What time should I ask my guests to arrive?
The right time!
Fortunately nowadays guests are fairly punctual. In fact in my experience many are arriving particularly early.
I suggest that you write on your invitations your ceremony time 15 minutes prior to the actual time. This is so the guests can arrive 15 minutes prior to you walking down the aisle. It then looks as if you’re late (the bridal tradition) when in fact you are actually on time. I don’t recommend you write 30 minutes prior to the start time as some guests will always arrive early anyway, and this could mean they could be waiting around for 45 – 60 minutes for the ceremony to start which is just too long.
I also suggest that you plan to arrive as close to your ceremony start time as possible.
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, arriving too late can eat into the time you have for photographs, which is not really a part of your day you want to compromise. Nor do you want to have meal service rushed or have less dancing time.
In the unlikely event that you arrive before many of the guests the simple suggestion is to wait – either at the venue or literally in a nearby side street.
Remember traffic conditions too – if guests are likely to be travelling during peak hour (like on a Friday afternoon), remember to take this into account too!
You may also have to accept that some people (hopefully only a few – if any) will be late. Don’t wait for them though. You don’t want to annoy the majority of guests because of a small number who are inconsiderate.