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Customs and Traditions

Time between ceremony and reception

This is my very first post. I know nothing about weddings. Only attended one in my life...my cousin's when I was 10 or so. All I know is what I've seen in movies and read online. My fiance and I are doing this whole thing ourselves. It will be a small simple celebration.

My question is traditionally what is the time frame between the ceremony and the reception? We imagine after the ceremony we will want to take some photographs in our scenic area just the two of us and with family. Can the two events be a couple hours apart? Our venues are in different locations.

If we have an outdoor wedding say at noon (for best sunlight) is it acceptable to start the indoor reception at 5 or is that too long? I'm clueless! We aren't doing a cocktail hour or anything just catering food for a dinner.
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Re: Time between ceremony and reception

  • pgcppgcp member
    Knottie Warrior 100 Comments 5 Love Its
    edited March 2012
    That is entirely too long.  There shouldn't be any more time than is needed to casually leave the ceremony and arrive at the reception site.  If the reception site is 15 minutes away then the reception should start a half hour after the ceremony.  If you want to take pictures after the ceremony then host a cocktail hour for your guests.  Otherwise take all your pictures before hand.  Don't be a rude host to your guests and leave them to fend for themselves for hours on end.
  • An ideal wedding situation has no gap and the venues are no greater than 20 minutes away from each other.   30 minutes would be the cap on distance between the two.  

    While you take pictures, you should host a cocktail hour where guests can enjoy light snacks and drinks.  When the bride and groom arrive, you can get everyone seated and start the dinner itself.   Another option (and what we did) is to have stations of food available from the moment guests arrive until the end of the night so there's food while the bride and groom are getting pictures done. 


  • Ideally there would be no gap...having said that if you are wanting to be traditional, and not see eachother before the ceremony, and want pictures, the inbetween time is really the only time with lots of daylight left to do it in. And when it comes down to it...most of your guests are adults..not grade 7's (I assume) , if they cant entertain themselves for 1 hour...then they need to grow up, you have to wait longer sitting in an airport!

    Different areas/circles, have different ideas about what is acceptable, I have never been to a wedding with shorter then a 2 hour gap, and have been to weddings with up to a 4 hour gap. We are having a 1.5 hour gap.

    Ideally if you are having a gap...I would say 1 hour is pretty standard acceptable, anything longer be prepared to offer either a full cocktail hour or at least things like deli trays and veggies or SOMETHING. IMO anything longer then 2 hours, and as a guest, I am bored as heck, I have even not gone to receptions because I had things to do that day and having a 3 hour gap just takes too much of my time.

    So keep it as short as possible and/or offer something to eat/do in the meantime.

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  • In my circle, what is normal is to have the reception immediately follow the ceremony.  Everyone leaves the ceremony and goes straight to the reception venue and gets the party started, whether the bride and groom are there or not.  Sometimes the bride and groom take photos and come a little later (maybe 30 minutes after guests arrive), but most of the time they've done all their photos beforehand and are at the reception at the same time as the guests.
  • You can do a lot of your pictures before hand without seeing each other.    We are having our photographer take pictures of me and the bridesmaids at the venue first, then we'll go hang in the brides room as the guys show up and she'll take some shots of them.  After the ceremony we'll run through the family shots quickly, then do a few more with the whole bridal party, and then just the two of us.  It shouldn't take more than an hour after the ceremony.
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  • 123861123861 member
    10 Comments
    edited March 2012
    I think "the best light" is not at Noon,but much later.The light is too harsh,people will be squinting their eyes and things will look faded.
    I would suggest to check with your photographer when he/she considers best light and make your decision upon that.
    Waiting longer than 30-45 mins is in my view not cool.
    We are doing some pictures beforhand without the first look.Both side of the family separate ,our kids etc to keep the waiting at a minimum.
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  • MyNameIsNotMyNameIsNot Atlanta member
    Ninth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    You shouldn't leave any time other than drive time.  Even if you choose not to see each other before the ceremony, you'll be able to get most of your photos done before the ceremony.  An hour to do all the photos that have both of you in them is plenty.  You can treat your guests to cocktails and apps at the reception while you are finishing up these photos.  

    Do not leave your guests to fend for themselves.  No one wants to go sightseeing in their dress up clothes.  How embarassing to have people compare your wedding to waiting around an airport!  Remember, you want your guests to enjoy your wedding, not think of it as something that they had to put up with.  
  • I agree with PP's, a 5 hour gap is actually considered quite rude.  Typically, there's no more than an hour (1.5 max) during which time, beverages and appetizers are served for your guests as they should never have to 'fend for themselves' or be responsible for finding entertainment during YOUR event.

    For reference, here's the schedule we used for our wedding and similar to other weddings I've attended:

    1pm: Pictures.  H and I decided to do a first look, but if you want to be traditional, you can still get other group shots out of the way (ie bride & BMs, bride and family, groom & GM, groom and family, etc) without seeing each other, but it drastically reduces the time you'll need after the ceremony.

    3:30:  Back in room for guest arrival (so they didn't see us before the ceremony)

    4pm:  Ceremony

    4:30:  Cocktail hour for guests/pictures for us (since we did all our group shots before the ceremony, we focused this time on shots of just H and I.  If you don't want to see each other before the ceremony, you'll spend the first 30 min or so completing group shots and have less time for just the two of you, but that's a trade-off you have to make.  You should never sacrifice your guests' comfort for the sake of more pictures).

    5:45:  Guest seating for reception (you generally have the reception hall closed during cocktail hour, so you want to give your guests about 15 minutes before you enter to find their seats and get 'settled in')

    6pm:  Reception start and B&G grand entrance


    As PP mentioned before, noon is actually one of the worst times of day for photos.  Even when H and I started our pictures at 1pm, we had to do it out of direct sunlight because it's terrible at that time of day.  The best light for pictures is about an hour to two before sunset, so what we did was look up the sunset time for our wedding day and scheduled our ceremony to start about an hour and a half prior (30 min for ceremony, hour for pictures).
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  • Like PPs said, there should ideally be no gap in between the ceremony & reception. Many couples host a cocktail hour after the ceremony so the guests are occupied while they go off & take pictures. I think a 5 hour gap in between the ceremony & reception is way too long. I also think, depending on how long your pictures might last after the ceremony, that you should consider having a cocktail hour.

    With all that being said, I was recently at a wedding where the ceremony was at 2 & the reception didn't start until 6. My family & I weren't necessarily OOT'ers, but we lived an hour away & decided to stay in a hotel close by to the reception. So, after the ceremony, we went & checked in to our hotel, relaxed, had a few snacks & drinks, etc. I wasn't looking forward to the gap, but it ended up not being so bad. I know a lot of people are completely against the gap, & I would never make my guests wait that long, but it wasn't the worst thing in the world.
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  • My FI and I have a 3 hour gap.  Our ceremony is at 3pm and our cocktail hour (which is at a separate location) begins at 7pm.  We chose to have the gap because we're traditional and do not want to take pictures before the ceremony.  We also would like to be able to enjoy our cocktail hour with our guests without having to race through pictures.  A side note, our wedding is on a Friday so we're assuming many people will not show at the church anyway because they would have to take off of work.  Either way, it's your day and your wedding, so I say do what you choose.  If your guests do not come because they are annoyed about a couple hour gap, then you're better off without those guests.  Anyone who truly wants to celebrate with you, will go along with whatever decisions you make!
    Knottie42541330Knottie58239981[Deleted User]
  • Most of the weddings I've been to have a time frame like ceremony at 4, cocktails at 5, and reception starting at 6, and everything flowed really nicely.  There was enough time to travel from place to place, but no "down time".  

    With that being said, I've been to two wedding on "resorts"/golf clubs with a banquet room and hotel rooms.  Both of those weddings were earlier (2:30 and 3), and then there was a 2 hour gap between the wedding and the reception.  BUT it was wonderful, because everyone was staying at the resort, so everyone had time to walk back to their rooms, socialize, get a drink at the bar, etc.  If you want a gap, and you haven't picked a venue yet, you may have wanted to look into a resort! 
  • Most of the weddings I've been to have a time frame like ceremony at 4, cocktails at 5, and reception starting at 6, and everything flowed really nicely.  There was enough time to travel from place to place, but no "down time".  

    With that being said, I've been to two wedding on "resorts"/golf clubs with a banquet room and hotel rooms.  Both of those weddings were earlier (2:30 and 3), and then there was a 2 hour gap between the wedding and the reception.  BUT it was wonderful, because everyone was staying at the resort, so everyone had time to walk back to their rooms, socialize, get a drink at the bar, etc.  If you want a gap, and you haven't picked a venue yet, you may have wanted to look into a resort! 
  • In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/wedding-boards_customs-traditions_time-between-ceremony-and-reception?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Wedding%20BoardsForum:36Discussion:dd5b52b8-6768-4179-9ca0-8783e9e15e93Post:90e21883-4391-4bf8-9c07-490cf79af796">Re: Time between ceremony and reception</a>:
    [QUOTE]I agree with PP's, a 5 hour gap is actually considered quite rude.  Typically, there's no more than an hour (1.5 max) during which time, beverages and appetizers are served for your guests as they should never have to 'fend for themselves' or be responsible for finding entertainment during YOUR event. For reference, here's the schedule we used for our wedding and similar to other weddings I've attended: 1pm: Pictures.  H and I decided to do a first look, but if you want to be traditional, you can still get other group shots out of the way (ie bride & BMs, bride and family, groom & GM, groom and family, etc) without seeing each other, but it drastically reduces the time you'll need after the ceremony. 3:30:  Back in room for guest arrival (so they didn't see us before the ceremony) 4pm:  Ceremony 4:30:  Cocktail hour for guests/pictures for us (since we did all our group shots before the ceremony, we focused this time on shots of just H and I.  If you don't want to see each other before the ceremony, you'll spend the first 30 min or so completing group shots and have less time for just the two of you, but that's a trade-off you have to make.  You should never sacrifice your guests' comfort for the sake of more pictures). 5:45:  Guest seating for reception (you generally have the reception hall closed during cocktail hour, so you want to give your guests about 15 minutes before you enter to find their seats and get 'settled in') 6pm:  Reception start and B&G grand entrance As PP mentioned before, noon is actually one of the worst times of day for photos.  Even when H and I started our pictures at 1pm, we had to do it out of direct sunlight because it's terrible at that time of day.  The best light for pictures is about an hour to two before sunset, so what we did was look up the sunset time for our wedding day and scheduled our ceremony to start about an hour and a half prior (30 min for ceremony, hour for pictures).
    Posted by jemmini6[/QUOTE]

    I like this answer. (and this is actually my timetable...)

    I went to a 2pm wedding this summer and the reception didn't allow people in until 5:30. Being out of town guests, we had to drive to a bar and wait out that gap and it was REALLY inconvenient.
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  • In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/wedding-boards_customs-traditions_time-between-ceremony-and-reception?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Wedding%20BoardsForum:36Discussion:dd5b52b8-6768-4179-9ca0-8783e9e15e93Post:ff5d4507-11f1-4662-b0bb-8cd0ab86a51a">Re: Time between ceremony and reception</a>:
    [QUOTE]My FI and I have a 3 hour gap.  Our ceremony is at 3pm and our cocktail hour (which is at a separate location) begins at 7pm.  We chose to have the gap because we're traditional and do not want to take pictures before the ceremony.  We also would like to be able to enjoy our cocktail hour with our guests without having to race through pictures.  A side note, our wedding is on a Friday so we're assuming many people will not show at the church anyway because they would have to take off of work.  <strong>Either way, it's your day and your wedding, so I say do what you choose.  If your guests do not come because they are annoyed about a couple hour gap, then you're better off without those guests</strong>.  Anyone who truly wants to celebrate with you, will go along with whatever decisions you make!
    Posted by CristyT1222[/QUOTE]

    This is a poor attitude. Some people travel a great distance to come to your wedding, and it is not very polite to leave them with nowhere to go. It might be YOUR DAY, but your guests need to be taken care of and you DO need to think of them.
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  • That is WAY too long!!  We are having our cermony start at 3:30pm (it will last about 30-45 minutes) and then our cocktail hour is starting at 5pm (it will take about 20-30 minutes to get from the ceremony site to the reception site).  We are taking all of our pictures before the ceremony starts at another location where we will have a first look session, wedding party photos, and family photos.  We are planning on doing a few quick shots at the ceremony location after the ceremony if there is time.
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  • In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/wedding-boards_customs-traditions_time-between-ceremony-and-reception?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Wedding%20BoardsForum:36Discussion:dd5b52b8-6768-4179-9ca0-8783e9e15e93Post:c83ab9d9-eda5-4228-ab82-454dfd6aed57">Time between ceremony and reception</a>:
    [QUOTE]This is my very first post. I know nothing about weddings. Only attended one in my life...my cousin's when I was 10 or so. All I know is what I've seen in movies and read online. My fiance and I are doing this whole thing ourselves. It will be a small simple celebration. My question is traditionally what is the time frame between the ceremony and the reception? We imagine after the ceremony we will want to take some photographs in our scenic area just the two of us and with family. Can the two events be a couple hours apart? Our venues are in different locations. <strong>If we have an outdoor wedding say at noon (for best sunlight)</strong> is it acceptable to start the indoor reception at 5 or is that too long? I'm clueless! We aren't doing a cocktail hour or anything just catering food for a dinner.
    Posted by redlavausf[/QUOTE]

    <div>I agree that the gap is too long. I also have to add that most photographers avoid taking photos at noon because generally it's the absolute worst time to take photos outside when the sun is directly overhead. </div>
  • I realize it took me a long time to get back to this post but I appreciated all the replies.

    We are having a small wedding with probably no more than 30 guests if even that. Mostly just family coming from out of state. We are also not having a bridal party so it shouldn't take us too long for some photos after the ceremony with family.

    The reason I mentioned best sunlight at noon in my first post was because our ceremony location is a grassy area in the mountains and there are tall trees on both sides. We were concerned about shade being cast and ruining our photos during the ceremony. We don't want guests to be blinded by the sun of course but was trying to figure the best daylight for that area. We decided to change our ceremony time to 2:30pm. Thinking it will only last about 30min or so we will do photos afterwards another 30 min and then guests can head back into town. We will snap a few more photos of just the two of us then. And have a chance to breathe before we head to the cocktail hour/reception!

    Our reception is 15-20 min away but we aren't having the outdoor cocktail hour begin until 5pm. Our area and the drive back to town are scenic so we've made suggestions for our guests on places they may want to stop and check out briefly if they are interested or they may want to return to their hotels to freshen up etc. Dinner will be at 6pm with dancing and dessert to finish off the night. Our reception is in a historic barn with a bon fire ring out back. Again we want a simple celebration with our family nothing super big fancy or formal. But no I won't be wearing cowboy boots either! Everything we are doing is to represent who we are and we also are hoping our guests will enjoy too. I really think it will all turn out just fine.

    Fiance and I are doing all this ourselves. Including setting up the even sites the morning of which is why we can't do photos beforehand. It's not that we are traditional and can't see one another but that we just have to be busy to make all this happen. We can barely afford anything but have been together a very long time and are finally trying to make a wedding happen so we can start a family in the coming years. I'd love to have a coordinator but we can't afford it. We are hand making a lot of our stuff. Family is going to help us morning of but I think everyone will still appreciate our event. I just want a day full of happy memories to share with ones we love!
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