Catholic Weddings

"Catholic Gap"

Our ceremony (without a Nuptial Mass) is at 2pm (the time isn't negotiable).  I assume that it will go to about 3pm (please correct me if I'm wrong!).  We can start our cocktail hour/reception anytime that we want, essentially (our reception venue is about 20 minutes away from the church).  My concern is that if the cocktail hour starts at 3:30 or 4, we would need to serve dinner by 5.  Is that too early?  We'll have hors d'oeurves at the cocktail hour, so there will be plenty of food.  I guess I'm concerned that if we start too early, people will get hungry again after dinner and cake.  I'm also concerned about the gap lasting too long or people getting bored/restless at the cocktail hour.  The party has to end by 11pm (venue rules).

Most of the guests will be from out of town, so a gap could be a good time for them to check into hotels, but I don't want to presume that.  It would also suck for the minority of guests who live in town.  So I need help.  What's a good timeline? :)
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Re: "Catholic Gap"

  • Are you including a receiving line out of the church?

    If not - I would assume another 20-30 minutes for that...

    Start your cocktail hour at 4pm... some venues might let you have a 90 min cocktail hour - ask if they will do that for you...

    When people enter the reception, there are introductions, first dance, toasts, etc. so you don't have to serve the first course right away....figure 5:30pm-6:00pm for that....

    Then just space out the next courses and the dessert course/cake...

    Ask your reception hall what they can do to help the situation.
  • We had a 2 pm wedding and went straight to the reception (I think the first guests arrived around 4, which was when cocktail hour started).

    It was a beautiful evening, and I think dinner was served right around 5:30-6:00.  I can send you our timeline if you'd like.

    As for checking into hotels, please don't assume your guests will use a gap to do that.  If you have OOT guests, my guess is most of them will be showing up the night before (especially if you have an early afternoon wedding).  Not many people want to make a flight or a long drive in their nice wedding clothes.


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  • Thanks for the responses!  Most of the OOT guests are only coming from 2 hours away (thank goodness), but I agree that using a gap with that assumption is a bad idea.

    I'd LOVE to see your timeline, professorofscience.  Thanks again.
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  • If a lot of guests will be in a hotel, then they probably won't mind going back to freshen up/watch tv/relax for an hour. If they're from in town, then they probably won't mind going home for that time.

    I personally think a gap (where you don't provide an additional activity) is only really problematic when you have people coming who live more than 15 minutes away from either the church or reception hall, and they aren't staying in a hotel. 
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  • especially where you end at 11, starting right away makes sense.   ive only left one wedding hungry and that was a poorly organized family style meal.  all others ive been full until about 2pm sunday!
  • edited September 2012
    Oh, and we ended our reception at 8:30, but the party kept going -- my ILs rented some space at their hotel restaurant for the "grown-ups", all of the WP and our friends went to a bar and then later some friends of ours hosted a party at their house (which we didn't attend, but I hear it was legendary), so I don't think you should have to worry about your guests being up to party until 11!
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  • In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/cultural-wedding-boards_catholic-weddings_catholic-gap-1?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Cultural%20Wedding%20BoardsForum:615Discussion:293d682f-fe1e-48a1-bf01-d56a4c9e5d5aPost:d7e5c497-4c80-4ebf-b606-84e0e57539fe">"Catholic Gap"</a>:
    [QUOTE] <strong>Our ceremony (without a Nuptial Mass) is at 2pm (the time isn't negotiable).  I assume that it will go to about 3pm (please correct me if I'm wrong!). </strong> We can start our cocktail hour/reception anytime that we want, essentially (our reception venue is about 20 minutes away from the church).  My concern is that if the cocktail hour starts at 3:30 or 4, we would need to serve dinner by 5.  Is that too early?  We'll have hors d'oeurves at the cocktail hour, so there will be plenty of food.  I guess I'm concerned that if we start too early, people will get hungry again after dinner and cake.  I'm also concerned about the gap lasting too long or people getting bored/restless at the cocktail hour.  The party has to end by 11pm (venue rules). Most of the guests will be from out of town, so a gap could be a good time for them to check into hotels, but I don't want to presume that.  It would also suck for the minority of guests who live in town.  So I need help.  What's a good timeline? :)
    Posted by stantokm[/QUOTE]

    I haven't seen it addressed, but a ceremony without mass will probably only run 30-45 minutes, depending on things like length of readings and songs, length of homily and extras (unity stuff, flowers for Mary, etc.).

    Otherwise, I think you have gotten great advice from PPs.

    FWIW, we started at 2, had a mass lasting until about 3:15, and had people begin arriving  at the reception venue about 3:30. Cocktails were until 5, then we did the introductions, first dance, said grace, and started eating about 5:30. We closed up at 9. H and I went to our hotel, but others kept the party going elsewhere.
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  • Thank you for all the help!  I appreciate it so much.
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  • OliveOilsMomOliveOilsMom South Jersey member
    Ninth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    I would actually ask your priest how long he thinks the ceremony will run.  My BIL was just married in June and their ceremony without mass was only 30 minutes.  They did not have a singer, so the response psalm was spoken.  The did have a dove release after their receiving line, so that kept people hanging around the church for a bit.  But I think most guests were only at the church for an hour. 

    I would try to have an hour and a half cocktail hour if possible, to avoid eating so early, since you are worried about that.  But honestly, people will expect to be eating an earlier dinner that day when they see the time your reception starts.  If I were attending your wedding, I would likely have a late big breakfast, skip lunch, and eat at cocktail hour and dinner.  You can always push the cake cutting for later in the evening to give guests something to eat later on.
  • Our ceremony [Saturday] started a little after 2. It wasn't a full mass, and we were finished around 2:45. No receiving line.
    Immediate families stayed for formal photos until 3:30.

    We had a good number of out-of-towners, so my in-laws hosted an optional 'pre-reception' that we included on the back of the program. It started at 4 p.m. at the near-by hotel where our room block was.

    Cocktails started at 6; our entrace/dinner was served at 6:50. 

    [The hotel was about 20 minutes from the church; reception 2 miles from the hotel]. 

    I hope this is a little helpful... I'm just excited that I can give my own advice now that my wedding is through! lol 



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