How To Get Wedding Guests To Arrive On Time What Time To Put On The Invitations

In a book written by a celebrity wedding and event planner it is stated that “the time you put on your invitations should always be thirty minutes before your ceremony will start”. My daughter is adamant that her ceremony start precisely at 5:30. We were assuming the guests will arrive shortly before then and be seated by 5:30. Parking is not an issue, the location is in a city that is easy to get around and most guests are local.

The rabbi has suggested putting “guests begin gathering at 5:00 and the ceremony will be at 5:30”. This will not fit on the invitations unless it is in very small font, but it could be done. What are your thoughts on getting guests in place by 5:30 ON THE DOT? The bride does not want any stragglers wandering in during her vows! Does everyone expect the bride to walk down the aisle late?

photo credit: vonderauvisuals via photopin cc
photo credit: vonderauvisuals via photopin cc

Donna, Wedding Queen

When we print the time on an invitation, we do so to let guests know what time we expect them to arrive. There is no real way of getting all wedding guests to arrive on time for the wedding. There are sometimes those who are chronically late, or accidentally late, due to issues such as traffic. There is no way to avoid this and I don’t think you should be printing anything directly on the wedding invitations or on an enclosure. Doing so would insinuate to your guest that they don’t understand etiquette or are not mannerly. And, if you print the arrival time for 5PM and some guests arrive at exactly 5 (or even a few minutes before – if they want to be sure they are getting there on time) then you’ll have some irritated guests possibly feeling as though they are being punished because others cannot be respectful or mannerly.

I’d suggest sending the invitations out with the arrival time you expect and then start the wedding on time. If there are stragglers, you can have someone outside the church or venue (or in the hallway) instructing guests when best to enter so as not to disrupt. Have the usher seat them in the row behind the last filled row so as not to interrupt, call attention or hinder any other guests view.

If you feel really pressured to try to orchestrate the guests arrival, I suppose using the wording your Rabbi suggested in a separate enclosure could be the best way to try to achieve your goal.

No one (should) expect the bride to be late. I don’t know of any tradition like that.

Brandi Hamerstone,
Owner/Senior Wedding Planner All Events Planned

I agree with the previous answer but wanted to add a few pieces. The invitation should be stated as to the time the ceremony will begin. It never fails that there are always people who are late. They are held back by either an usher or someone at the church until an appropriate time arrives to allow them to enter into the church, without being seen or heard. The bride should walk down the aisle at the time that she is ready. If everyone isn’t there by 5:30pm, then it is her choice to either wait for more guests to arrive or to move ahead without them. Regardless of what time you put, someone will run late, just plan accordingly.
Asking people to come almost a half hour early is not proper, you will get the guests who will arrive even earlier to be on time, and then they will be sitting for over a half an hour, at the least, waiting for a ceremony to start.