Wedding Reception Forum
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Wedding day time line

We’re still looking for a venue, but in the process it became clear that most venues work along a 5-hour time frame/ duration for cocktail hour, dinner, and reception. I’m actually very confused by this. In the draft planning I made for what FI and I would like our day to look like, I came to 8 hours for cocktail hour, dinner, and reception combined:

15.00 - 15.45       Ceremony

15.45 - 17.30       Cocktail hour

17.30 - 20.00       Dinner

20.30 - 00.00       Reception

 

Any feedback?

Would you mind sharing your day planning with me so I can see what other brides are doing?

 

Re: Wedding day time line

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    Maggie0829Maggie0829 member
    First Anniversary First Answer First Comment 5 Love Its
    edited April 2014

    We’re still looking for a venue, but in the process it became clear that most venues work along a 5-hour time frame/ duration for cocktail hour, dinner, and reception. I’m actually very confused by this. In the draft planning I made for what FI and I would like our day to look like, I came to 8 hours for cocktail hour, dinner, and reception combined:

    15.00 - 15.45       Ceremony

    15.45 - 17.30       Cocktail hour

    17.30 - 20.00       Dinner

    20.30 - 00.00       Reception

     

    Any feedback?

    Would you mind sharing your day planning with me so I can see what other brides are doing?

     

    Okay, first lets change this to non-military time for those that don't know it...

    3-3:45 - ceremony
    3:45-5:30 - cocktail hour
    5:30-8 - dinner
    8:30-midnight reception

    An hour and a half for cocktail hour is really pushing it.  It is called cocktail HOUR for a reason.  I have been to a few that have gone past an hour but by that time people are ready to get dinner and the party started.

    Not sure what kind of dinner you are having but in no way do you need 2.5 hours for dinner.  If you are having multiple courses you may need an hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes but that is really it.

    The way you have it laid out you are asking your guests to commit to a 9 hour party.  That is a long time.  There is a reason why venues work off a 4-5 hour time frame for receptions.  Because once you hit the 4 hour mark people are ready to go home.

    Our reception from start of cocktail hour to last song was 5 hours.  And as much as H and I would have loved for it go all night because it was our wedding, our guests were done for the night. People started leaving after we cut our cake and by the end we only had about 30 people left.

    A better timeline for you would be:
    3-3:45 - Ceremony
    3:45-5 - Cocktail hour
    5-6:30 - Dinner
    6:30-9 - Party portion

    And honestly, if you are having a buffet or stations or just a plated meal, rather then multiple courses, dinner really will only take maybe an hour.  You could also add another hour to your reception if you want, but I wouldn't recommend it.  Like I said after about 6 hours out, people are ready to go home.

    Don't forget that if you and your FI still want to celebrate and party it up, you can always just let people know that you will be at X bar after your reception if they want to continue the party.

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    Thanks for your feedback! I appreciate it.

     

    Do people really leave after 5 hours?
    My experience with weddings is strictly with non-American weddings, and I have never seen people leave early. Perhaps 80-year old grandparents, but no one else. I’m a bit shocked to be honest. Why would people drive for hours or fly half across the country for only a few hours?
    Great lesson “American weddings” for me though.


    Some of our reasoning behind certain timings:

    Cocktail hour:

    We are planning on cutting the cake, and having champagne toast at the start of the cocktail hour. Plus we want to actually mingle and talk to our guests a bit before having photos taking (just the series with family etc., not all the bride/ groom shots), but thinking about that now, we could probably do with less time for this. Thanks for pointing that out. 

    Apart from the cake we will serve food during the cocktail hour, so there’s no need to rush to dinner because people are hungry, is there?

    Dinner:

    Three course sit down dinner. Quick calculation: 30 minutes to eat a course, plus some time in between to clear plates and let people rest for about 15 minutes in between courses = 1745 start of first course (it takes a bit to get everyone seated and served), 1830 start of second course, 1915 dessert. Technically we’d be ‘done’ by 19.45, but I also don’t expect people to immediately jump up after dinner. 

    If you say we don’t need more than 1.45 hour, how is that calculated? I seem to be missing something.

    I did notice that there is a typo on my time line, the first dance would be at 20.00, not 20.30.


    Thanks for the tip on the ‘after party’ (for lack of a better word). I like the idea! The only concern I would have is that people who might have stayed while staying at the reception venue, might bail when moving to another place – it’s kind of a natural cut off point.


    Looking forward to hearing more!

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    Cocktail hour, dinner and the dance portion are all part of the reception.

    I would do your pictures before you head to cocktail hour.  Then once you are done you can fully enjoy your reception without having to leave again for pictures.  Cocktail hour is really just to keep your guests busy while you and your wedding party take pictures.  If you do not need a full hour for pictures then you don't need to have a full cocktail hour.

    Every cocktail hour has food, but that doesn't mean that people still don't want to eat dinner right away.  And honestly, if I had to sit for 2.5 hours while dinner was served I would be bored out of my mind.  I don't need to calculate to know that an hour and 45 minutes is plenty of time to eat a salad, entree and dessert.  When I go out to eat at a restaurant that is how long it takes and even that is a long time in my opinion.

    And yes, if you have an after party of sorts, meaning you just meet up with some friends at a bar or wherever afterwards then yes, some people who stay the entire reception may end up bailing.  The after party is not a requirement for your guests, just an option.  If people want to go they will, if they don't they won't.

    Are you having this wedding in the USA?  Asking because of your "American weddings" comment.  And people are happy to fly or drive for a few hours to attend a 6+ hour wedding because they want to.  6+ hours in the US for a single event is a long time.  Honestly, that is a long time to be at any one event and, for me at least, I am ready to go home once the reception is done.

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    Don't have your first dance after dinner! Have it as soon as you get into the room so that the dance floor is open and people can dance between courses. I'd go with:

    4:30-5:15 ceremony
    5:15-6:30 cocktail hour
    6:30-6:45 first dance
    6:45 first course served
    Toasts done during first or second course
    8:15 cut cake
    Dance Till finish- no big demarcation between dinner and reception.

    You don't need to allow 15 minutes to rest between courses. The time to clear plates and serve will give enough of a pause to the meal.
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    LlikotdesserdLlikotdesserd member
    First Anniversary First Comment 5 Love Its Name Dropper
    edited April 2014
    Our timeline will look something like this 3:00- 4:30- first look and formal photos 5:00 - 5:30/5:45 - ceremony 5:45- 6:45 - cocktail hour 6:45-7:15 - introductions/entrances and first dance, parent dances 7:15- 8:45 - dinner 9:00 - the band starts to play Reception ends at 11 Hope that helps! (Sorry for the lack of formatting. Sometimes my ipad does wonky things)
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    SonietsjkaSonietsjka member
    5 Love Its First Comment First Anniversary
    edited April 2014

    To start with the easy question: yes, we’re getting married in the US; FI is American. About 50% of the guests will be American, approx. 40% will be from the Netherlands (where I’m from), and 10% will be include friends from other countries (amongst others Canada, UK, Uganda).

     

    The thing is that in many places in Europe, we take more time to eat meals. It would be very odd to expect people to finish a three course meal in 1.5 hours without any pause in between courses. I myself would have the feeling I’d be rushed and have to shove down my food.
    Definitely need to give this more thought and see how we can find a middle ground.

    Maggie, why would you be bored when dinner would take 2 or 2.5 hours? You just said that people like to talk to others at weddings. Isn’t dinner then a great opportunity to do so?  

     

    Starmoon, if toasts are done during the actual course, do people eat will someone is talking? Or do they wait and let the food get cold? Or are toasts only done during salads (as they are usually cold)? What about the person giving the toast? Will his/ her food be served when he/she’s done?
    We’re not planning on having lengthy toasts (I’d say 5 min will do, but that of course in the end depends on the person speeching).  


    ETA: tried to remove the 'box' but that didn't work

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    Don't have your first dance after dinner! Have it as soon as you get into the room so that the dance floor is open and people can dance between courses. I'd go with: 4:30-5:15 ceremony 5:15-6:30 cocktail hour 6:30-6:45 first dance 6:45 first course served Toasts done during first or second course 8:15 cut cake Dance Till finish- no big demarcation between dinner and reception. You don't need to allow 15 minutes to rest between courses. The time to clear plates and serve will give enough of a pause to the meal.
    I prefer when first dances are after dinner, actually.  I find that the weddings just flow better that way.  I hate when the couple makes a grand entrance, everything is pumped up, then suddenly everything slows down and they start swaying to a love song.  It is so mismatched.  
    image
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    I went to a wedding where one was American and the other British. The invitation only had a start time for the ceremony (4:30) and the event went all the way until 12AM. Granted, it was a slight destination wedding so we all stayed until the night was over, but everyone had a blast! Whatever you decide is up to you, just remember how some of your guests will act the way they see appropriate and when they will leave (if early). 
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    FI and I just finalized our wedding timeline today with the venue. Our timeline will be
    Ceremony 4:00 pm-4:30 pm
    Cocktail Hour 4:30 pm-6:00 pm
    Dinner 6:00 pm-8:15 pm
    Dancing 8:15 pm-1:00 am

    This is pretty normal in my area of Canada. I have friends from Quebec who think our wedding reception is ending early.
    image
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    ahyatt87 said:
    FI and I just finalized our wedding timeline today with the venue. Our timeline will be
    Ceremony 4:00 pm-4:30 pm
    Cocktail Hour 4:30 pm-6:00 pm
    Dinner 6:00 pm-8:15 pm
    Dancing 8:15 pm-1:00 am

    This is pretty normal in my area of Canada. I have friends from Quebec who think our wedding reception is ending early.
    Yeah, bars around here close at 2:00 a.m. and they are full when they do.  I think people like to party into the night around here.  I have stayed until close at a bar, but I have actually never stayed through an entire wedding reception that took place in the evening.  
    image
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    My wedding is 6 hours in total from start of ceremony to end of reception.  I already know that several people will be leaving early because they are notorious for leaving early at family events.  Honestly if you space out moments in your wedding enough you have more of a chance of everyone staying till close to the end.  I do not really get the responses that indicate people need to be fed immediately after the cocktail hour.  It's a little insane they already had something to eat and now they need to wait until the introductions, toasts and first dance is over.  
    This is our timeline:

    -Ceremony: 12:30-1:30
    -Photos with guests (we are have a very small wedding mostly family): 1:30-2:30
    -Cocktail Hour- 2:30-3:30
    -Reception-3:30-7:30 (introductions, toasts and first dance will take place during the first 30-45mins).  


    Wedding Countdown Ticker
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    To start with the easy question: yes, we’re getting married in the US; FI is American. About 50% of the guests will be American, approx. 40% will be from the Netherlands (where I’m from), and 10% will be include friends from other countries (amongst others Canada, UK, Uganda).

     

    The thing is that in many places in Europe, we take more time to eat meals. It would be very odd to expect people to finish a three course meal in 1.5 hours without any pause in between courses. I myself would have the feeling I’d be rushed and have to shove down my food.
    Definitely need to give this more thought and see how we can find a middle ground.

    Maggie, why would you be bored when dinner would take 2 or 2.5 hours? You just said that people like to talk to others at weddings. Isn’t dinner then a great opportunity to do so?  

     

    Starmoon, if toasts are done during the actual course, do people eat will someone is talking? Or do they wait and let the food get cold? Or are toasts only done during salads (as they are usually cold)? What about the person giving the toast? Will his/ her food be served when he/she’s done?
    We’re not planning on having lengthy toasts (I’d say 5 min will do, but that of course in the end depends on the person speeching).  


    ETA: tried to remove the 'box' but that didn't work

    Yes, dinner is a great time to talk to people.  But if I am sitting with other friends then we really don't need 2+ hours to talk to each other.  We eat, we talk, then we want the party to get started.  I have been to weddings before where dinner took forever and all that anyone at the tables could talk about was how slow and boring the night was becoming.

    Toasts can be done while people are eating.  And five minutes for a toast is too damn long.  They shouldn't really be anymore then 30 seconds.  Why don't you take a timer and read for a book for 5 minutes and tell me how long that feels?  It feels like an eternity.  Also, even though the person giving the toast will be a close friend or family member what in the world could they talk about for 5 minutes besides inside stories and jokes that many of your friends won't get nor care to hear about.

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    Yes, people will eat while toasts are happening.
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    I'm laughing as I read this b/c I've been having similar conversations with my fiancé.  I'm American, he is French.  We live in France, but the wedding will be in the US.  He can't believe how "short" the wedding reception will be, but the reality is that in the US you can only rent venues for like 4-5 hours, so our reception will start at 7:00pm and go till about 11:30pm.  We have opted for the compromise of having an after party.  My prediction is that most of our US guests (my aunts, uncles, young cousins, anyone with kids, etc.) will be long gone by midnight and the French guests along with my cousins and friends in their 20s/30s will come to the after party.

    I don't know how meals are in the Netherlands, but Americans tend to eat dinner much earlier than most Europeans... think like 6:00 whereas in France the norm is more like 8:30... we are having dinner start at about 7:30 which is early (but still acceptable) for the French and a bit late (but still reasonable) for the Americans.  

    As far as the length of the dinner goes, you could have "breaks" between courses for toasts, etc. as long as they aren't too long.  That way the meal won't feel rushed to you and your US guests won't get bored between courses.  

    Good luck!

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