For Gawd’s sake, get me to the church on time!


“Weddings always start late,” the caterer quipped to me as we were waiting for the all the wedding guests, party, and couple to arrive. “Not with me,” I retorted and headed purposefully down the hallway…

When did being late for a wedding become a thing? It seems I hear the same quote over and over again… “Weddings always start late.” Certainly it never was deemed correct at one point. One of my favorite songs from the musical My Fair Lady stresses its importance:

For I’m getting married in the morning!
Ding dong! the bells are gonna chime.
Feather and tar me, call out the Army
but get me to the church, get me to the church…
For Gawd’s sake, get me to the church on time!

I married 36 years ago and it was bad form then to be late for the wedding. I know that many busy churches today do not tolerate a late starting ceremony. They will cut or cancel your wedding ceremony because they have another scheduled right after.

Maybe it is because I perform weddings in a more informal setting that everyone figures that it is ok to start late. I have been doing this long enough that I can gauge how close we are to starting. If the bride is putting on finishing touches then we are close. If I see that we are not close, I get into stage manager mode and start urging and expressing concern to move things along.

Sometimes I just need to get to the point. In one wedding last summer, the wedding planner came up to me and asked if the bride could start ONE hour later. I was stunned and horrified. My response was a quick “No!” as I had another wedding to get to and my second wedding would not be late because of this one. When we were stalled at starting 30 minutes late, I insisted that we start… and we did.

It is one thing for the bride to be late because she is fussing. It is understandable to be late because of unavoidable circumstances – such as traffic. However, I find it inexcusable to be late because a photographer lost track of time during the photoshoot.

Most professional and experienced wedding photographers know that the bride and groom need to be on time for the ceremony. Unfortunately, some newer ones don’t get that.

It happened for a wedding at the National Gallery of Canada. I arrived at 5:15pm for a 6:00pm ceremony start. The bride and groom were taking pictures in the hallway leading to the Great Hall. I took a few shots myself and headed to the ceremony site to ensure all was ready.

At about 5:50pm, I noticed that no one had arrived in the ceremony room. The caterer turn to me, shrugged her shoulders. “Weddings always start late,” the caterer quipped to me. “Not with me,” I retorted and headed purposefully down the hallway.

They were still taking pictures and blocking the hallway so that no guests could get through. I went into stage manager mode. “Ladies and Gentlemen, please make your way to the room so that we can start the ceremony,” I said as my opera voice echoed through the hallway. The photographer turns to me and says, “But we have one more picture…” Then I hear the groom whisper, “Thank you Alan for getting us going.”

I took the photographer aside. “Are you new at this? You never make a wedding late because of you!” I reprimanded him. His response, “We lost track of time.” To which I shot back, “That’s unacceptable.”

I lined up the wedding party, clarified instruction for the entrance and walked down the aisle to take my place. I whizzed past the caterer pointing to my watch which showed 6:00pm.

It was a wonderful wedding. There was a very touching moment when Grandma gave a blessing, embraced by the bride and groom, facing the love of friends and family who were gathered.