Why do weddings in Goa start late and what can you do about it?

Why do weddings in Goa start late and what can you do about it?

How often have you been for a Goan wedding reception scheduled at 7 pm on the wedding invitation card but actually commencing closer to nine pm?  Almost every time ? Well its nothing new. For a long time now, Goan weddings seem to have lost their way on time. The reasons attributed to this inordinate delay could be many, but the question is whether they could have been avoided. While most wedding couples may be genuinely keen for an early start, what actually happens on the day of the wedding is an absolutely different story. Why?

The questions which therefore crop to mind are,  could a late wedding start be avoided? Is there a way in which a wedding could go as per plan and the wedding reception begin on time?

Let us first see what are the culprit reasons  due to which most of the weddings in Goa  are delayed towards a late start.

As a wedding MC in Goa for the last so many years I have observed the following reasons to be the major howlers for a wedding reception in Goa to begin late.  The reasons are

  1. The guests have not arrived as yet
  2. The toastmaster is yet to arrive
  3. The nuptial service was scheduled late.
  4. The bridal couple is delayed at home.
  5. The parents/close family members are still on their way
  6. The confetti/fireworks/champagne/wedding cake is missing/yet to arrive.

Now, I will deal with them one by one and offer my suggestions  aimed  at reducing or negating their impact in a bid to help wedding couples in Goa plan for a pre-decided and scheduled start.

  1. The guests have not arrived as yet

This will continue to be the top reason for late weddings in Goa untill there is a conscious change of heart towards time management in Goans at large. One group of people believes that the reason for guests to turn up late at a wedding is often due to the timing mentioned on the card. So if it is 7 pm on the wedding invite, it better be presumed as 8.30. So you can guess  what a timing of 8 pm  on the wedding card is capable of doing to many a Goan presumption.

Without enough of guests at a wedding reception, it is like playing an important match in a near empty stadium. The cheer just doesn’t get to you. Besides, when you have a video and a photographer covering the wedding reception you don’t want a scantily spread dance floor flaunting only your lovely theme and glowing décor with hardly any people backing up your grandly conceived entry. All your wedding planning was definitely not designed for such a soft start.


Some wedding couples who are rightly adamant about the time, quietly sneak in a word ”sharp” close to the reception timing mentioned on the card. So it is either “7.30 pm sharp” or maybe ’ sharp at 7 pm”. The intention is pretty noble. They want to tell you that they are particular about the time of the start and want you there early. I must confess that in my early days, I made this blunder on my own wedding card mentioning the reception at  7 pm sharp, way back in 1996 when reality eluded me completely. However, I could not make it to the wedding venue myself until  8.00 pm with my bride. Of course my embarrassment got even worse with my friends ready with their mock time management litany and jokes  which are always unfortunately directed at the hapless bridegroom. I have thereafter observed  that most couples who insert the “sharp” word  may not be sharp themselves. Unless they ensure that they are willing to live upto it.

Another group of Goan  people believe that guests turn up late because the work schedule of the average Goan is designed for a late entry. A friend explained to me that a 9 to 5 job means that most working people in Goa are at home by six or later. A bit of relaxation , evening tea and children time would extend that to seven. Preparation for selecting your clothes , ironing them and getting ready with your boots polished would have you exit your home by eight. Why then would you be at the venue before 8.30 or even 9 pm?

There is a third excuse for guests to turn up  late. It has got to do with dress sense. In Goa, women, normally from among the close family have two different dress codes for the same wedding. One dress code ends with the nuptial service. Another begins with the wedding reception. So in between, post the nuptials, when they retire back home for  a change, it’s a whole new dressing exercise enough for the clock to worry. For it could take longer to dress up this time than the previous time as wedding receptions seduce more makeup. These beauties are therefore bound to tune in late. Don’t blame their helpless husbands.

But the major problem for people to turn up late may still be the buses which you hired for some people to be ferried to the wedding venue. These buses often do not leave on the scheduled  time due to many of the guests failing to board the bus on time and later the bus can also get caught in traffic. When these buses have some close members of the family, the wait is toothed with even more reason, therefore delaying the reception.

What can you do to solve this and get your wedding started on fair time?
For a timing of 7.30  pm on your wedding card, it is best to be realistic and looking at a cut off time of 8 pm to start your wedding reception which I think is a fair time. You could also consider the time on the wedding card itself but it may be a little too far fetched and I think a mix of aggression and understanding of the situation is the key.

The only way to ensure that, is to have  a very focused and targeted approach of a cut off time to start your wedding reception. This should be communicated unfailingly to every one  you invite with an air of docility and whenever you distribute the wedding invitations, you should politely seek their “help” for you start the reception on time. Additionally make sure that the family and close friends are programmed with a personal discussion to be at the venue atleast 20 minutes before your wedding reception cutoff time – without them you cannot execute any time related plans.

So despite your best efforts even if the distant relatives, friends and neighbours do not make it at the cutoff time  and if your close family and friends are conscious of your time particulars in advance and if they number to around 150 or 200, you could easily start off with the wedding reception at your cutoff time.

If you mention” sharp” on your card, I urge you with all humility to think twice and if you must, be certain that you  need to work hard and ensure that you live upto that statement. I couldn’t.

               2. The toastmaster is yet to arrive

So your wedding cake is set, the chilling champagne is draining down its sweat, the guests are on board, the band is ready to go on song and all that I need to do as the wedding MC is get on with it. But wait! Where is the toastmaster? Surprise surprise …..for  he/she has not arrived as yet.

Some frantic calls later, the toastmaster may tell the bridegroom over the phone that  he is 10 minutes away when he is actually 30 minutes afar. So some wedding folks will push me,  the MC, to start off with the reception and that the toastmaster will arrive in at the appropriate time.  Really? The reality is that  if the reception begins under the presumption of his holy arrival at  the auspicious time of my calling, you could be in for a lot of embarrassment as an MC at the wedding when he actually is still not there and could lend a new twist to an already delayed reception. Thankfully, with the cake still sitting in the middle of the dance floor, I have always politely declined a start without the toastmasters presence.

You could still get on with the start without the toastmaster by postponing the cutting of the cake for another  time ahead during the wedding reception when he is available. However,  I find that this approach is fraught with an even more inherent loss of time. You may not lose much time to pack up the already set cake and send the champagne back to the cold where it belongs. However your time will be lost to call the guests to the floor not once but twice. The first time will be to welcome the couple onto the dance floor for the grand entrance to the showering of confetti and have the wedding march straight-on thereby getting on with the reception without cutting the cake. The second time around when you call for their presence  to enable  a gathering for the cutting of the cake, they are most likely to be slower to respond than the first time, therefore wasting a lot of time which could have been used for musical entertainment. However, if the toastmaster is not in foreseeable sight, this can be the only way.

What can you do to ensure that your toastmaster arrives on time
It is very important to know who your toastmaster is ( Pls Note: A toast person may also be a lady/female. However for the sake of brevity and convenience, I am addressing  his/her status  by the male gender i.e toastmaster). If he is a politician a statesman or an important figure, he will most likely not prefer to arrive and wait on you for long untill the reception begins. To be fair to him he will therefore have to be clearly sounded that you want to start on a predetermined cut off time so that he is also aware about your concerns. Leaving the wedding invitation time to his discretion will leave him to presume the all-too-familiar Goan stretchable time. So be clear to ensure that he knows what you want.

If he is a clergyman it is important to know whether he needs transport arrangements to be made  to arrive at the venue and you might have to arrange it for him. This way you are sure that your toastmaster will be on time.

Whoever your toastmaster may be, the point to make clear with him  is to seek his co-operation to ensure that your wedding starts on time. You could do it by explaining to him  about your disappointment related to  late Goan weddings and your desire to change the pattern etc, which will give him a clear indication of your aspirations for your wedding day. You are less likely to be disappointed by a toastmaster turning up late with this approach.

All said, on the wedding day, while on your way to the wedding venue don’t forget to pick up your phone and update yourself about your toastmasters whereabouts.

 3. The nuptial service was scheduled late

I have often seen wedding invites which mention the nuptials at 6.30  pm and the wedding reception at 7.30. This is at best a sense of hope over a sense of reality. A nuptial service is definitely not a one hour affair like our Sunday mass would be. In  its entirety,  a nuptial service in Goa has to be factored for at least two hours which includes the time spent for photography and video. It also includes the time taken for exchanging compliments with guests at the nuptial service  and soaking in the best wishes.

The first problem however is the late timing of the nuptials which is a direct derailment of the reception. The reason for this could be unavailability of the church premises for the nuptial service at an earlier time or possibly the longer distance between the bride and the groom necessitating the planning of a delayed nuptial service or even maybe due to the non-availability of a particular celebrant or even the availability of the choir. So is a wedding reception delay a surprise at all?

What can you do to avoid this
If your church is not available and you are being given a slot after 6 pm you can be sure that your wedding is closer to 9 or even 9.30 unless you are familiar with the fast-forward button. So your option could be to have your nuptial service in some other location such as some well known chapels in the vicinity or at another church in the neighbourhood village/city. This may also depend on whether your local parish in Goa gives you the permission to do so. Some do. Some don’t . So being well informed is important before you decide to print your wedding cards.

As far as the celebrant and the choir is concerned it is a personal choice whether you are willing to risk your wedding reception heading for a late start or whether your personal bond or desire to have a particular celebrant or choir is the preferred choice. If the choice is the former, you could always look for some one else for the nuptial service and have the celebrant as your toastmaster etc.

 4. The bridal couple is delayed at home

This is the one reason due to which I arrived late for my own wedding. The situation here is that  after the nuptial service we have a tradition in Goa to visit the bridegrooms home for a prayer service. This is probably because as a newly wedded couple, the home is the first place to absorb the joy with a prayer.

Many wedding couples with whom I interact before the wedding and who are keenly desirous of an early start, have tried to convince me that it will be a matter of 15 minutes. However little did they realise  that when they go home, they are not the ones in control. Everyone else is. They being the newly wedded couple and the centre of attraction, are heaped with traditional customs by all the near and dear ones. The fireworks, the incense, excitement and many a ritual can precede the actual prayers to commence. After the prayers there is time consumed  for a mini relaxation period, drinks and snacks and I assure you that the entire time spent  from the entry to the exit of your home can extend upto an hour. So why wont you have a delayed reception?

What can you do to save time here
Your management skills and wedding planning has to include this part compulsorily. This is often the major time gobbler and can delay the reception for a long long time because obviously without the bridal couple at the venue nothing moves.

What you need to do here  is keep one or two definite people as the sole coordinators  in-charge of this ritual at home. You should listen and co-ordinate only with these two pre-appointed people. He/she/they  should be informed  that you need to spend not more than 20 minutes into this traditional custom. He/she should be in charge and keep ready  all the fireworks, incense and all other accessories required for this tradition to be complete in the most reasonable time of 20 minutes or less. The main prayer elders, should be made available by them in quick time. The parents and the family members if required should be pre-informed about your paucity of time and about the necessity of their quick presence and there should be little or no time spent for relaxation, chatting or wishes.  If you follow this simple guideline there is no reason why you should not be on the road to the wedding venue in 20 minutes time.

 5.  The parents/ close family are still on their way

A reception normally cannot begin without the parents being present at the venue.  So when parents get delayed due to whatever reason the bride or the bridegroom will send all their desires of an early start for a holiday. Presence of parents are a  must and it is a very fair and genuine concern.

Parents or family members can get delayed normally due to being burdened with too many things to do for the wedding on their own or maybe due to being held behind either in somebody else’s vehicle, caught in the Goan traffic or sometimes even in the bus destined for the wedding venue.

How can you help this situation
This needs planning. One of them is to ensure that the parents have the least tasks to do which should keep them free of responsibilities and worries on your wedding day and making sure of their transport arrangements. if needed keep a separate vehicle for the parents and close family from residence to church and from church to the venue so that this eventuality is wiped out.

            6.The confetti/fireworks/champagne/wedding cake is missing/yet to arrive.

So often have I seen that the confetti is simply not there. Who? why? how are the familiar questions shooting  around at this time and you will be fortunate  if the people in charge of the wedding venue carry any stock of confetti with them . Else, you have a pretty embarrassing situation with the bridal couple entering the venue after a lot of wedding preparation for a dry entry sans the shower of the picturesque confetti whcih creates the right mood evoking some wonderful expressions for your photographs etc.

The champagne, wedding cake and some other such things can also be a spoiler if it does not arrive to the venue on time.

What can you do to arrest these blunders?
When you tick off all the things required to be done of you on your wedding checklist, it is important that you designate specific people for specific tasks. Your checklist if required should be available with you or readily scrollable on your mobile phone.  Things need to be delegated to responsible people some of whom may be siblings, friends, the groomsmen and even the bridesmaids. Of course, before the wedding day, confirm ,confirm and confirm again with everyone.

Its not a great science to plan your timing and ensure that your wedding reception begins on time. It is merely common sense , applying it and closing the loopholes where you can see them openly. When you spend so much money on your wedding, especially the reception, it is only fair to plan a little extra to ensure that you, your guests and all the vibrant party folks make the most of the music, the fun and the joy that makes your wedding one of the most cherished memories for you. For in most parts of Goa as per the existing rules its curtains before or by midnight. 

Better to make hay when the fun shines. Good Luck!

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