Wedding experts seem to agree: arriving to a wedding 15 to 30 minutes before the start time stated on the invitation is proper form. Any earlier and you might get in the way; any later and you risk missing the ceremony or worse.
Anne Chertoff, a trend expert from WeddingWire, says 15 minutes prior to the start time is ample unless it's a big wedding. "You may want to arrive 30 minutes before to ensure seats together and in a good spot." Of course, sometimes forces beyond control prevent guests from arriving on time, and you probably have a slight cushion. Jessica Garda, a wedding planner from Pittsburgh, says, "You can't always predict weather, traffic, etc. So I definitely advise couples getting married to plan on starting their ceremony about 15 minutes after the time printed on the invitation, just in case."
Should you arrive late, find a seat quietly in the back so as not to disturb the ceremony. Believe it or not, arriving too early to a wedding can also cause a disturbance. Brett Galley of Hollywood Pop, who has worked with celebrities like Bon Jovi, Diana Ross, and Tony Bennett, cautions against exploring the venue while vendors are still setting up. He also recommends not seeking out the wedding couple. "[They are] most likely busy getting ready, taking photos, and going through prewedding rituals, such as signing the ketubah. Wait outside until the venue is open for guests to be seated."
The bottom line: don't expect everything to go smoothly en route to the venue. Krista Ostrander, wedding specialist at The Reeds at Shelter Haven in Stone Harbor, NJ, says, "It's important to have time to navigate parking and the layout of the property." She suggests allowing a few extra minutes to also feel settled before the ceremony.
When traffic or weather prevents you from being on time, Garda offers this advice: "If [you] are able to let someone know, great. But DO NOT call or text the bride or groom. They have enough to worry about that day."