How Much Time Is Too Much Time Between The Ceremony And Reception?

Question: We are thinking of having our wedding at 12 pm and our cocktail hour stars at 4:30. The majority of our guests are local, but we do have some out-of-towners, of course. We live in an area where there is plenty to do and plenty of places to see and shop. Nonetheless I need to get invitations ordered and am not sure what amount of time is too much time and if it may seem rude if we have it too far apart – such as 12 pm for the ceremony and 4:30 for the cocktail hour. Our ceremony should last an hour. By the time we exit the church it should be about 1:30 or so.

Emmanuela Stanislaus, Precious Occasions, Wedding and Event Planner: An hour and a half is probably the max amount of time that you should have between your ceremony reception. Usually your cocktail hour is held during the gap between the ceremony and reception so that your guests are entertained during the time that you are taking photos with your new husband, wedding party, and family. You don’t want to give your guests too much time in between so that you ensure proper flow between the two events. If possible, I would suggest that you adjust your times so that you only have between an hour or hour and a half for photos. Is there a reason why you’re thinking of having a long gap between your ceremony and cocktail hour?

Amy Rubins, Fete Perfection, Professional Bridal Consultant: This is one of those situations where I think you should put yourself in your guests shoes. What would you do for all these hours? Leave and not return – sit at a bar or restaurant and eat or drink? Some churches are very strict with their schedules and a long delay between the ceremony and reception is unavoidable, but if you have the option to schedule a later ceremony which moves almost directly into the cocktail reception, I think your guests will appreciate it. If you are scheduling a noon ceremony and a 4:30 cocktail hour so you have plenty of time for photos, I wouldn’t recommend it. Great photographer’s can usually get everything wrapped in an hour or less and you will still have time to enjoy your guests. I’d love to know more about your reasons for splitting up your day like this.

Jodi R R Smith, The Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting: Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. And thank you for taking the time to consider the timing. Even with mostly local guests, your celebration should follow the ceremony. If there is a lag in time, you should provide some sort of hosted waiting time (such as the previously mentioned cocktail hour). As a guest who has spent time in formal attire waiting around in Starbucks for a wedding reception to begin, it is a drain on your guests’ energy and excitement to have such a long pause in the festivities. All the best ~

Brandi Hamerstone, Owner/Senior Wedding Planner All Events Planned: It really is great that you are thinking through what your guests will be doing on your wedding day but I do have to agree with the previous post, too much time in between isn’t fair. If you absolutely can’t adjust your church schedule then you should host an event in between the time of your ceremony and cocktail hour. You can have guided tours of the city (via a trolley or bus) a suite available for everyone to meet with some simple snacks and drinks or have tickets available to area attractions (museums) so that they have something to fill their time. There really is not much a guests dislikes more than having to find things to do in between a ceremony and reception. When planning with my clients I absolutely always have them plan everything back to back so there are no issues and no guests wandering around wondering what in the world they can do.

Jules Hirst, Etiquette Expert Etiquette Consulting Inc Los Angeles, CA: Glad to hear you are taking you guests into consideration when planning your timeline for your big day. I would have to echo all of the wonderful experts advice. If at all possible you should try to avoid too much time in between the ceremony and the cocktail hour, however if you must, have entertainment planned for your guests as Brand mentioned.