Start your day
It’s nice to wake up where you’ll be getting ready. Whether that’s at home or a hotel, it should be within easy striking distance of the wedding venue. Have a good feed to power you through the day. It could be a solitary affair to collect thoughts before the main event or a good moment to meet up with your best man, groomsmen and father to chill before things get hectic. For a morning ceremony, still allow a good two to three hours to fit in a decent bite to eat and time to get ready.
Calm before the storm
If timing permits, you may want to take advantage of the downtime to do something with your wedding posse. Massages at the hotel, an hour at a spa or a round of mini golf, perhaps. Just choose something with zero likelihood of injury, sunburn or excessive drunkenness.
2 hour countdown
If they didn’t join you for brunch, the men of the wedding party should all be with you by now. Corralling everyone together is a nice bonding experience and serves the practicality of having everyone present and accounted for. That way, boutonniéres (the fancy French word for ‘flowers pinned to jacket lapels’) and wedding transport can arrive at the one location. You might want to get the photographer along for candid, ‘behind-the-scenes’ snaps, also.
45 minute countdown
Leave adequate time to get to the venue. A buffer of around 20-30 minutes prior to the ceremony should cover any minor delays and allow time to mingle with guests as they arrive. Pre-time the trip and make allowances for potential traffic snarls and the likelihood that you won’t get on the road exactly to schedule. Just make sure the best man has the ring and that you arrive before the bride…
5 minute countdown
All going well, you’ll be at the venue. Odds are you’ll be the centre of attention and possibly a little giddy or dry in the mouth. Nerves are to be expected. Try not to watch the clock—every minute the ceremony runs late will feel like an hour. There’s nothing to practice or rehearse right now, so stay and mingle. Someone—often the celebrant or best man—will give you the heads up when it’s time to take your place.
As you stand at the altar, let all else wash away as you take a good look at the lady in white, stay calm, revel in the moment. The most important thing is to listen to the celebrant who’ll guide and prompt you through the service. Put heart and soul into the vows and look at your bride as you do the ‘I do’.
1 minute P.M. (post marriage)
You’re mobbed by bleary-eyed aunts and well-wishers outside the venue telling you how smart you look and how wonderful the ceremony was. Lap it up.
15 minutes P.M.
As the commotion dies down, guests will disperse to the reception while the main players—the newlyweds, wedding party and parents—will be required for a photo shoot, so don’t go anywhere.
Arriving at the reception
Many receptions kick off right after the ceremony, others may be a couple of hours later. Whenever the time comes, the couple and their parents customarily ‘receive’ guests, much in the same way the royal family stands in line and shakes hands with subjects at official functions. Keep the line moving and avoid the temptation to get chatty—a quick exchange of pleasantries will do for now.
The guests, who have been milling around supping on champagne and hors d’oeuvres until now, are seated as the bridal party enjoys refreshments. Once they are settled, the bridal party is presented to the room and takes their seats, finishing with the bride and groom.
Time to top up on sustenance as the entrée and main course are served.
After the plates are cleared, the MC gets the toasts rolling. Traditionally he’ll introduce the father of the bride who is followed by the groom, then bride and best man. Who speaks and in what exact order is a matter of preference. Just so long as you know where you fall in the lineup…
Cutting the cake
Convention says the bride holds the knife with the groom’s hand on top and they then share a slice. Now’s probably not the time for a food fight—wedding dress + cake = tears.
The newlyweds go solo for their first dance as man and wife. They’ll then be joined by the bridal party and parents before other guests filter onto the floor.
For the groom, the customs and formalities are done. Dance the evening away, catch up with old acquaintances or just love yourself sick.
It’s customary for the newlyweds to be the first to leave. When they’re ready to split, the bride may toss her bouquet to the female guests. Superstition has it that whoever catches it is the next one to be marched up the aisle.
Cue more mobbing as final farewells are shared. Depending on the next destination—hotel, home or airport—the couple may elect for a change of clothes before heading off to consummate the marriage… or fall asleep exhausted.