Wedding Reception Forum

4 hour reception?

I'm just in the beginning stages of planning my wedding. My FI and I just went to his best friends wedding this last weekend. The reception was 4 hours... and we felt like that was way, way too short.

Ceremony was at 2, reception started at 3, cocktail hour went until 4, sat down, by the time everyone ate, all the official dances were done, the guest dancing didn't start until 5:30, then a pause for speeches and cake. All-in-all, there was about an hour of dancing. Is this the norm? How do you time a 4 hour wedding reception? I think 5 hours would be better.

Re: 4 hour reception?

  • I think your crowd, the size of the wedding and the style of reception play a big part in how long you want it to be. I think larger weddings with more "events" (e.g. bouquet toss, garter toss, toasts, cake cutting, dances, etc.) and a "party crowd" need more time. 

    Our reception was 5 hours - we had 175 guests who like to dance and party, no tosses, only one welcoming toast, cake cutting and 3 spotlight dances. It was enough time, but we did have to shut the music off to get people off the dance floor. I wish we'd had longer, but at some point you gotta quit while you're ahead and not drag it out. KWIM?
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  • Mine is going to be 4 hours.  Cocktail hour 6-7, then reception 7-11.    I think most weddings I've been do,4 hours is the norm.  None that i've been to have gone overboard with speeches and stuff though, they all moved along well with pleanty of time for dancing. 
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    Eighth Anniversary 10000 Comments 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    I agree with @southernbelle0915 that the more special "events" you have at your reception, the more time you'll need.  If you need to fit yours into 4 hours, then you should cut down on things like spotlight dances, toasts and speeches, and the cocktail hour.  This is not to say that you should eliminate them altogether, just plan for as much efficiency as you can and set limits on the time spent on these activities so that the entire event fits into your time frame.
  • Ours was 4.5 hours. We had two hours for dinner and two and a half hours for dancing (no cocktail hour, few special events). I did still wanted to dance more, but it wasn't a big deal. I think four hours is fine for a reception, especially during the day.
  • climbingsingleclimbingsingle NYC 'burbs member
    10000 Comments Seventh Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    Mine is going to be 4 hours. Hopefully it won't feel too short - we're not doing any special dances or speeches or tosses or cake cutting. 
    5 hours is actually the norm where I live (NY) but the resort we're having it at only hosts 4 hour events. No exceptions. 

    We are going to do an after party though. 

  • tammym1001tammym1001 Akron, Ohio member
    500 Love Its 1000 Comments Second Anniversary 5 Answers
    Our reception will be 4 hours. I think it will be fine, but we are also hosting an after party.
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  • AddieCakeAddieCake Beyond the Wall member
    10000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 25 Answers
    Ours was 3 hours, but it was in the afternoon.
    What did you think would happen if you walked up to a group of internet strangers and told them to get shoehorned by their lady doc?~StageManager14
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  • 4 hours seems pretty standard to me.  Ours was 5 including the cocktail hour.  It ended going slightly longer than the 5 hours.  When people make them too long though, I feel like they drag and I end up leaving early. 
  • Just a note: The wedding you went to had a 1 hour ceremony and then a 3 hour reception (including a cocktail hour).  The distinction might be particularly important if your ceremony is in another location....4 hours at the reception site would give you a wedding that is ultimately an hour longer than the one you just attended.
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  • I really think it depends on you, your family and what you are used to. For me, that's way too short, and also way too early. Our reception will be 6 hours plus cocktail hour. We intend to dance well into the morning.
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  • Our reception will be from 4pm til 10pm but shuttles will start leaving around 9pm to take people home if they want it - we wanted to make sure there'd be plenty of time to drink and dance after dinner! Any interested people will be moving on to an after-party on the beach at 10pm so who knows how long the night will continue... I don't think people are going to feel pressure to stay if they want to leave earlier, so just plan for whatever you want :)
  • Our reception and ceremony are at the same venue. Ceremony is at 3:30, cocktails start at 4. The reception is officially over at 1 am....8 hours! Guests are free to leave before then, but that's what we are paying for with the venue (and that's what was offered to us- we didn't ask for the 8 hours). This sort of time frame is quite common for all the weddings I've been to. I don't think I've left a wedding before midnight before. Though, I think I will ask for our "late night buffet" to be moved up earlier so guests feel comfortable leaving earlier if they want and the "party people" can stay to dance and drink. 
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