Reasons to start your wedding ceremony on time

Reasons to start your wedding ceremony on time | Julie Muir Celebrant

There are lots of wedding traditions I am not a big fan of like tossing the garter and sitting at a sweetheart’s table.

But the tradition I like the LEAST is that ceremony can start late cause the bride (or groom) can arrive as late as they want. This is one urban myth that needs to be squashed.

5 reasons to start your wedding ceremony on time

  1. Your ceremony will be better for it

Australians arrive early to weddings. If the invitation says 3pm, you can bet that the guests start arriving at the venue from 2.30pm. I very rarely see a guest arrive late. So if you arrive 30 mins late and the ceremony starts at 3.30pm instead of 3pm, you can bet that most of the guests will have been waiting for an hour already at that point.

It’s not good for them and it’s not good for your ceremony. Before the celebrant has even had a chance to wow the crowd with their well-written and witty ceremony, the majority of the guests will already be ‘over it’. Trust me on this. The celebrant will have to work extra hard to keep them engaged. You want them listening during the ceremony not thinking ‘my feet hurt from standing in these ridiculously high shoes’, ‘where’s the toilet?’, and ‘am I getting sunburnt?’, or ‘when can I get to the bar for a drink?’.

  1. Your partner will be grateful

His or her mates will no doubt be making jokes to wind them up for every minute you are late. Of course they know you are coming. Your wedding isn’t a Julia Roberts’ movie. But still the person standing at the top of the aisle feels lots of unexpected emotions on the wedding day and you don’t really want to add to their nerves. Start your marriage right by being kind to them and not making ‘em sweat unnecessarily.

  1. Avoid the bridezilla tag

No-one wants to be perceived as rude, arrogant or entitled…..or worse a bridezilla. They won’t say it to your face, but believe me, that’s what the guests will be thinking if you arrive late.

  1. You don’t want to eat into your photos or party time

The wedding day has so many elements. It’s tough to cram it all in. When you arrive late to the ceremony, it throws the whole timeline off for all the vendors. The photographer will be sweating about getting the best bridal party photos before the sun goes down.  They may even have to skip some of the family photos. Also cue frantic running around behind the scenes to delay the canapes and starter.

You will still want the speeches, the cake-cutting, the first dance etc so where you will really feel the pinch from starting late, is at the end of the night, when you are enjoying yourself on the dance floor and the venue tells you it’s all over red rover! Believe me when I say, you’ll regret starting the ceremony late then.

  1. Your Celebrant might charge you

Your celebrant might have another wedding to get to. Popular celebrants do more than one ceremony in a day. They always leave a buffer but you’ll be putting them in a very awkward situation if you arrive very late and presume they have nowhere else to be. At worst, they will have to cut your ceremony short. At best, they will stay but probably charge you a late arrival fee. Make sure you know the details of your service agreement and have an honest conversation with your celebrant about the likely ceremony start time.


How late is too late to start your ceremony?

I think starting the ceremony anything UP TO 15 mins late is acceptable. Anything more than that is inadvisable.

My advice is to aim to arrive at the venue on time. Generally it takes about five to ten minutes to get the guest to move closer to fill all the seats and to get both sides of the bridal party sorted before the processional song can be played.

Everyone needs to be out of the car, lined up in the correct order and have time for last minute re-adjustments like giving the dress one last fluff, fixing a skewed bowtie or a drooping boutonniere.

Then you need time to take a deep breath, settle the nerves, and take it all in.

So aim to be on time, and it will realistically start 10 mins later.



  • Give someone in your bridal party the task of being across the timeline. This is not a job you want to be worrying about on the day. Delegate it to someone responsible, not your best friend that you love but who is late for everything! When you are getting ready, someone should announce to the room that it’s 1 hour to go, 30mins to go, 10 mins till you leave, so that everyone is on the same page.


  • You’ll want lots of time for photos when everyone has their hair and make-up done. Let’s be honest, this is the time of the day when everyone is looking their best and it’s downhill after that as lipstick slides off despite the make-up artist swearing it is long-wear!


  • Everything will take longer than you think, especially leaving the room where you got ready and getting to the venue. Don’t underestimate how long it takes to get a group of people into and out of a car, especially your great aunt Thelma who just wants to get one last photo of her darling on her IPAD. Double your estimate if there are children in the bridal party.


  • If you travelling by car- add a 15-20% buffer for traffic delays (especially if you are getting married on the Central Coast- it just takes one car crash to cause major delays in that area). If you are travelling to the ceremony in a Vintage car, Kombi, Hummer or Limo, factor in that they travel slowly.



time to marry

What to do if you are more than 15 mins late for your wedding

If you are going to be late, get a message to the rest of the bridal party and the celebrant who is waiting at the venue.  This simple act will alleviate a lot of stress for all involved. The celebrant’s phone will be on silent so call someone who will likely answer. Maybe tee this up with the MC for the night that they are on standby for any last minute emergency calls.

Finally, if you are late for whatever reason and you can’t do anything about it, try not to stress and let it ruin your day. Everyone will wait 😉

keep calm and enjoy your wedding

Photographer Ben Howland has written a great article on planning your wedding day timings. 

If you prefer to listen to you content instead of reading it, you can listen to me talk about why you should start your ceremony on time instead.

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