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How to plan your perfect evening timeline for your wedding!

Updated: Oct 21, 2023

After the wedding formalities and speeches are over, it's time to start the evening festivities. While it's important to have a rough timeline, keep in mind that things may not always go according to plan, especially with children and family around.

There are still several important moments left in the day, such as cake-cutting, the first dance, and the evening buffet, but the most important part (completely unbiased, we promise) is the entertainment!

Please note that timelines for your wedding's evening reception may be different, this is just to give you an idea of what to keep in mind! Your venue is likely to have their own recommendations of timings, but it's crucial to tailor them to what works for you as a couple too. As a Cheshire based wedding band who’ve played up and down the country and across the north-west UK, we’ve tried to outline the times as universally as possible!

As every wedding is unique, it's impossible to assign an exact time to anything. However, let's assume that the evening guests will arrive around 7 pm to 7:30 pm and that the festivities will continue until midnight. Here are some of the things you should keep in mind.

bridal party and groomsmen posing with the pedal tones' instruments

The bride and groomsmen become the band at The Holford Estate!

6:00 - 6:30pm - Room turnaround / band setup

Usually, by 6 or 6:30pm, your wedding breakfast as well as the speeches should be coming to a close - unless the best man has decided to deliver a 30 minute speech / stand up routine! 6pm is our standard arrival time - as it is for most bands and DJs performing for evening receptions. This is because it usually gives ample time for us to get into the space, set all the speakers up and perform a quick soundcheck before the evening guests arrive, which is usually between 7 and 7:30pm.

the pedal tones loading their equipment into colshaw hall

Setting up at Colshaw Hall

Separate rooms or one location?

Depending on your venue, your wedding breakfast may be served in a separate location to the evening’s proceedings. This allows a seamless transition between day and night, as it allows your band or DJ to get in the room and setup before the evening guest arrive, sometimes even whilst you are finishing up your meal. However, this is not always possible as it depends on your venue. Some venues have one location for both the day and night’s proceedings, and will need a chance to turn the room around for the evening.

This is an excellent opportunity for the entertainers to set up. If possible, guests should be directed to a bar area during this time, allowing the band or DJ to complete their setup and soundcheck. This will give guests some time to socialize before the party begins in earnest.This usually takes around 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the band and the location of the room.

Early arrival times

It's essential to note that some bands (particularly larger bands with more members) may take more than an hour to set up, so it's a good idea to confirm the set-up time before finalizing your schedule. This information is typically included in the booking confirmation email. Suppose you plan to have everything in one location and hire a band that requires 90 minutes to set up. In that case, it may be worth considering an early arrival time for the band.

Usually, bands charge an additional hourly fee for arriving earlier than their standard 5:30 pm to 6pm arrival time. Suppose you need the band to set up before the meal. In that case, it's advisable to inquire about this extra cost to avoid going over budget.

If an early setup is not feasible, it's not the end of the world. Bands such as ourselves often set up in a room filled with guests, especially at marquee weddings, where it's typical, and they usually go unnoticed. We usually keep the noise level low while setting up and require only a brief 10-minute soundcheck at the end of our setup. Although it may require some compromise, this approach is often the easiest and most cost-effective way to get things done.

7:00 - 7:30pm – Evening Guests Arrive and the Evening Officially Begins!

Now, it's time to kick off the party! Hopefully, everything is going according to plan. However, if things are running behind schedule, go with the flow – it's no longer under your control! As an experienced wedding band, we’ll try and catch things back up to time as best we can.

Most bands such as ourselves will include a free playlist for whenever they’re not on stage. This will help ease your guests into the party atmosphere! Otherwise, if you have a DJ (or booked our manned playlist service or even full DJ service) they can be ready to take requests from guests and help get the festivities started!

8:15pm – The Cutting of the Cake

Several wedding planners recommend cutting the cake fairly early on in the evening, usually shortly after the evening guests arrive, followed immediately by the first dance, as it helps transition things smoothly whilst you have the attention of your guests!

photo of the wedding cake and the pedal tones' instruments in the background at soughton hall, mold

Getting ready to cut the cake at the gorgeous Soughton Hall!

8:30pm – 9:10pm – First Dance and Band Set 1

While some couples enjoy showcasing their dance moves, others may find it daunting, especially if they lack confidence. If you're hesitant about dancing, you may be tempted to bring the cake cutting and first dance forward to 'get it out of the way'. However, if the band is performing the first dance, this leaves you with an early evening set, which, as any self-respecting musician will tell you, is usually best to avoid. Another tip here is making sure to ask your band to get your guests to join you on the dancefloor if you’re feeling particularly nervous. We usually recommend that this is done around the first chorus of your chosen song - this way, your chosen photographer has enough time to capture some great shots of you both on the dance floor before everyone else joins in!

first dance with the bride and groom in the foreground at merrydale manor

This is the party joining the bride and groom on the dancefloor at Merrydale Manor!

This is why we offer 3 x 40 minute set options instead of the typical 2 x 1 hour options - we find it’s best to have a couple of sets reserved for later in the evening whenever possible as it’s usually when the party is kicking off the most!

9:00 - 9:15 – Evening food

One important tip is to ensure that your band's performance does not interfere with your evening food service. No matter how skilled your wedding band is, we cannot compete with delicious food. If you are having an evening buffet, we recommend at least a 45 minute break for the band before starting the second set. This gives your guests time to grab some food, catchup, and get some drinks flowing to get the party really underway.

tasty treats at soughton hall, mold

Chocolate fountain at Soughton Hall - an awesome addition to the evening food!

This is a great time to use our free playlist service to get in songs you’d like to hear. Otherwise, if you’ve opted for a manned DJ service or full DJ service, we can pick tunes to keep your guests in the party mood!

10:00 - 10:40pm – Band set 2

Now it's time for the ultimate party experience – with hands in the air and air guitars at the ready, get ready to let loose and prepare for tomorrow's hangover. The second set is when the band truly shines, unleashing their biggest hits and ensuring an unforgettable night. Trust in their expertise and let them take the reins, so you can relax and fully enjoy the party.

bride singing along with the pedal tones singer at a wedding

One of our brides enjoying the party at Plas Dinam!

10:40 - 11:00 Band break

With spreading the music out over 3 x 40 minute sets, you’ve got time for some playlist music in the break or you can let you guests decide if you’ve gone for the manned playlist service!

11:00-11:40 Band set 3

After the band's final performance, you'll probably want to keep the party going until the last possible moment. If you have the budget, having the full DJ service is a great way to end the night with a bang. Another option that we offer is finishing the night as the live band - this is a great way to keep the energy going until the very last possible second, and leave all your guests with a lasting impression of the evening!

11:40 - 12 midnight

If you’re after some special songs to end the evening, this is the perfect place for them! Maybe there’s a family song that you will all get up and dance to. Maybe you want to finish on an absolute banger such as ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ to get everyone singing along at the top of their lungs.

end of the night crowd photo at a wedding

Midnight – Carriages

Nowadays, it's common for the newlyweds to stay until the end of the reception and not leave early, as it used to be. The majority of venues have a midnight end time due to sound restrictions, but some may offer a 1am finish for an extra charge. We can match this with our extended playlist service which can be added on at any time!

While these tips are useful to consider, remember that each wedding is unique and there may be other factors to take into account. Don't stress too much and enjoy your special day, going with the flow! Don't forget to check out our other blogs for more tips and advice, and get in touch if you have any specific wedding music planning questions, we're always happy to help!

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