Non-Traditional Wedding #2: Formal Friday

As we navigate the inevitable changes to the wedding landscape forced by postponements due to the Covid-19 epidemic, there will invariably be weddings that can't happen on a Saturday, and won't follow the traditional structure of 'ceremony, cocktails, dinner, dance'.  My goal with this blog series is to help you imagine how your wedding could look if you need to change the structure or format, particularly if you must postpone it to a non-Saturday.  Hopefully through this series, you'll find or adapt an idea that will work perfectly for you.  My wish for you is that you can get excited about your wedding again!

I can't possibly have a FRIDAY wedding . . . 

The biggest argument I hear against a Friday wedding is that people will have to take time off work.  Unfortunately, that will likely be true, in many cases.  The reality, though, is that even with a Saturday wedding, often members of the wedding party and family take Friday off work anyway, to accommodate last minute errands, appointments, and set-up.  If some of your guests have to take a half day, or even the full day off, you may find that it's actually not as big a deal as you might think.  And honestly, even when you plan a Saturday wedding, there will be some guests who can't attend due to family commitments, vacations, you name it . . .

Having to move your wedding to a Friday doesn't have to be the end of the world.  You can still have all the formal elements you'd planned, you just may need to shift the timelines a bit.  I LOVE Friday evening weddings, and hopefully the following will help you to see how great they are too!

Time of Day:

  • though this could apply to any day of the week, Friday evening is a popular choice for a non-Saturday wedding because most guests won't have to work on Saturday morning
  • you will likely want to consider changing your photography schedule to include a first look.  Though it may not have been your original choice, first look photos are AMAZING because they let you and your partner have a real, honest reaction to seeing each other for the first time without the self-consciousness of knowing all your guests are looking on.  It gives the two of you some special alone time on what otherwise is a very busy day, and it gets all the nerves of seeing each other out before the ceremony, so you can relax and enjoy every moment.  The best part is that it frees you up to mingle with your guests directly following the ceremony instead of having to take a two hour break for formal photos
  • I'd recommend doing all of your wedding party formal photos, and even your family photos before the ceremony as well.  Start your photography about 3 hours before your ceremony (dependent on travel time).  The schedule could look like this:
    • First look and couples' formals: 30-45 minutes
    • Wedding party formal photos: 30-45 minutes
    • Travel to venue, if necessary
    • Immediate family photos: 15 minutes
    • Extended family photos: 15 minutes (depending on size of family)
    • Wedding party either hides out or greets arriving guests (plan to finish at least 30-45 minutes before the ceremony)
  • when you plan an evening wedding, it's a courtesy to allow guests who HAVE worked that day time to  get home, change clothes, and have a bite to eat, if the wedding does not include a full meal.  Consider a start time of 7:00 or 7:30
  • depending on your venue and time of year, you could hold a sunset ceremony, or a candlelit ceremony (if the sun won't set until later, consider having a pre-ceremony cocktail hour, mingling with the guests, then changing into your wedding attire and holding a later ceremony)


  • literally any venue works for a Friday evening wedding, from a traditional banquet hall or hotel to a garden or backyard venue or barn
  • ensure that there's sufficient lighting if your ceremony and reception will be taking place outdoors, and make sure you're aware of noise bylaws if you're outdoors in a residential area
  • if you're having a cocktail or dessert reception, you don't need to provide seating for everyone - it will encourage them to mingle.  Ensure that you have ample seating for guests with mobility concerns or the elderly.  A good guideline is to provide seating for about 40% of your guests


  • because your timeline will be shortened, it's important to be able to transition smoothly from the ceremony into the reception.  If your venue has two separate rooms, or staff to help with the transistion, that's ideal.  If you need to use the same space, consider not using chairs for the ceremony, or asking guests to clear them/place them around tables

Food & Beverage:

  • if your ceremony is later (7pm or after) and if having lots of time to dance is important to you, you may eliminate a plated meal and instead have a cocktail reception, with either passed or stationery hors d'oeuvres.  If your venue or caterer are staying the same, they should be willing to work with you to change your previous plans - if you'd planned a plated meal, they should work with you to change the vision and style of food service
  • this is a great opportunity to include foods that you and your partner love, and to be less traditional.  Depending on your venue, you could even bring in food trucks or less traditional options like a dessert buffet
  • for even later ceremonies (8pm or after) consider just having "late night" food, which traditionally comes out around 10-11pm.  Perhaps you could bring this out at 9:30 for anyone who didn't have time for a substantial meal before.  You may want to augment your selections to provide substantial food for your guests.  This is also a great place to have some fun with the food: taco bar, nacho bar, BBQ sliders or sausages, poutine bar, even pizza or McDonald's is a popular option


    • string quartet, jazz combo, pianist or guitarist for live cocktail or dinner music
    • band or DJ for dance
    • slideshow of photos playing in the background (if your timeline is already condensed, don't take additional time for all the guests to view at the same time)
    • you can still have speeches, even at a cocktail reception - just be mindful that most guests won't have a place to sit, so keep the speakers to a minimum, and ask that they limit their speech to just a few minutes
    • though the transition to the formal dance part of the evening may seem less clear if you're holding a cocktail reception, transitioning from casual mingling to the formal speeches, then straight into the first dance(s) will provide a smooth flow

Things to Think About:

  • clearly communicate to guests whether or not there is a full meal provided
  • ask your venue if they can extend their liquor license to 2am due to the later start time.  Some may be able to accommodate.  If you're obtaining a Special Occasion Permit, ensure that the end time for service is 2am
  • if there are important guests who just cannot attend due to the Friday timeline, perhaps you can share your wedding video with them, or consider live streaming the ceremony and speeches

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