Wedding Planning Guide

Save the Dates are sent, your venue is booked, and we’re nearing the one-year mark ahead of your wedding date. Things are starting to feel rather real, right?! You know there’s a lot to think about – but where to start?

Well, right here, is a very good place. I’m going to take you through a Stratton Court Barn wedding planning guide focusing on the logistics and flow of your day. Use this as a tick list to make sure these aspects are planned well in advance of our final planning meeting, which will take place three months before your wedding day. Today, I’m covering four key aspects: Timings, music, table layouts and stationery. Get your wedding geek on, we’re delving into the nitty-gritty details of wedding planning! 

bride and groom in front of barn wall with festoon lights




This is such a crucial part of your wedding day. If you’ve booked a civil ceremony, you are likely to have heard me mention that 2pm is the ideal time for the ceremony to start. There are two key factors that make this the ideal time:

  1. Guests would normally have eaten a snack/light lunch before they arrive, meaning they won’t spend the first two hours of the celebrations hungry, thinking “when are we eating?”, instead of enjoying the celebrations. Most guests aim to arrive 30 minutes to an hour before the ceremony starts. Take into consideration that some guests will be travelling for an hour (or perhaps more!) to get to the venue, which means they won’t stop for something to eat if they’re aiming to arrive at 12pm or earlier, as is the case with a 1pm wedding.  Hence 2pm being ideal! 
  2. There won’t be any long ‘gaps’ in your day. By gaps, I mean time when guests are left to wait for the ‘next thing’ to happen.  Ideally, a drinks reception should be kept to less than two hours, and the time between meal + speeches finishing and evening guests turning up, should ideally be kept to less than an hour. As a couple, your day will fly past, but keeping your guests happy and enjoying themselves, and infused with energy, will mean your day will be so much better!

How much time to allow

So how much time should we allow for our day? 

Civil ceremony – 30-40 minutes

Drinks reception – 1 and ½ hours . At the venue, we will need an hour to turn the Main Barn around to the wedding breakfast, and another 15 minutes or so for photos and for you to see the room. Your photographer will in all likelihood ask for at least an hour for group photos and couple portraits anyway! 

Wedding breakfast – 2 hours for a three course meal. (Allow an hour for Afternoon Tea; up to 1.5 hours for two courses). 

Speeches – Allow 10 minutes per speech. So for the traditional three speakers, Father of Bride, Groom, Best Man, it’s about 3 x 10 = 30 minutes. 

Cutting of the Cake and First Dance – 5-10 minutes

Start of evening music – Half an hour after evening guests turn up

Evening food – An hour after the first dance. This normally means a sufficient gap for your day time guests, but not too long of a wait for your evening guests.

Photo: Kate Gray Photography


Sample time line

A brilliant time line would therefore look something like this:

1pm – bar opens, guests start to arrive

2pm – Ceremony

2.30pm – Confetti shot and drinks reception

4pm – Guests seated, Wedding Couple announced in to the room

6pm – Speeches

6.30pm – Tea & Coffee, buffet style, allowing people to stretch their legs (a brilliant time for golden light couple portraits too!)

7pm – Evening guests arrive

7.30pm – Cutting of the Cake and First Dance

8.30pm – Evening snacks

11.30pm – Bar & music close, followed by carriages

Are you with me so far? Let’s talk music and AV next!

Music & AV equipment

Have you and your partner got a song that is ‘your song’? Then you know how important music is for memories! 

We have a two high-quality speakers that we will use for music pre-ceremony, during the ceremony, and as background music for your drinks reception (inside or outside). They can also be used for your meal, but then it tends to get drowned out by lots of happy chatter and cutlery and glass clatter! 


We connect to the Bose speaker by Bluetooth.  So it’s time to start making playlists! Please download all your music on a device, as this means we can have it on flight mode, and we’re not relying on the wi-fi to stream! Please make three key play lists:

  1. Pre-ceremony music
  2. Ceremony music
  3. Drinks reception music


The ceremony music should have five to six songs:

Song number 1: Wedding party entrance (that’s traditionally flower girls, bridesmaids and bride with key parent – delete as appropriate! For my gorgeous same-sex couples, we will of course do this completely bespoke!) One song, about 3 minutes, is perfectly sufficient.

Song number 2-5:  Three to four songs for signing of the register. 

Song number 6: Your Exit song. Take extra time choosing this song! Make sure it doesn’t have a long, slow or quiet intro, as you’ll be way out the door before the music kicks in. Something happy, loud and upbeat from the start makes for the best exit! 

Live Music & Evening Entertainment

Evening entertainment can turn up any time from the moment you sit down for your meal. They can then discreetly and quietly set up while you and your guests are enjoying the meal and speeches.

Most DJs will take 1-1.5 hours to set up. Bands take up to two hours. 

For live bands, you normally have a choice of 3 x 40 minutes sets, or 2 x one hour sets.  Most bands will play music through their system, or offer a full DJ service between sets. But please double check this beforehand! Our Bose system is not quite sufficient to keep the full party vibe happening between band sets!

In regards to band, do read their T&Cs carefully too. Most bands stipulate in their contracts that they require hot food and unlimited drinks to be provided. This needs to be arranged with the caterer in advance, and don’t forget to check the band’s dietary requirements  (vegetarian, vegan, gluten free etc). 

PA System (evening entertainment)

You are very welcome to NOT have a DJ or a live band, if you prefer. Or perhaps you have a friend who is keen to DJ at your wedding! This is absolutely fine, as long as all equipment brought in is insured and PAT-tested. The easiest way to organise this, is to hire it from an AV and event solution company, such as THAT Event Company or Sound Wave Audio. They will also be able to provide lights!

PA System (speeches)

The acoustics in the Main Barn are wonderful!  So for clearness of sound and less technical input, speaking without microphone is actually the best option. However, we’ve recently purchased a microphone with a small speaker, which we’ll trial over the coming weeks, as so many speakers would like to hold a microphone to make it more official! Please speak with your Event Manager if the speakers at your wedding are keen to use a microphone.

AV for speeches

Unfortunately, this tends to be a bit trickier to make easy and seamless! Without an LCD projector on site, or a suitable screen, it inevitably means that items need to be sourced by the speakers. There is also no obvious place to put these in the room, without hampering wait staff, or being blocked for sight. The best solution we’ve seen, is to bring in a flat screen television, that can be carried in before speeches, propped on the Welsh Dresser, and controlled by a remote control by the speaker. But as you can tell, there is quite a bit of effort needed to make this happen! 

I hope you’re not feeling too overwhelmed at this point? Please take a break here, or if you’re ready, let’s take a look at table layouts and table planning next.

Table layouts

Your RSVPs are trickling in, and your thoughts turn to your tables.  So let’s talk table logistics! 

Option 1:

We can seat a maximum of 80 people, if you wish to sit on a traditional long top table. We can have seven round tables in addition. Each table seats up to 10 people.

1 x long top table with 10 guests = 10

7 x round tables with 10 guests on each = 70

Total: 80

Option 2:

If you are happy to not sit on a long table, and have a round table instead, we can actually fit two round tables in the space of a long top table. So this gives us 9 rounds.

9 x round tables with 10 guests (including you) = 90

Total: 90

You can of course have less people per table, and varying number of guests per table too! 

Option 3

Alternatively, you can choose to hire in rustic-style long tables. We can fit two rows with 5 x 6ft long tables, and each long table seats 6 guests.

10 x long tables with 6 guests = 60

Total: 60

These can be hired from Oxford Event Hire, Something Borrowed Event Hire and Wedhead.

We will send you floor plans prior to the planning meeting.

The numbers above need to include the two of you, and all children aged 6 months or older. If they’re less than six months, they’re “babes in arms” and won’t need a chair or space at the table. But it can be a great idea to give parents a heads-up, as prams are tricky to fit in the room, but carry-cot style carriers work well. 

We have three high chairs suitable from 6 months of age.  

Your caterer and I will ask for a copy of your table plan 1-4 weeks before the wedding day. By table plan, we don’t mean the pretty version that guests will see, but your actual plan of where guests are seated, with children, high chairs and dietary requirements highlighted! If you’re listing guests per table, we would also need to know which table you picture where in the room. 

Table Space

With the sharing board trend still going strong – for very good reason, it’s a wonderful, interactive way to eat! – space on the tables is crucial.  Turn your calculators on once more, and bear this in mind when planning your centrepieces:

Our tables are 152 centimetres in diameter. Each place setting (cutlery, plates, glasses) take up 30 cm each. Each bowl/platter/board that the caterers use are at least 40 cm in diameter. Let’s do the maths:

152 – (2 x 30 place settings) – (2 x 40 sharing boards) = 12 cm 

That means you really only have 12 cm to fit your full centrepiece! 

Of course we can do some shifting and re-jigging once the food comes out, but it’s wonderful when the centrepiece can still be the centrepiece. Tall, narrow arrangements (think candelabras, tall plinths) tend to work really well, and so do a single arrangement (one vase or low bowl) as opposed to several jars clustered on a log slice. However, clusters of jars CAN also work well if they’re NOT on a log slice, as this means they can be easily moved around the sharing boards when they go down.

The limited space is also why real candles and tea lights have become such a fire hazard, which is why we unfortunately can’t allow them. LED ones are of course absolutely fine! 

If you’re having a so-called plated meal, i.e. the food comes out already on the plate to each guest, then this frees up a lot of space on the table, and can allow for more elaborate centrepieces. 


Stationery & “Must-Haves”

There are a few items we suggest every wedding needs to make it an easy, relaxed experience for your guests. 

Ceremony reserved cards for key people

These are brilliant to have for the first row, or two rows if needed, of the ceremony. The traditional layout, facing the arch, has rows with four chairs on either side of the aisle. Make cards with actual names or titles on, such as “Best Man”, and give me a plan for where you want your key people seated. This includes, but is not exclusive to, parents, bridesmaids and groomsmen. Don’t forget the grandparents!

Table plan

A plan showing which table name or number guests are seated on. We have an easel that can be used for boards/frames/mirrors easily up to A1 size.

Place cards

 Something to show guests which seat they should be sitting on at the table. When organising these to be handed over to me, please arrange them per table, and please go one step further: please arrange them in the order guests are seated around the table. 

Table names or numbers

Decide on your table names, or stick to numbers, and find a way of displaying them at the table. I’m afraid we don’t have any holders here at the venue, but there are so many fun options out there, from pretty frames to little card holders. 

Other helpful items

Card box

It’s lovely to have a box or basket or crate of some kind for cards. Lots of guests will turn up with cards! So having an obvious place to put them is super helpful. This is the one item we will ask you take away with you at the end of the wedding day. All other items can be collected (before 11am) the following day.

Flower petal confetti

If you love the idea of a confetti shot, then please provide this, so that we can hand it out to guests at the appropriate time. The confetti needs to be made of real flowers (dried or fresh). I suggest not wasting endless hours filling cones or bags, as they tip over, and guests discard them on the floor more times than not! A pretty basket or bowl works much better. 

Something for the Bar

The bar area will mostly be used for a good ol’ party. But it’s a really nice touch to add something on the corner of the bar, such as a flower arrangement, that ties in with the rest of your theme. It’s a really classy touch, and will make your theme completely cohesive! 


I really hope this has helped you with your plans for the big day! Have you got other questions you would like answered? Drop me a line and I’ll of course answer any queries you might have!

Happy wedding planning!