I am not sure when it became somewhat customary to fudge the time on invitations, but I am not a fan of this practice whatsoever. I have known couples who put as much as half an hour prior to the expected start time on their invitations. One couple deliberately ordered invitations that indicated the ceremony would start one-hour earlier than intended. This is dishonest and a good recipe for disaster and irritated guests!
Couples do this for a variety of reasons, and while I often understand the reasoning, I find it completely unnecessary and unkind to those who make an effort to arrive on time. The guests who show up at 3:45 expecting the wedding to begin at 4:00 when it is scheduled to begin at 4:30 are left with a 45 minute wait they do not deserve. When you consider the fact that most weddings begin about fifteen minutes late anyway, we're actually talking about a full hour of pre-ceremony twiddling thumbs and idle chit chat. I know of some guests who arrived "on time" only to find the venue was not even open yet and had to wait outside in the heat with nowhere to sit and nothing to do. Needless to say, they were not feeling particularly well disposed toward the couple by the time the ceremony began.
Unfortunately, some people are just going to be late no matter what time you put on the invitation. I have a great vantage point as an officiant and I see people slide into their seats after the ceremony has begun more often than not. You should not penalize your punctual guests to accommodate the late arrivals. If the ceremony is scheduled to begin at 3:30, print 3:30 on the invitations...and then strive for a 3:30 start time. If they miss the ceremony, they miss it. The people who respect your wedding as a meaningful occasion will make a point of arriving on time.
This leads me to another issue concerning punctuality and weddings. As mentioned, most do start a little late and that is to be expected. Sometimes unanticipated and reasonable delays occur beyond our control and we just have to adapt to the circumstances. However, most weddings that begin significantly late do so for some of the, quite frankly, dumbest reasons. I once had a wedding start 45 minutes late because the bride forgot her veil and sent someone home to get it. When she floated down the aisle my jaw just about dropped. It was a single narrow strand of soft tulle hanging straight down the back of her head that did not even show in pictures. My sister recently had a wedding start late simply because the bride couldn't get her act together and get dressed! Disorganization and/or a lack of urgency is the number one cause of substantially late weddings and can easily be avoided.
- hire a wedding planner or day of coordinator
- partner with your wedding professionals and build a realistic time line
- enlist the help of a hyper-organized friend or family member to keep you on track
- keep lines of communication with the wedding party and wedding professionals as open as possible for the 48 hours immediately prior to the start of the ceremony
- impress upon all involved (wedding professionals, wedding party, and guests) that punctuality ~ maintaining an appropriate sense of urgency, but not mania ~ is important to you
The couple is the center of attention the day of their wedding, and rightly so. But being the center of attention and the center of the universe are not synonymous. Other people's needs and schedules deserve consideration as well. Bear in mind that your decisions impact others and you should respect their time. That is one of the marks of a great host. As one of my favorite brides said, "I'm a hostess first, a bride second." Consequently, her wedding professionals gladly went above and beyond for her and the guests all had a blast!
“Arriving late was a way of saying that your own time was more valuable than the time of the person who waited for you.”
― Karen Joy Fowler, The Jane Austen Book Club