wedding reception

How Long Should A Reception Be?

How late should I reception go til, is 8pm too early?

We are getting married at 3pm on a Saturday. The reception hall is about 10 minutes away from the church. We are planning a cocktail hour from 4-5 and dinner at 5.30. Since most vendors do everything in 4 hours increments that means our reception will end at 8pm, is this too early for the night to end? We can’t afford another 4 hours of everything, any suggestions?

Emmanuela Stanislaus, Precious Occasions, Wedding and Event Planner

There isn’t anything that says that you need to end your reception at any specific time. The end time really depends on the type of vibe that you want for your reception. For example, if you want to have more of a party atmosphere, you may want to have the reception end later. If not, then you are okay with the end time that you have set. However, I do recommend that you add an additional hour to the reception site to allow time for all of the formalities like speeches, cutting the cake, garter and bouquet toss, and allowing time for guests to have a good time. While you’re correct that most vendors operate in four hour time blocks, most of them will allow you to add an hour or two to the package that you have booked with them. The vendors that I would suggest you consider adding one hour with would be your venue, photographer, and videographer (if you have one). I hope this is helpful. Good luck!

Darlene Taylor, PBC
TaylorMade Weddings

Emmanuela is correct – there is no set time that you *have* to end your reception. A reception should be as long as it needs to be. LOL.

how long should a wedding reception be

In my experience, a 6 hour reception is just right with a cocktail hour, band/DJ, bar, dinner, cake, special dances, mingling, and all the other fun stuff. I would suggest contacting your venue representative and ask how long you have the room. Venues in my area will ask what time you’d like to have the event end or they at least give you a final time when everything needs to be out of the room. You know your guests – if you think they are the type to stay and party past 8pm then make sure you have that room for another hour, maybe 2.

This is what you’re looking at: you’ll have an hour for your cocktail hour and you should allow an hour for dinner. That takes you to 6:30. You have an hour-and-a-half for special dances, toasts, cake cutting, more dancing, garter and bouquet toss. Those events really do not take that much time in and of themselves and you could be “done” at 8:00. Does your reception need to be done at 8:00? No. You may want to stay and party for another hour. If you feel that 8:00 is too early to end your night, then contact your vendors and ask to end at 9:00. Getting with a coordinator and creating a wedding day timeline will help. He/she will help you schedule the events of the evening. Then you can see if you really need more time or not.

Like Emmaneula said, you want to have your venue, photographer and videographer on board as long as you need them to be. Go over your vendor contracts and see what you have. Will they allow you to book an extra hour? Probably so. Usually it’s just a base package they have and you can always adjust it. It never hurts to ask!

Best Wishes!


Donna, Wedding Queen, President; Top Wedding Sites, Inc®, a wedding planning guide, and Recent Mother of the Groom –

Are you sure they are including the cocktail hour in the 4 hours aloted for the reception? Typically we see the cocktail hour and then 4 hours for the reception, meaning your reception would end at 9 PM. I’ve been to all sorts of weddings, beginning and ending at all sorts of times. If you want to continue the party after the reception you can leave and go to another location. Just be sure that you only make mention that you and your groom will be at (location of your choice) after the reception so that guests don’t think you’re inviting, and paying for an “after party”.

Joyce C Smith, MBC, President and owner of Weddings Unlimited, Inc. and Ohio State Coordinator for Association of Bridal Consultants

A five hour wedding day is typical for most guests and you should not feel guilty about the ending time. Plan a spectular get-away that gets the guests up and away from the dance floor and outside. Your emcee can help by making an announcement of the last dance, and encourage the guests to gather outside for a big fanfare for the newly weds.


Brandi Hamerstone,
Owner/Senior Wedding Planner All Events Planned

I’ll have to agree with the previous answers. There is no rule that says how long your reception has to be, so you are fine with doing it, as you have listed. Cocktail “hour” isn’t always in hour in every case either, so some people do change around timing for their day, to fit their needs. I’m sure your guests will be happy with the timing you have planned. As of lately, quite a few of my reception guests start to head out around 9pm anyhow, so some of your guests might even be happy with an early end to their evening! If people want to continue their evening out, they can certain do so at a local restaurant or bar and at that point you aren’t obligated to pay to everyone, unless of course you “invite” everyone out, then you are responsible for the bill (as another poster has mentioned).

To make mention of your 4-hour time allotment for vendors, I’m certain that most will add on an additional hour, if you did want to extend things a bit later, you would just have to review that with each of your vendors. I’ve never had an issue where my clients were required to only work in 4-hour blocks for their vendors. They are out for the night anyhow, so I’m sure they would be more than happy to make any additional money by staying for however long you’d like. However, from your post, that doesn’t seem like the case with your vendors, so we’ll go back to stating that your timing will be fine and you should just enjoy yourself!!

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