Wedding Traditions

“Oh the day goes so fast!”
Whether you’ve been engaged for 2 years or 47 seconds you’ve likely heard this all too overused cliché.
Yes, your wedding day will go past even faster than the maid of honour when the free bar opens.

However, having performed at over 300 weddings I can vouch for the fact that there is A LOT of wasted time at weddings that could so easily be saved just by dropping a whole bunch of things that people feel they to do.

I’m not suggesting that you have to do all or even any of these however if you’ve been concerned about your day being over in what feels like a blink then it’s worth a read.

This isn’t to say I’m against these things but I personally think that some of them aren’t necessary.

Most of you are going to hate me after reading the second one….

1. Ditch the receiving line

The receiving line, for those of you not aware, is when all of the top table line up and greet every single guest as they enter for the wedding breakfast.

When you factor in both the logistics of setting it up and then the process itself it takes easily half an hour.

And what have you gained?
Just the guarantee that you’ve said hello to every guest.

Now whilst I realise there is some importance to that I also think in the time you’d save by not doing it you’d get more chance to speak to more guests anyway.

PLUS, it’s a fairly boring process for everyone waiting in line too.

This is definitely a wedding tradition that can easily be dropped – I’m already nervous about you reading number 2…

2) Drop the endless group shots

I can already feel the daggers being thrown my way.

Yes, I know it’s rare to have so many close friends and family together.

I am also aware that you want to capture these moments and of course you have every right to and I’d never say that you shouldn’t do that.

I actually think that one of the most important parts of the day is the full group photo where every single guest is present.

Outside of that group photos can easily be kept to 10 minutes.

To help keep the time to a minimum get the Ushers or Bridesmaids to do a job on the day by organising this.

Don’t be afraid to hand someone confident a list and round the photographees (is that a word?) up – your photographers will thank you for it as well.

You could well be thinking that I’m being an idiot because you want photos of your guests all together.

But I’d then ask you this, which you would prefer?

A series of posed, awkward photos of groups of your friends and family.
Candid, relaxed photos of your guests laughing, smiling and enjoying your day?

When doing loads of group shots you’ll basically have to be in EVERY one which takes your time away from the wedding and your guests.

A good documentary photographer will capture these moments particularly ones who exclusively shoot with two photographers.

3) Dull drinks receptions

The drink’s reception (sometimes called the cocktail hour) is typically 2 hours long.

Most couples seem content to abandon their guests for over an hour of this to have their couple shots taken.

When I say abandon I don’t mean throw overboard but I do mean leave them with just canapes and drinks and nothing to occupy them.

This tradition of dull drinks receptions needs to be put to rest.

This is your chance to make your day, fun and memorable and stand out.

Arguably this part of the day is when entertainment is truly needed the most.

As a professional wedding magician I’m obviously going to recommend close-up magic and mindreading as an idea but caricaturists, circus acts, human hedges, samba bands, acoustic duos are all smart ideas to liven up proceedings and set the perfect atmosphere for your day.

4) Cut the cake cut

I spoke to a lot of my wedding supplier colleagues for their opinions on things to remove – the cake cut was far and away considered the “biggest waste of time”.

I fully understand you wanting to make a real show of your cake having quite possibly have invested a week, a fortnight or even a month’s wages into it.

But like the receiving line this is one thing where the logistics of it really outweigh the benefits.

I’m not for one second advocating the complete removal of the cake cut but I think can and should be done differently..

An elderly guest might take a photo they’re unlikely to ever look at photo again.

They’re much more likely to appreciate your photographer’s professional photo in an online or physical photo album.

Here’s my advice – you may love or hate this idea but it WILL save you time at your wedding,

  • Have your beautiful cake openly on display as guests enter your wedding breakfast.
  • Somewhere guests can stop and take a photo if they wish.
  • Do NOT put it in a place which will cause a bottleneck!
  • Then do your cake cut as you enter the wedding breakfast.

Just a whistle-stop posed photo done by your photographer

Rather than you and your partner stood awkwardly holding a knife together for 10 minutes.

As a compromise on this you could tell guests as you enter that you’ll be doing the cake cut.

This means that the very few people who want to capture a blurry photo on their iPhone 4 can do so.

Rant over on cake cuts but there’s still more to come….

5) Looooooooooooooooong speeches

The speeches can and should be some of the most fun, hilarious, emotional, moving and memorable parts of the wedding day.

But they don’t need to be long to achieve this.

Give people a 5 minute limit – this is more than enough to achieve all of this.

Which means you can stop…….

6) Men only speeches!

Last time I checked it’s the 21st century so the outdated idea that speeches should be only by the Best Man, Groom, and the Father of Bride is so outdated.

Maid of Honour speeches are becoming increasingly popular and are usually bloody hilarious.
I am looking forward to the first time I hear a highly embarrassing mother of the groom speech – can you imagine?

Let them women have their say!

7) Bye bye Bouquet throw

Bit of harmless traditional fun or a waste of 20 minutes whilst you try and get all the unmarried women together to do something that they’re not going to stick to anyway.

8) Wedding Favours

This is more of a time saver in the lead up to the day but no-one remembers 20 minutes after seeing them let alone at any point after the wedding.

Save the time before.

Save the money or perhaps use the money you were going to spend by putting a drink behind the bar for each guest instead!

9) Ditch distant relatives

Not only does each guest cost you money in terms of food, drink, stationery etc but they also cost you your time on the day.

You are going to feel obliged to speak to each guest on your day.

It’s just human nature.

Unless you’re a sociopath, you’re not a sociopath are you?

It’s traditional to get the whole family together for weddings but families are bigger than ever.

The question is, do you really need to be inviting all those relatives to the daytime.

Your mum’s cousin who you never see, couldn’t he be just an evening guest?

Your partner’s great aunt who will just complain about everything anyway – does she need to come at all?

If any guests are being invited because you feel like you should be inviting them then the chances are then you shouldn’t be.

This will give you more time to spend with the guests that you WANT to spend time with.

And possibly most controversially….

10) Sack off the seating plan

It’s one of the most feared wedding planning jobs so why not just not have a table plan.

This is REALLY easy to do if you’re having an informal buffet, hog roast or street food meal.

You just let people sit with whomever they’d like to sit with,

It’s less easy with a 3 course sit down meal because the venue’s/caterer’s servers need to know where the food is going.

One plan is to get people’s names and menu choices printed on a card, guests pick this up on their way into the wedding breakfast and then just sit where they want.

This means you don’t have to do a table plan.

Guests end up next to the people they want to be with.

If your table plan is stressing you out then this is something to discuss with your venue/caterer to see if ditching it would be a possibility. 

The HUGE bonus of this is that rather than guests spending ages trying to find their seats they sit down wherever they please which will happen much much quicker.

And finally…..

(And I’m running for cover after writing this one)

11) Stop being fashionably late

Your day has been meticulously planned down to the finest detail and then the bride is then 20 minutes late.

A bride being late can be for any number of reasons, some may be out of their control but sometimes it is utterly avoidable.

Your wedding planners/venue coordinators will be able to work timings around this sort of thing but essentially it’s your own time that you end up losing.

Would you rather be at home scrutinising a single strand hair being out of place and panicking that the other set of earrings would look better?
Would you rather those 15 minutes you’re wasting were actually 15 minutes longer you got to spend with your partner, your friends, your family and everyone that loves you?

I’d never criticise anyone for wanting to look their best for their wedding day but don’t sweat the small stuff because everyone just wants to see YOU!


I’m well aware that I’ve said some controversial and close to the nerve things in this blog.

But let me be clear.

The most important thing for you and your partner to do is to have the wedding that is right for you.

If that means that you MUST have the receiving line (for example) then so be it but just be aware that every minute that’s spent doing something is a minute that can’t be spent doing something else.

Although it is your wedding day and it’s an immensely special occasion it’s still just got 24 hours in it.

That’s 1440 Minutes.

Or 86400 seconds.

And that’s the cold hard truth of why I’ve written this blog.

Your wedding day has 86400 seconds and I’d dearly love for you and your partner to make the most of and LOVE all 86400 of them.

About the author

Chris Piercy is a professional wedding magician based in Dorset, he has written a best-selling book on how to be stress-free during your wedding planning and co-hosts “Yes to I do” one of the World’s top 10 Wedding Planning Podcasts.

If you’d like to find out more about what Chris can do to help make your wedding day perfect by performing at your special day then please the wedding page of this website by click the button below.