Customs and Traditions

Gap between Ceremony and Reception - Help!

Hi everyone! I am literally making myself sick stressing about this, and I was hoping for some help.

There is a gap that I can't seem to eliminate between my ceremony and reception. My ceremony is at a gazebo in a local park, and the reception is at a nice restaurant about 15 minutes away. Unfortunately, the city would only rent me the gazebo from 12 to 3pm. We must be gone by 3. Which I figured, okay, then let's get the ceremony started at 2, be done by 2:30 with plenty of time to break down our decor and chairs, and then have the reception start at about 3, maybe 3:30 at the latest. I had talked to the reception venue coordinator and she made it seem like this would be okay. There'd be a small gap, but it wouldn't be obnoxiously long.

Last week, I started going around to all my vendors to confirm details. At this time, I was informed that the restaurant has changed their hours, and the earliest they can start the reception is at 4. No guests may enter the building before 4. I asked about a cocktail hour, and they told me they're already opening an hour early for us by opening at 4, so they can't accommodate that. So from 2:30ish until 4, we have nowhere for our guests to be. Deposits are already paid, they are non-refundable, and this wedding is now a little over 90 days away. I don't want my guests to hate me for leaving them in the lurch, but I don't know what else I can do! Does anyone have any ideas?

Re: Gap between Ceremony and Reception - Help!

  • MobKazMobKaz Chicago suburbs member
    Tenth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    Hi everyone! I am literally making myself sick stressing about this, and I was hoping for some help.

    There is a gap that I can't seem to eliminate between my ceremony and reception. My ceremony is at a gazebo in a local park, and the reception is at a nice restaurant about 15 minutes away. Unfortunately, the city would only rent me the gazebo from 12 to 3pm. We must be gone by 3. Which I figured, okay, then let's get the ceremony started at 2, be done by 2:30 with plenty of time to break down our decor and chairs, and then have the reception start at about 3, maybe 3:30 at the latest. I had talked to the reception venue coordinator and she made it seem like this would be okay. There'd be a small gap, but it wouldn't be obnoxiously long.

    Last week, I started going around to all my vendors to confirm details. At this time, I was informed that the restaurant has changed their hours, and the earliest they can start the reception is at 4. No guests may enter the building before 4. I asked about a cocktail hour, and they told me they're already opening an hour early for us by opening at 4, so they can't accommodate that. So from 2:30ish until 4, we have nowhere for our guests to be. Deposits are already paid, they are non-refundable, and this wedding is now a little over 90 days away. I don't want my guests to hate me for leaving them in the lurch, but I don't know what else I can do! Does anyone have any ideas?
    What was your plan in the event of inclement weather?  Could you use that as a back up plan? 
    It does not sound as if you have printed or sent out invitations yet since you are still working on a time table, so that works in your favor.  You can try to find a different restaurant in which to host your reception.  Did you have anything in writing from your current restaurant plan?  It sounds as if a lot of your planning was verbal.  I can't imagine a restaurant contracting for a reception and then making a significant time change. 
    You need to figure out which change creates the least amount of hassle and loss of funds; find a new reception venue, or change the ceremony location and time and retain the original restaurant choice.
    charlotte989875
  • climbingwifeclimbingwife NYC 'burbs member
    10000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    I’d try to find another ceremony venue. If you can’t do that, host a cocktail hour at the park after the ceremony. 

  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Seventh Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    I think it's time to change either the ceremony venue or the reception venue. I'm inclined to changing the reception to another venue, because the restaurant changed the terms of your agreement on you without notice. That raises a red flag to me. But of course, if you can change the ceremony location and keep the reception at the restaurant with a start time of 4, that's a valid choice as well. If you do that, get it in writing, because the restaurant has already changed times on you.
  • Our plan for inclement weather was literally to bring the wedding completely under the gazebo, instead of having the chairs surrounding it. Our entire guest list is only 30 people, which the gazebo can easily accommodate. That said, we still need to be out of there by 3pm. The park does not allow for receptions anywhere near the gazebo, so we'd have to relocate everyone to another area of the park, just to relocate them again for the reception. Not super ideal, but I guess it's something.

    I'm certain there is not another option for a restaurant out here to host the reception that we could afford. I searched for months, and we were lucky to find this one for a reasonable cost. Part of why the time is a problem now is because when we discussed the 3:30 time originally, it was still an "up in the air" thing. They said they usually start their receptions at 4, and we asked if 3:30 could work if necessary and she said yes because we were doing a buffet, but we weren't really sure of exact times yet when we signed the contract. That was back in July. I have the email with that conversation, but looking at the paperwork, it looks like she put down 4:00. I'm emailing her back to point that prior conversation out again, but we may have shot ourselves in the foot on that front.

    A friend of mine suggested that since our reception is near a lot of good scenic areas, we could ask our guests to meet us to take a group photo. One of our city's famous giant fountains is about a block away from the reception hall. Corralling everyone together, walking down, and taking those photos would potentially burn up at least some of the time, and make the wait not feel so long. We're also thinking of having the ceremony start closer to 2:15, which would make the end time more like 2:45. It's cutting it close on time, but our decorations are minimal and the vendor for our chair rental said they can come at an exact time to pick up the chairs, so we could have them do that at 3:00 while we're all mingling and taking some quick photos. That'd eat another small chunk of time. Thoughts on these ideas?
  • I don't think most guests are going to go for the group photo idea because that asks them to move again.

    What I'd do is move one or the other location.   If you like that reception location then what about getting married there and doing a first look at the gazebo?  
  • fireytigerfireytiger member
    Knottie Warrior 1000 Comments
    edited January 14
    There's nowhere to hold a ceremony at the reception venue. It's just a restaurant. The fountain is literally 0.1 miles from the reception venue (2 minute walk at most), but it's close to a noisy street intersection. It's not someplace to have a ceremony, it's really only a photo op spot. Every other place anywhere near the reception venue is extremely expensive to rent, it's out of our price range. This was why we were able to book our reception venue in July, but it's taken us so long to find a ceremony location that is A) available and B ) not prohibitively expensive. I would also lose the money spent on the gazebo rental if I move now. 
  • maine7mobmaine7mob member
    500 Love Its 100 Comments First Anniversary Name Dropper
    edited January 14
    It sounds as if you're kind of stuck with the 1 hour gap. It will be very awkward to have 30+ people show up at your closed reception venue and mill about for an hour until they open to let you in.

    But you have only 30 people, so I'm wondering if there is any reception venue that could accommodate you earlier?  You could keep the gazebo as your ceremony site, but pick a different reception spot. It's not unreasonable to ask your guests to drive 15-20 minutes to the reception venue. People who have their weddings in churches or places where booze cannot be served do this all the time.

    You may need to think more along the lines of afternoon tea reception vs dinner reception, but that might end up costing you less, depending on your menu. You're going to have to be creative, because I agree with you that a one hour gap with literally no place to go is not acceptable.
  • Then I think your only option is to push for a ceremony that ends close to 3 and then have a cocktail hour in the park.  


    If you have no major dietary restrictions I'd look into getting a charceuterie board from a local Costco or supermarket with some drinks (non alcoholic if the park won't let you bring them in) and that's at least something while you get ready to head over.

    What's the transit time to the restaurant?  Between hugs and chatter and packing up and driving all of that should get you to the time.

  • fireytigerfireytiger member
    Knottie Warrior 1000 Comments
    edited January 14
    With our current plan, we're gonna have the ceremony start at 2:15, end by 2:45 (possibly a little earlier, dunno exactly how long our ceremony is yet), and have the chairs picked up by the vendor at 3. We can spend the time hugging and chattering and grabbing the 3-5 posed photos we want during that time. It's a 15 minute drive to the reception venue, if there is no traffic or unexpected delays/issues. I'm still waiting on the restaurant event coordinator to contact me, but her answer might still be that it has to start at 4:00. So if someone were to leave at 3 instead of hanging around, and arrive right away to the restaurant with no delays, they'd still have at least a solid 45 minute wait to get in. We cannot find another reception venue within our price range with only 90ish days left to go, that's not even remotely realistic. Having a charcuterie board at the ceremony site might be an option, but we risk getting booted at any point.

    All of that is why I was thinking the photo by the fountain might at least eat up some time and give us some really nice photos of our whole group. We could communicate to everyone to meet at the parking lot at 3:20-3:30. People would have time to get there, we'd walk down to the fountain as a group, get some photos together, then walk back. There might still be a short wait for the venue to open, but we wouldn't be sitting around in the parking lot for a solid hour waiting for the venue to open. 

    For reference, here's a google street view of the venue and the fountain. The venue is all the way on the right of the shot; the fountain is all the way on the left of the shot, and the entrance to the restaurant parking lot is also visible. 


  • MobKazMobKaz Chicago suburbs member
    Tenth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    maine7mob said:
    It sounds as if you're kind of stuck with the 1 hour gap. It will be very awkward to have 30+ people show up at your closed reception venue and mill about for an hour until they open to let you in.

    But you have only 30 people, so I'm wondering if there is any reception venue that could accommodate you earlier?  You could keep the gazebo as your ceremony site, but pick a different reception spot. It's not unreasonable to ask your guests to drive 15-20 minutes to the reception venue. People who have their weddings in churches or places where booze cannot be served do this all the time.

    You may need to think more along the lines of afternoon tea reception vs dinner reception, but that might end up costing you less, depending on your menu. You're going to have to be creative, because I agree with you that a one hour gap with literally no place to go is not acceptable.
    100% ^^ agree with this.  The other issue is that all of these plans, even with a gap, are dependent on clear blue skies and moderate temperatures.  The ways in which you are trying to "accommodate" this gap are based on non-seated, outdoor only solutions.  Even the ceremony is risky.  Rain does not always fall gently from the sky; overhead covering does not protect guests from blowing and gusting winds and rain.  High temperatures and/or humidity will also not be pleasant for guests outdoors for 90+ minutes.  At the very least, I would absolutely search for a different reception option.  As @maine7mob stated, you might find a less expensive menu option at a different restaurant hosting it as an afternoon tea.  What might have been expensive dinner options may become affordable luncheon options!
    MesmrEwe
  • Honestly - I'm more concerned about your in case of lousy weather plan than I am about your guests figuring out what to do with an hour between the ceremony and reception.  Or, for that matter, you could have the reception venue be your "in case of rain ceremony begins at 4:30PM at the reception venue.  If it's raining, that means there's likely going to be wind, thunder, and/or lightening/hail.  The gazebo is NOT the place you want your guests to be in that situation!  Also, if you have to be entirely out by 3 that means your vendor needs stuff out of there before then.  

    I'd highly recommend checking out a community center or county fairgrounds type building you can also rent that is indoors that you could have a snacks & punch cocktail hour or just "in case of rain" option if the restaurant won't allow.  
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    maine7mob
  • climbingwifeclimbingwife NYC 'burbs member
    10000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    Again, I think you need to find a different ceremony venue. If it’s raining the day of, you won’t be able to have people walk to the fountain and take pictures. And as others have pointed out, a gazebo will not offer sufficient coverage from inclement weather. 

  • I know you said you have to be out of the gazebo by 3, but the park doesn’t close then, right? Is there another pavilion or area you can set up refreshments for the hour? Or rental the gazebo for another hour for cocktail hour? I don’t hate the idea of the photos by the fountain but it doesn’t sound like it will take that much time, or can you have refreshments for your guests there? 
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