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Kelly Hawes Celebrant Guest Blog - Top tips for a smooth Wedding Ceremony

Lots of couples overlook the choices available to them for their Ceremony, whether to have a Vicar, Registrar or a Celebrant for example. So it’s no surprise to me that couples don’t think much further about the Ceremony than what time to start and room décor.

Here’s my tips for key decisions that you should be aware of in order for your day to run smoothly;

Start Time

This is a big question and often will be a matter of preference for each couple – there is no right or wrong time to have your ceremony. To make a decision you need to consider your getting ready time in the morning and then the hanging around time between the ceremony, food and the evening guests arriving.

How long does it take to get ready? If you are a bride who wants hair and makeup done by a professional you need to think how long will they take – also factor in if any bridesmaids are having their hair and makeup done with you. You might be surprised how long this takes and it’s not uncommon for me to hear that a bride is getting up at 6.30am because hair and makeup are coming. I know it sounds early, but think about it – you need to work backwards. If you are planning a 12pm ceremony, maybe you need to leave at 11.30, which means you need to be ready at 10.30/11 for the photographer to get some group shots. This means EVERYONE needs to be ready and in one place by 10.30 (latest). If, say, 3 people are having hair and makeup done – this could be a good hour per person! This now gives you a starting time of 7.30am , but in reality you should give yourselves a bit more time just to be sure.

If you are a guy, or are not having professional hair and makeup done, you can probably work out the timings better yourself – but make sure you do not have to rush. Getting ready is as much a part of the excitement as the rest of the day and should be enjoyed.

Now think about your guests. How are you occupying them after the Ceremony? Again I will use 12pm as the Ceremony time. A Ceremony usually takes 30 mins, then there will be the immediate group photos, confetti shot and couple shots. So guests often expect some refreshments and maybe nibbles. So if you are not planning to sit down to eat until 5pm there’s quite a long wait between main events – think about what your guests might be expecting to do?

Once you have figured out a timeline that suits you, you will find that the day runs smoother for you. Some couples won’t want any down time and will go straight to the reception meal so a later ceremony will be required. If you are not having an evening reception then an early ceremony followed by a nice meal will work perfectly.

Ceremony Space

If you are hiring a licenced venue for your ceremony, there’s no doubt the team of venue staff will be quite seasoned in how the room should be set up. However, if you have any specific requirements please make sure to communicate this with them. Things like – are you in need of a table for the Registration signing, or if you are using a Celebrant is a table required for a Sand Ceremony or any other type of symbolic action taking place.

If you are having readers come to the front, think about where they will stand and make sure there is enough room for everyone.

Look at the width of the aisle and how many people need to fit (not to mention the size of the dress!). It is common for Brides or Grooms to be accompanied by both parents, or maybe even their children – make sure it is wide enough for you all to fit comfortably.

Of course, if you are having an outdoor ceremony the space can often be used in more unique set ups like arranging the chairs in a semi-circle.

Reserved Seating

Reserving seats is often overlooked at a Ceremony. Remember, whoever is making an entrance through the aisle will need somewhere to either stand at the front or sit in the front rows. It is important that these key people can be seated, and get to their seats with ease.

Not forgetting that you want your closest family at the front and maybe even guests who have difficulty with hearing.

Also make sure to leave a space for anyone in a wheelchair to sit with their family – rather than feeling left out and abandoned at the back of the room.

Guest Speakers

It’s always lovely to ask a special guest to perform a reading for you, it’s such a personal way to be involved. My biggest advice here is to make sure the person you ask is completely comfortable with public speaking. Believe me it is not easy to get up and speak in front of 50-100 people and there is nothing worse than listening to a very nervous reader.

Also remember to allow the guest lots of time ahead of the day to rehearse the piece they will read as this will definitely help with the nerves.


This is a point I always discuss with my couples. Of course it is your choice if you allow guests to take pictures or video on their phone throughout the ceremony and if this is your wish I will not stop you. BUT in my professional opinion, having 30 phones thrust up in the air as you make your entrance or make your heartfelt vows to each other can have a way of distracting everyone away from that special moment. Also think of guests sitting a few rows behind a phone – it’s amazing how a phone the size of your hand can actually block the view of the couple completely (it’s happened to me!), and there is nothing worse than not getting to see your best friends emotions throughout such a special occasion.

As well as this, if you have hired a professional photographer then I’m sure you have paid good money for them to capture the memories for you. The last thing you want to see is blurred screens of mobile phones in the background of your beautiful day.

Guest List

Here’s one topic which often starts many arguments! More so if you are on a tight budget. Think realistically about who should be at your Wedding. The ones you love the most must be included all day and then people you are not so close with could be on the evening guest list. There can be a lot of pressure from family to invite people you never see and this can be really hard. These type of decisions should be discussed by the pair of you at the earliest opportunity so that you can be firm as to who you should and should not invite to the wedding. If you are struggling - I love this flow chart (are you brave enough to use it!??)

I hope this blog has made you think beyond just booking your venue and adding some décor. The more organised you can be ahead of the day the better. In the case of hiring me as your Celebrant these details are always discussed ahead of the day so that I can oversee these all run to plan on the day.

If you are looking to hire a Celebrant in the Herts, Beds, Bucks area please get into contact with me:

Kelly Hawes

07827 927947


If you need more details a to what a Celebrant can offer on your big day please head over to my website www.kellyhcelebrant.co.uk