Before you can do pretty much anything with your wedding, you have to pick a date and time. The date and time of your wedding will affect everything else in your wedding-the food you serve, the guests who can come, even your colors. So while that decision is up to each individual bride, there are factors that will affect the time and of which you should be aware.
Friday night or other work night ceremonies:
When choosing this time slot, keep in mind that people will need to come home from work and get ready before coming to the wedding. You'll need to pick a later time to have the ceremony if you want punctuality from your guests.
I wouldn't start later than 7:30pm, because any later will push the rest of the festivities late into the night. If people have work the next day, young families, or early bedtimes, they won't be able to stay very long.
Food: For any late-evening ceremony on a week night, I would recommend providing a full meal, as many people may not have time to eat very much dinner.
A ceremony should occur absolutely no earlier than 9am. 9am is pushing it already, but any earlier will require more out-of-town guests to either get up really early or book hotel rooms.And if a wedding were super early, that wouldeither require having a very early wakeup callfor the bridal party or pushing all the pictures until after and making people wait longer.
Tip: Regardless of when you have the wedding, if you choose not to provide dinner, make sure you include that information on the invitation (by saying something like: "Join us afterwards for a reception and light refreshments") so guests can prepare accordingly.
If you want a Saturday morning ceremony, have the ceremony start at 10:30am, with a reception starting at 12pm or 12:30pm with lunch. I would not make people wait any longer than that for the reception to begin.
Avoid the hours of 11am-12:30pm to have a ceremony, since that's lunch time.
Food: Should you have the reception begin by 10:30am, serve appropriate breakfast foods - this time frame is brunch - and lighter sweets like pastries and muffins instead of cake. They will sit better in guests' stomachs at this time. If the reception starts at 11am or later, lunch and dinner entrees will be appropriate.
Tip: If you choose to forego a filling meal for the reception and instead offer desserts or light snacks, do not have the reception over dinner or lunch time because guests won't stay very long due to hunger pains - and also, it's a bit rude. Keep receptions like this to strictly afternoon hours.
A 1pm start time is acceptable, as guests have most likely already eaten lunch. And if they haven't, they're silly!
Guess what? Even if the reception starts as early as 2:30pm or 3pm (or earlier even), you can offer a full meal. That is not taboo and is more appreciated than frowned upon. Who doesn't like a free meal? Usually lunch or afternoon meals for weddings are served buffet style - like sandwiches - and are lighter than the fancy three course fare.
If you just want a dessert or light snack reception, a ceremony can begin anywhere from 1pm-2:30pm (allowing for a 30 minute ceremony and a 1-2 hour break before the reception). If the reception starts by 4pm, that gives you a full two hours before most guests start itching for a real meal. And without a full meal the reception does not need as much time. You can truck right through the activities.
Starting at 3pm or later, you want to provide a meal for your guests.
Go any later, and people will be starve. Starve straight to death.
I would stick to the rules of thumb on the Friday evening tips I mentioned earlier.
Sunday wedding times:
It's very likely that at least some of your guests will attend church Sunday morning-so it's best to avoid a Sunday morning ceremony. Also, if you have the ceremony at a church, a Sunday morning ceremony isn't even an option.
For Sunday ceremonies, it's recommended that you always serve a meal regardless of the hour. People either sleep in on Sundays or their big meal is at lunch, which they'd have to skip to attend your wedding on time. So a big, free meal sends them to the moon.
Evening ceremonies? Probably not. As guests have to return to work or school the next day, they'll have last minute things to prepare for. For whatever reason, people have more to do on Sunday evenings than the other six evenings of the week. I think it's something to do with procrastination.
Holiday wedding times:
A lot of experts say to avoid holiday weddings. I get it, because hotels are more expensive, venues are more expensive, and people have traditions for certain holidays. But I got married on a holiday weekend, and the turnout was just fine. So if you're set on a certain date, go for it. Just be aware that there will be complications on holiday dates, and some guests may not be able to attend because of the date. As for time, basically you want to apply all the other tips from the other days: not too early in the morning, and if the next day starts the work/school week, not too late.