timings for the Wedding Breakfast would be at 3.30/4pm and that’s if all goes to plan. The photographer has a big part to play in this as nearly every wedding that I provide the disco entertainment for tends to ‘run late’ and the blame always seems to be on the poor old photographer for taking so long with the all-important photos, or maybe because the bride and groom have gone down the beach, to a castle or whatever for photos and this hasn’t been factored in.
These photos are so important to capture the memories, so it’s always a clever idea to discuss your wedding day photo plans and locations with the photographer and then, with his or her advice you can both work out anticipated timings. This way, you can work out a realistic sit-down time for the wedding breakfast. So, the way it can go for a 12-midday wedding ceremony, even if the entire day is at one venue is, ceremony 12-12.30, drinks & canapes and chat, 12.30-1pm. Photos could take a while, but it’s reasonable to allow 2 hours for this, depending again on the location plans of the bride and groom. So that gives a 3pm sit-down for the wedding breakfast if all runs to plan, but 3.30pm gives a bit of a cushion. The average wedding breakfast with speeches is around two and a half hours, so with a 3.30pm sit-down from a 12-midday wedding all at the same venue with no travelling from church to venue needed, the approximate finish time is 6pm.
Now, when the speeches have finished, with most venues, the staff need to ask the guests to vacate their tables and retire to the bar so that they can clean the room and turn it around for the evening party. This can take a good half hour and as the DJ, I cannot access the area to where I am to set up my equipment until the venue has made space available and finished their cleaning. From when I can gain access, I need a good hour to hour and a half to set up from when my equipment is in the venue and I guess this would be the same for most DJ’s. So, if I can’t get in until 6.30pm, I won’t be ready until 7.30/8ppm for background music. All the above timings are based on a 12-midday wedding all at the same venue, so just work out how a 1pm or 2pm wedding may impact on your day, especially if travelling time is required from ceremony venue to the reception venue.
I always advise brides and grooms on what works best for their evening party, but I always go with the flow and do whatever they want. I offer advice and leave it to them to take on-board the bits they like, or not, as most couples don’t really think how the day will run as they don’t really know and why would they? So, to listen to advice and tips from the professional wedding service providers and family is important, but they always have licence to plan their wedding in whichever way they see fit. It is the bride and groom’s day, so whatever they want, they will have (within reason).
For the evening party, I always recommend that what works brilliantly and will give the bride and groom the best start to their evening party, is to have evening food as early as possible, so I recommend, evening party start 7.30pm, (background music as guests arrive and socialise) evening buffet, 8-8.15 (8.30 latest), allow about 45 minutes and we are ready for that all-important first dance at around 9-9.15pm. (Remember, the buffet is still out for guests to continue dining anyway as it stays out for around one and a half hours, but by now, most of the guests will have finished their food). From then, we have all the guests in the room watching the first dance and the impact from there on in works well as the DJ can ‘crank things up’ from that first dance whilst all the guests are there and engaged. That gives us a good 3 hours or so of partying with no interruptions to ruin the flow of the evening. Most couples agree with this and unless there are special reasons for doing the first dance early, like an elderly relative needs to go early, it is THE best start to the party with maximum impact.
However, and here’s my little rant, whilst most photographers are happy to want what is best for the bride and groom, the odd one can be quite selfish and try to force a first dance early, say at 7.30/8pm as they have ‘been there all day, it’s been a long day, they are tired and they want to go home’ as they are ‘only contracted until a certain time’, or whatever. It’s like, they’ve had their money, now they just want to go. Often, these photographers will pressure the bride and groom to force an early first dance so they can capture it, which is great, but most definitely to the detriment and impact of the fluency of the party.
Again, it’s always best to agree this with the photographer beforehand and advise him or her if you need them to be there for the first dance, (not always necessary as so many guests will capture this moment from many angles) that the first dance will be at around 9pm and I can guarantee that if he or she wants you to engage him, if this request is in the early days of your negotiating and before you actually book him or her, then he or she will agree no problem, or even agree to stay until the first dance for a small add-on fee which you can both agree on, depending on what the package is. Again, it’s all about the pre-planning of the minute details that will ensure your party is an enormous success.
This is a relatively minor consideration that can be so important. From that first dance, there is nothing in the way to prevent me as the DJ to keep the party flowing by programming the right music at the right time for the rest of the evening to keep the party atmosphere buzzing and the dance floor bouncing and therefore a very happy bride, groom and wedding guests.