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Reception Ideas

Extended Wedding Reception and Cocktail Hour

Hello all!

I’m pretty early in the wedding planning, but I haven’t been able to find great answers to my question about having an extended cocktail hour and reception. Thanks for your help!

We are having a Catholic ceremony at 1 pm (nothing later is offered in the area) which makes the rest of the reception planning difficult. We’ve been dating for 9 1/2 years and have a large guest list (280 plus) and most people that we’re inviting are big partiers.

Here is our proposed timeline:

Ceremony: 1:00-2:00 pm (10 minute walk to the reception)

Cocktail Hour: 2:30-4:30

Dinner: 4:30 (Plated)

Late Night Snacks: 9:30 pm

Reception End: 10:30 pm

I’m concerned that the cocktail hour is going to be too long, but we don’t want a gap in between the ceremony and the reception/cocktail hour. Also, I don’t want all of our guests to be completely trashed by dinner time. We do plan to have hors d’oeuvres during the cocktail hour.

Our cocktail hour space is a billiards room, with 7 different pool tables, 5 dart boards and tvs, which should give guests plenty to do during the cocktail hour. It could also give guests a chance to explore the area a bit (we will have about 130 guests be out of town) if they don’t want to head to the cocktail hour until a little bit later.

Let me know your thoughts!

Re: Extended Wedding Reception and Cocktail Hour

  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    A two-hour cocktail hour is waaaaasy too long.

    A cocktail hour should be one hour or less. The whole point of a cocktail hour is to provide hospitality to guests between the ceremony while photos are taken of the couple and their family and wedding party members and any administrative business that must await the completion of the ceremony is dealt with.

    It is not, however, an excuse for long gaps between the ceremony and reception. (Neither is the ceremony being a Catholic ceremony, by the way.) Long gaps are any gaps longer than one hour. And cocktail hour must begin immediately after the ceremony - not 30 minutes later, regardless of how long the distance between the ceremony and the reception venue.

    Sorry, but if it isn't possible to start the cocktail hour and reception immediately after the ceremony then you need to start the planning process over again to eliminate the gap so that the reception begins with the cocktail hour the moment the ceremony ends.
    InLoveInQueens
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    edited February 26
    Jen4948 said:
    A two-hour cocktail hour is waaaaasy too long.

    A cocktail hour should be one hour or less. The whole point of a cocktail hour is to provide hospitality to guests between the ceremony while photos are taken of the couple and their family and wedding party members and any administrative business that must await the completion of the ceremony is dealt with.

    It is not, however, an excuse for long gaps between the ceremony and reception. (Neither is the ceremony being a Catholic ceremony, by the way.) Long gaps are any gaps longer than one hour. And cocktail hour must begin immediately after the ceremony - not 30 minutes later, regardless of how long the distance between the ceremony and the reception venue.

    Sorry, but if it isn't possible to start the cocktail hour and reception immediately after the ceremony then you need to start the planning process over again to eliminate the gap so that the reception begins with the cocktail hour the moment the ceremony ends.
    As long as there's food, I don't see a problem with this timeline. Your issue must be with the term "cocktail hour." It's not like people are going to want to eat their full dinner at 3:30. It'd be like having cake and punch for a few hours, and then also a dinner. I don't think OP plans to abandon her guests for that 2 hours - she's hosting them, and she'll be there for much of it. It's just a way to say that dinner doesn't happen until dinner time.

    And if she's doing a full Mass and then receiving line, realistically that half hour is okay, unless you're a select few people who claim their night would be ruined by waiting outside the venue for 10 minutes. OP, maybe check and see what your venue would do if someone showed up at 2:20.
    I suggest agreeing to disagree. There are lots of threads here that state that the cocktail hour needs to start right away and that the period of time between the ceremony and reception should not be a long gap, regardless of how much food is served.

    It's just inconsiderate of the couple to keep their guests waiting for their presence that long at the thank-you to their guests for attending the ceremony.
  • flantasticflantastic The Midwest member
    2500 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    Jen4948 said:
    Jen4948 said:
    A two-hour cocktail hour is waaaaasy too long.

    A cocktail hour should be one hour or less. The whole point of a cocktail hour is to provide hospitality to guests between the ceremony while photos are taken of the couple and their family and wedding party members and any administrative business that must await the completion of the ceremony is dealt with.

    It is not, however, an excuse for long gaps between the ceremony and reception. (Neither is the ceremony being a Catholic ceremony, by the way.) Long gaps are any gaps longer than one hour. And cocktail hour must begin immediately after the ceremony - not 30 minutes later, regardless of how long the distance between the ceremony and the reception venue.

    Sorry, but if it isn't possible to start the cocktail hour and reception immediately after the ceremony then you need to start the planning process over again to eliminate the gap so that the reception begins with the cocktail hour the moment the ceremony ends.
    As long as there's food, I don't see a problem with this timeline. Your issue must be with the term "cocktail hour." It's not like people are going to want to eat their full dinner at 3:30. It'd be like having cake and punch for a few hours, and then also a dinner. I don't think OP plans to abandon her guests for that 2 hours - she's hosting them, and she'll be there for much of it. It's just a way to say that dinner doesn't happen until dinner time.

    And if she's doing a full Mass and then receiving line, realistically that half hour is okay, unless you're a select few people who claim their night would be ruined by waiting outside the venue for 10 minutes. OP, maybe check and see what your venue would do if someone showed up at 2:20.
    I suggest agreeing to disagree. There are lots of threads here that state that the cocktail hour needs to start right away and that the period of time between the ceremony and reception should not be a long gap, regardless of how much food is served.

    It's just inconsiderate of the couple to keep their guests waiting for their presence that long at the thank-you to their guests for attending the ceremony.
    I don't think she's going to do the bolded, though. I think she'll be at the cocktail hour. (OP, if not, you should be.) They're not going to keep them waiting for the presence of the couple; they're just not serving dinner until a reasonable hour.

    Anniversary

    STARMOON44InLoveInQueensMobKazcharlotte989875
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    Jen4948 said:
    Jen4948 said:
    A two-hour cocktail hour is waaaaasy too long.

    A cocktail hour should be one hour or less. The whole point of a cocktail hour is to provide hospitality to guests between the ceremony while photos are taken of the couple and their family and wedding party members and any administrative business that must await the completion of the ceremony is dealt with.

    It is not, however, an excuse for long gaps between the ceremony and reception. (Neither is the ceremony being a Catholic ceremony, by the way.) Long gaps are any gaps longer than one hour. And cocktail hour must begin immediately after the ceremony - not 30 minutes later, regardless of how long the distance between the ceremony and the reception venue.

    Sorry, but if it isn't possible to start the cocktail hour and reception immediately after the ceremony then you need to start the planning process over again to eliminate the gap so that the reception begins with the cocktail hour the moment the ceremony ends.
    As long as there's food, I don't see a problem with this timeline. Your issue must be with the term "cocktail hour." It's not like people are going to want to eat their full dinner at 3:30. It'd be like having cake and punch for a few hours, and then also a dinner. I don't think OP plans to abandon her guests for that 2 hours - she's hosting them, and she'll be there for much of it. It's just a way to say that dinner doesn't happen until dinner time.

    And if she's doing a full Mass and then receiving line, realistically that half hour is okay, unless you're a select few people who claim their night would be ruined by waiting outside the venue for 10 minutes. OP, maybe check and see what your venue would do if someone showed up at 2:20.
    I suggest agreeing to disagree. There are lots of threads here that state that the cocktail hour needs to start right away and that the period of time between the ceremony and reception should not be a long gap, regardless of how much food is served.

    It's just inconsiderate of the couple to keep their guests waiting for their presence that long at the thank-you to their guests for attending the ceremony.
    I don't think she's going to do the bolded, though. I think she'll be at the cocktail hour. (OP, if not, you should be.) They're not going to keep them waiting for the presence of the couple; they're just not serving dinner until a reasonable hour.
    Well, that's a different story. If the couple are actually there circulating with their guests and there is sufficient food, that would cut the gap down to a half hour, which I can agree with if it's travel time between venues (it just passes muster).

    But if not, the couple shouldn't keep guests waiting for their presence for two hours.
    InLoveInQueens
  • I don't see any problem with this. I really enjoy a good well hosted cocktail hour. Every catholic wedding I've been to has either had a gap or forced me to eat dinner ridiculously early which I don't enjoy. That said, you might want to have more chairs available than you normally would for cocktail hour in case some guests want to sit. Normally I'm standing and mingling for an hour but I want to take a break in case it's two, you know?
    STARMOON44ahoyweddingcharlotte989875
  • I think it sounds like you’ll be hosting everyone, well, with no gap and is a perfect solution. 
    charlotte989875
  • Two hours is a liiiiiiittle bit long, but the timeline @southernbelle0915 proposed helps things flow better. And if you two are at the cocktail hour for even just a little bit I think that would help it seem like not such a long time. Plus, guests will probably rather eat dinner at a reasonable hour instead of 3:30 pm. Kudos to you for thinking of your guests and planning the cocktail hour!
    charlotte989875short+sassy
  • I think it sounds well hosted (and really fun). I like southernbelles timeline too, but I definitely don’t think it’s too long where it’s a problem. 

  • Ceremony: 1:00-2:00 pm (10 minute walk to the reception)

    Cocktail Hour: 2:30-4:30

    Dinner: 4:30 (Plated)

    Late Night Snacks: 9:30 pm

    Reception End: 10:30 pm

    People noted that you have a 20-minute gap, which just seems odd. I also think you need to remember that people aren't going to be served dinner the minute they get to the reception. 

    Ceremony: 1:00-2:00 pm (10 minute walk to the reception)

    Receiving line, pictures, Cocktail Hour: 2:10-4:00 pm (really this will be 2:30-4pm, since people will get there after the receiving line, etc, but they should be ready for guests who get there first)

    Reception start: 4:00 pm, intros (if you must--but remember, people know you and no one really cares about bridal party members dancing in and standing awkwardly), first dances, and maybe open the dance floor for a bit. I've been to a few weddings where the first dance led into the dance floor opening up prior to dinner for a few upbeat songs. You can also cut the cake before dinner, so there is time for the caterer to serve it after dinner, as well. 

    Dinner 4:30 - 5:30 pm

    Dancing 5:30 pm until whenever; cake served at 7 pm

    (Assume most guests will leave at about 7:30 pm...this is after everything is done, and after a 6.5 hour event (1pm until 7:30pm)

    You can keep dancing until whenever if you have the money to keep the place open, but there's also nothing wrong with ending the reception. You could potentially have an "after party" if you want, too. Personally, I'd plan to have the reception over with a last song by 8pm, and then meet people at a local bar from 8-11 if I wanted. I'd have apps pre-ordered and a private space reserved at the bar, but drinks would be on the guests if they want them. 


    InLoveInQueens
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