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 less than 60 miles from Washington D.C, Charlottesville, Fredericksburg and Middleburg

Your Wedding Venue in Northern Virginia

  • Writer's pictureIsadora Martin-Dye

Timelines - where to begin

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

For those who aren't yet a Rixey Bride or Groom, we have a private group where brides can ask me and each other questions. Anything from "Where did you get your shoes?" to "How much alcohol do we get?" are fair game. Recently, when I asked what the number one question our brides wanted help with was, they all screamed "TIMELINES!"

While I'll be addressing our specific venue, there are many things that can be transferred to wherever you're getting married. When planning your timeline, starting is often the hardest part. Most people begin by deciding what time they want the ceremony to begin, but I recommend a different approach: start at the end and work backwards.

Here are some questions to get you started, working backward. Below is a clear timeline for your wedding day:

- Decide on a realistic bedtime for you and your husband. We suggest 12 PM, considering it's going to be a long day.

- Plan your last shuttle to leave at 10 PM, to give you enough time to wind down with selected guests.

- Keep the dancing going for about 2 hours, which means the party should start at 8 PM.

- Deduct 2 hours for dinner, speeches, cake cutting, and first dances. This means the formalities should start at 6 PM.

- Deduct 1.5 hours for cocktail hour, photo sessions, and seating arrangements. This means the guests should arrive to cocktail hour by 4:30 PM. This can be reduced to an hour if you do a first look.

- Deduct the ceremony time, which is usually around 30 minutes. So, if you want to start the ceremony at 4 PM, plan accordingly.

- If you're planning to do a first look, it should be finished by 3 PM. This way, guests won't see you before the ceremony. Plan 30 minutes for pre-ceremony wedding party pictures and 30 minutes for pre-ceremony family photos. Get ready by 1:30 PM.

- Plan half an hour for pictures of getting ready and putting on the dress. This includes pictures of everyone in robes, etc.

- Consult your vendors for the time it will take for hair and makeup.

Once you have a rough idea of how your day will go, you need to consider the details. Traditionally, the 2-hour dinner/speeches usually follow a specific order—announcement of the wedding parties, first dance, dinner, speeches, cake cutting, father/daughter dance, mother/son dance—then the party. However, you don't have to do all of these or follow that order. The cake cutting is the hardest to move because it's a signal that the formal part of the wedding is over, but please don't hold your guests hostage by keeping the cake cutting until the end of the night.

Now, here's where it gets specific to Rixey. It doesn't matter what you do at sunset, but there are things you shouldn't do during that time, such as seating for dinner, eating dinner, or making speeches. These activities won't allow you or your guests to take outside photographs. While this provides you with a good starting point, your photographer and caterer will have their own thoughts.

The attached image shows a beautiful sunset rooftop ceremony.

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