What time do you put for the start time on the wedding invitation? Should you put something different for the invitation start time vs. ceremony start time? Why or why not?

In this blog post, we’ll tackle this tricky etiquette question so you know what time to put on your invitation for the start of your wedding ceremony.

by susan moyal

If you’re wondering whether you should put an earlier time on wedding invitations so guests aren’t late, you’re not alone. Bride-to-be, Katie, writes to us in our latest Ask Emmaline question about the invitation start time vs ceremony start time for her wedding. She’s wording her invites and wants to get it right. She says,

“Dear Emmaline, Should I put an earlier start time on our wedding invitations? I am putting together my wedding invites and I’m not sure what time to put down for our ceremony. I want our guests to be early and I don’t want them to arrive at the start time. What time do i put on invitations, the ceremony start time or arrival time?”

Great question, Katie! I completely understand factoring in everything possible when putting together your wedding invitations, especially for ceremony arrival timing.

Invitation Start Time vs. Ceremony Start Time

As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t put an earlier start time on the wedding invitations as your guests will feel misled. Most guests assume if the start time is 4pm, your ceremony will start at 4pm (or shortly thereafter, typically within ten minutes or so).

However, if you state an earlier time, guests will arrive even sooner, sitting around for longer than they need to. I’ve seen so much as a large buffer time of 30 minutes, which felt like a penalty to the guests who arrived on time. They had to sit and wait… and wait… not a good idea.

NOTE: If there is road construction impacting a major highway, a big event happening that weekend, busy holiday traffic, limited parking, etc., include a brief note on the wedding website and your guests will plan accordingly.

Add Buffer Time

Rather than putting an earlier start time on your invitations, do this instead: incorporate a ten to fifteen minute buffer time into your wedding day timeline on your end. This way, you won’t feel flustered if it does begin a bit late. (PRO TIP: This timeline creator makes it simple to make last-minute adjustments to your schedule and updates automatically. It’s basically magic.)

And don’t worry, many wedding ceremonies do not start promptly at the stated time. Guests expect as much as five to ten minutes from the official start time and will arrive early to take their seats per proper etiquette.

Plus, your invitation will state “Reception to follow” without an official start time, so no one will know if you’re slightly off-schedule.

Proper Wedding Etiquette on Arrival

Remember that most guests are apprised of proper etiquette, which dictates guest arrival to a wedding ceremony ten to fifteen minutes early. After all, no one wants to be the person showing up late especially when the music has already started.

by itsy belle studio

Women's Dresses

Your loved ones can be on time for other events in their lives — work, meeting, concerts — and I’m confident they’ll be on time for your wedding. 🙂

Lastly, your ceremony will most likely start on time and your guests will be prompt. Don’t sweat it so much!


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