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Ceremony and Vow Ideas

What to do with guests between Ceremony and Reception?

I'm having some disagreements between "us" and our families on what to do with our guests between events.  My mother wants to host a cocktail hour, which we all liked the idea in the beginning, but once we got into the planning of it, we realized it was like planning a whole other event.  We're on a pretty tight budget, and my fiance and I would like to pinch pennies wherever we can while still showing our guests a good time and making them comfortable.  A good amount of them will be out of town guests, and I've heard from several other people that it's ok to include information about the city, and give them a list of things to do in the area between events.  We're probably going to have an hour-2 hours between events for pictures.

Is it appropriate to just have a "things to do" list for our guests to entertain themselves before the reception?

Re: What to do with guests between Ceremony and Reception?

  • If you are doing OOT bags for them you could put brochures in there for people to look at.  Many people say its rude to have a time gap in between ceremony and reception but sometimes its unavoidable.  Our ceremony is at 3 since its a Catholic church and needs to be started by a certain time, and our cocktail hour starts at 6.  Personally I have only been to one wedding where there was not a few hours between the ceremony and reception and it was because they were in the same room.

    Just a few things I would consider:  is there a big travel distance between ceremony and reception?  And is there hotel or wherever they are staying near them?  Are there a lot of things to do near the reception site or hotel?

    Personally I always like some time in between ceremony and reception.  I usually wear something less formal to the church and then have time to get dressed and ready for the reception.  Plus you have time to relax in between .

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  • I went to a wedding as an OOT guest and happened to also have a big chunk of time in between.  We went to a nearby restaurant for drinks and snacks, and then stopped at the hotel to hang out and freshen up.  It was no big deal.  I've never heard of having a "things to do" list before.  I suppose it wouldn't hurt if you want to give your guests some ideas, but if you only end up having an hour I really wouldn't worry about it. 
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  • In Response to What to do with guests between Ceremony and Reception?:
    I'm having some disagreements between "us" and our families on what to do with our guests between events.  My mother wants to host a cocktail hour, which we all liked the idea in the beginning, but once we got into the planning of it, we realized it was like planning a whole other event.  We're on a pretty tight budget, and my fiance and I would like to pinch pennies wherever we can while still showing our guests a good time and making them comfortable.  A good amount of them will be out of town guests, and I've heard from several other people that it's ok to include information about the city, and give them a list of things to do in the area between events.  We're probably going to have an hour-2 hours between events for pictures. Is it appropriate to just have a "things to do" list for our guests to entertain themselves before the reception?
    Posted by jbro1705
    Not really.  Once they're your guests, they need to be hosted for the duration.

    I don't see why a cocktail hour has to be complicated.  It's usually just held in the same location as the reception, and is just some drinks and munchies.  Many venues incorporate it into the cost of the reception.

    I'd highly recommend taking at least some of your pictures beforehand.  If you and your FI don't want to see each other before the ceremony (even though this is usually the better course of action), you can get any separate pictures out of the way.  But honestly, a good photographer doesn't need more than an hour to do the formals.  And an hour is about the amount of time your guests will be comfortable munching and socializing before they start getting antsy and bored.

    If you do leave guests to their own devices after the ceremony, you'll have to accept the fact that some of them may not bother with the reception.
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    Sometimes I feel like people think that brides are delicate little flower princesses who get all dressed up and pretty for one special moment of their dreams, when really they're just normal people who just happen to be getting married. Things shouldn't have to be sugar-coated for grown-ass women. -mstar284
  • A two hour gap without anything hosted is unacceptable.  All you need for the cocktail hour is a selection of snacks and drinks.  It's really not a whole separate event.

    Also, you really don't NEED 2 hours for photos.  If you really want that many pics, you should do at least some before the ceremony.
  • jenn.daniel took the words out of my mouth.
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  • Is there a bowling alley nearby, what about renting out a couple of lanes. It`s not usually very expensive, and it would be a fun way to keep them busy. Maybe it`s tacky, I don`t know, but my family would love something like that. Even if they are dressed up that day.
  • In Response to Re: What to do with guests between Ceremony and Reception?:
    Is there a bowling alley nearby, what about renting out a couple of lanes. It`s not usually very expensive, and it would be a fun way to keep them busy. Maybe it`s tacky, I don`t know, but my family would love something like that. Even if they are dressed up that day.
    Posted by CanadianGurl
    Just my POV, but I would never go bowling when I'm dressed up in wedding attire.   Not that I don't like bowling, but really.....And I have a hard time imagining that great aunt Hilda and great uncle Norbert would be terribly interested in bowling either.

    OP:  If you're asking guests to give up their entire day and evening for your wedding, then you really should provide something in the time you're taking photos.

    My nephew and his bride took off for photos and 90 minutes later, everyone was still standing around wondering when we could get something to eat or drink.  I think you can imagine how happy guests were at that point.

    First choice:  eliminate the gap.
    Second choice:  provide a cocktail hour, or at least a hospitality suite for guests.
    "Trix, it's what they/our parents wanted. Why so judgemental? And why is your wedding date over a year and a half ago? And why do you not have a groom's name? And why have you posted over 12,000 posts? And why do you always say mean things to brides?" palegirl146
  • I went to a wedding with a long gap and was highly inconvienced in my opinon. We literally went to a restaurant and had a light meal before going to the reception. A coctail hour doesn't have to be difficult or fancy. Buy bulk if you are providing the food. A things to do list might make people late for the actual reception.
  • Leaving a gap for anything longer than travel time is inappropriate and incredibly rude.  If your reception does not start immediately, you need to host something during the break.

    Cocktail hour is the norm during pictures, but simple refreshments, like a veggie tray and sodas, is perfectly acceptable.  Telling them to go entertain themselves is not ok.  
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  • Do as many pictures beforehand as possible.  Even if you and your FI don't see each other before the wedding, that should leave you with an hour's worth of photos for after the ceremony, tops.  If you're left with longer, you don't have a decent photographer.

    Now, take that hour long gap and host a cocktail hour at the reception hall.  Or the ceremony site if that's not possible.  It doesn't have to be anything fancy or expensive, but something to munch on and something to sip on.
  • Oh, and the entirety of planning our cocktail hour was the catering manager telling us that it would take place by the bar outside while they finished setting up inside, which of the hors d'oeuvres from our heavy hors d'oeuvres cocktail reception would be served at the cocktail hour, and what time the cocktail hour would end.  Planning a cocktail hour doesn't need to be complicated.
  • yeah, don't leave them on their own, it's rude.  Let your mom host the cocktail hour, it can be very simple. 

    FI & I are doing as many pics as we can beforehand (without seeing each other) so that we can keep things moving. By the time the ceremony and receiving line are done, the guests should be able to head straight to the hall.  We plan to be there by the end of the cocktail hour (earlier if we can) so that we can get the intros done and get dinner started immediately. We do not want the guests waiting for more than an hour, and we're aiming for less.
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  • We have an hour gap...so we're having a cocktail hour plus badminton set up & cornhole!
  • We have a two hour gap, too. What we're doing is having our ceremony at 3, and then having a small mingling time after the ceremony. Then we're not having a sit down dinner at the reception, but just snacks, drinks, and cake. We're encouraging people to get dinner in between. It's not an ideal situation, but we don't have money for a sit down dinner in our budget, and I've never been to a reception that wasn't a few hours after the ceremony. If the guests really love you and your families, they won't mind waiting or finding something to do.
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  • In Response to Re: What to do with guests between Ceremony and Reception?:
    We have a two hour gap, too. What we're doing is having our ceremony at 3, and then having a small mingling time after the ceremony. Then we're not having a sit down dinner at the reception, but just snacks, drinks, and cake. We're encouraging people to get dinner in between. It's not an ideal situation, but we don't have money for a sit down dinner in our budget, and I've never been to a reception that wasn't a few hours after the ceremony. If the guests really love you and your families, they won't mind waiting or finding something to do.
    Posted by SalemMarie
    Not an ideal situation is quite the understatement.  If you can't afford to feed these people, you should either do it at non-meal time or just cut them from the guest list.

    It's nice that you view your wedding as something your guests should have to endure because they love you.  
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  • trix1223trix1223
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    edited July 2010
    In Response to Re: What to do with guests between Ceremony and Reception?:
    We have a two hour gap, too. What we're doing is having our ceremony at 3, and then having a small mingling time after the ceremony. Then we're not having a sit down dinner at the reception, but just snacks, drinks, and cake. We're encouraging people to get dinner in between. It's not an ideal situation, but we don't have money for a sit down dinner in our budget, and I've never been to a reception that wasn't a few hours after the ceremony. If the guests really love you and your families, they won't mind waiting or finding something to do.
    Posted by SalemMarie
    Sorry, but I think that's pretty awful.  If I were you, and obviously I'm not, and I couldn't afford to feed people, then I wouldn't have a wedding that spanned a mealtime.

    I've have a 1:00 pm ceremony, followed immediately by a cake and punch reception.

    I have to say that if I were expected to travel to a wedding, perhaps take time from work to get there, perhaps get new attire, certainly buy a gift for the couple, but was then told to come to a ceremony, go somewhere and get something to eat and then come back for a reception.....I'd probably decline the invitation.
    "Trix, it's what they/our parents wanted. Why so judgemental? And why is your wedding date over a year and a half ago? And why do you not have a groom's name? And why have you posted over 12,000 posts? And why do you always say mean things to brides?" palegirl146
  • I hate the "If they really love you then they won't mind" line.

    That's the exact same sort of line that abusive partners use.  "Baby if you love me then you wouldn't have said no and you would have given me sex."  "If you love me then you'd understand why I had to hit you."  "If you loved me then you would have done X.

    If YOU loved YOUR guests, then you wouldn't be treating them poorly in the first place.
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  • I am having a 1 hour gap between the two but I don't think I'll even need that much.  I am getting all of the wedding party photos, including first look photos, done before the ceremony.  The only reason for the gap is for family photos and our immediate family is kind of large.  I don't know that it will take an hour but at least I have that covered.  I can't really afford a "cocktail hour" but I am going to have the guests go ahead and go to the reception site and have a drink and some of the appetizers from the reception I think.  It depends on how much an alcoholic drink would cost for everybody, but it could just be non-alcoholic drinks and snacks since that is already covered in the food cost for the reception.

    Do you have a family member that lives nearby that can host something in their backyard for those two hours?
  • I am just going to throw this out there...bar hopping??? That's what is expected between the wedding and reception in Wisconsin.  Everyone goes to bars in the area and the bride and groom as well.  I know it might be out there for people that don't normally do that, but I thought I would throw it out there anyway.
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  • I'm in the minority here but I think it's fine. I prefer to be able to freshen up before the reception. The worst wedding Ive ever been to was one where there was a coctail hour between the wedding and reception and we were expected to buy our own drinks for an hour and a half while the bride and groom took pictures and socialize with people we did not know. I would have much rather been told that the reception starts at X time so I could have done something on my own for that time. We have a 2 hour gap between ours but only family is invited to our ceremony (friends are invited to the reception) and they all live close by. That would also be considered unacceptable here but it's the norm where I'm from.
  • I think it is very rude to expect your guests to just hang out for 2 hours. I would think many people will just skip the ceremony and show up only for the reception. The norm is for a one hour cocktail hour to be held while you are having your photos done.


  • In my family and circle of friends a gap is expected between the ceremony and reception (even with a cocktail hour).  It is common for my family and friends to go to a bar between the 2 events, then show up at the cocktail hour.  The last wedding I attended, we actually went over to my aunt's house(also aunt of the groom).  We had a few drinks and a great time while some people freshened up.  It went very smoothly in my opinion. 
    Also, after working in a full service hotel for quite some time I noticed that before most receptions guests either came back to the hotel to freshen up/ relax/sometimes change or would socialize in the hotel bar in between (again most still had a cocktail hour at some point).  I can not recall anyone being offended by this and many people enjoy this time to enjoy with other friends and family without being in the formal atmosphere. 

    So, short story long, look at what is acceptable in you social crowd.  If people will truly be offended by the time gap try to have a simple cocktail hour of sodas and bulk snacks.  Cocktail hours don't need to be fancy and over the top. 
  • I'm so lost. I've only ever been to one wedding (in which I was a Flower Girl a long time ago), but of all of the ones I've been invited to, the wedding ceremony is usually around 1 or 2 o'clock in the afternoon, and then the reception doesn't start until 6 or 7 in the evening. Since the only wedding I went to was the one I was in, we were taking pictures, etc. during the break, so I don't know what the guests were left to do. I just always assumed it was normal to go to the ceremony, take a little break, and then meet back up at the reception. Maybe it's an Ohio thing?
  • I think a to-do list is a great idea. Every wedding I've ever been to has had at least an hour (usually 2-3 hr) time gap between ceremony and reception. It's not a big deal, even for out of town guests (and I've never even heard of anything being planned during that time).Guests can simply head back to the hotel to freshen up or check out the town. My fiance and I are getting married next summer and there will be about a two hour time gap between ceremony and reception. We won't be hosting anything for our guests, but probably making a to-do list. Hope this helps!Smile
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