Allison
Master October 2019 Ontario

Ceremony/reception Gap: Where does Cocktail hour fit in?

Allison, on 13/March/2019 at 14:27 Posted in Plan a wedding

I know there has been discussions about this before, but I feel like my situation is pretty unique so any input is appreciated.

Our ceremony and reception are at the same place, but in different rooms. The ceremony starts at 3 pm, which should end before 3:30 pm and our reception/dinner kicks off at 6:30. We have access to both rooms at 2 pm, but set-up for ceremony will be the priority and the reception set up can wait until afterwards.

As many of you know, about a good 3/4 of my guest list is coming from out of town, which I define as anyone who has to stay overnight at the venue in order to make it for the ceremony/reception. Most of these guests are family and therefore will be able to mingle amongst themselves during any gap - our venue is also a hotel so many will probably go back to their room and mingle/freshen up there.

Onto my actual question: Is is necessary to start cocktail hour/provide guests with some sort of entertainment right after the ceremony before the reception?

My mom, who is my biggest supporter in wedding planning, but also my biggest stressor, thinks that we should get cocktail hour started ASAP after the ceremony, at 3:30 pm. I'm thinking we'll need time to set up the reception, the DJ has to move between the two spots, so the earliest I could think to start it is at 4:30 pm. My FH and I also want to mingle a bit after photos at cocktail hour (thinking to be done photos at 5:30 pm) so our cocktail hour might turn into a 2 hour long thing. I also don't want guests liquored up before dinner even starts, which I can see happening with a longer cocktail hour.

Any other wedding I've been to didn't really have a cocktail hour. Maybe half an hour before dinner to mingle/figure out seating/get that first drink, but the reception venue was different from the ceremony one. The one wedding I went to that was in the same venue had the ceremony and reception in the same room so there was a gap to switch out the room and then the guests came back, found their seats, and dinner was served!

Right now, my options look like:

a) Scramble to start at 3:30 pm with decorating/set up being done as guests enter, my mom's pick

b) Start at 4:30 pm - good happy medium

c) Start at 5:30 pm - venue's recommended time

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24 Comments

  • Allison
    Master October 2019 Ontario
    Allison ·
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    Sounds busy Donna! I feel like I need some crazy pills sometimes too lol

  • Donna
    Devoted July 2019 Ontario
    Donna ·

    Wedding Ceremony starts at 12:30 finished at 1:30 I am thinking by the time we get into the Limo for to go our Photos done it'll be around 2ish, then get photos done. Guests are going to have cocktails and Hor D' oevres if they want back where the Reception is . We should be back there at I am thinking 4 30 depends. We get to decorate the night before but I have 2 places to decorate with the party Ceremony area and Legion oh What fun it's going to be, that Morning I have to get my real flowers no not being rushed at all, then get home for opening the door for everyone that be there that night for decorating. I won't be sleeping I can see that get up for 730 getting the hair dresser to our place, Gotta make sure the Dog and cat are going to be fine with all these people coming and going lol so much still to do,.,. lol

    by the time I am finished with all of this Dan's sister still talking about her Bridesmaid dressCeremony/reception Gap: Where does Cocktail hour fit in? 1


  • Allison
    Master October 2019 Ontario
    Allison ·
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    Thanks Kayla!

    I also like having time as a guest to rest from mingling. Our venue has a restaurant on site people can go to and have apps and drinks beforehand.

  • K
    Curious June 2019 Alberta
    Kayla ·
    So, from a guests perspective.. I’ve been to plenty of out of town weddings which didn’t even have a cocktail hour. Never once bothered me. At one, went for a walk along the ocean and hung out with family while the venue was being set up for dinner. It was so nice to actually have the time to explore a little. Another one I went to, between ceremony and reception we all headed to a local pub and got appys and some people drank. It was fun too! I’ve never been to a wedding with long cocktail hours and to be honest, mingling eats up tons of time. I say, choose the option that will stress you out the least!
  • Allison
    Master October 2019 Ontario
    Allison ·
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    The problem is we don't have a 3rd space for guests to hang out in so we'd either have to rent the ceremony space longer or have reception hall set up going on at the same time as cocktail hour.

  • Candace
    VIP May 2019 Ontario
    Candace ·
    If you start cocktail hour right after the ceremony and have things for your guests to do then it coils keep them distracted while the reception is being set up.
    For our wedding we are in the same situation; ceremony on the patio and reception in the grand hall. Our cocktail hour will start once the ceremony finishes and we will have lawn games for guests to play or they can mingle /go to their hotel rooms while we get our photos done. If you start your cocktail hour later it makes for an awkward gap between the ceremony and start of cocktail hour
  • Allison
    Master October 2019 Ontario
    Allison ·
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    I hear you! I'm thinking of starting at either 5 or 5:30 pm, and then having a limited bar (beer, wine, signature drinks) with hor d'oeuvres.

    We'd also be able to join in around 5:30 (hopefully if photos are on time) so we can have our grand entrance, and mingle with guests before dinner starts.

  • Allison
    Master October 2019 Ontario
    Allison ·
    View quoted message

    I like your suggestions Holly!

    I forgot about checking into the hotel, our hotel starts check-in at 3 pm, which is when my ceremony starts lol. We'll let guests know this and most will probably end up checking in right after, get settled, and then hang out. We don't really have a space that guests could go to between the ceremony and reception spaces to have entertainment but I think check-in will take a chunk of people's time.

    Our cocktail hour right now is an open bar set up, but we do have the option to go down to a limited one (beer, wine, signature drinks) if we want.

  • Allison
    Master October 2019 Ontario
    Allison ·
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    Yeah... I'd like to avoid anyone passing out in the hotel's plants because of an insanely long cocktail hour lol.

    As a guest, I honestly like having time between the two events to go to the washroom, maybe nap, freshen up, mingle with other guests that I know, etc. I think my mom is thinking more of having something for the guests to do in between, but I think they can take care of themselves lol

  • Allison
    Master October 2019 Ontario
    Allison ·
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    I hadn't thought about 5:00 pm being an option to start too lol!

    We are super similar!! We're doing our photos between the ceremony and reception, while the reception space is still being set up. My mom is thinking it'd be nice to have something for the guests to do in between but I think they can take care of themselves.

  • Erin
    Expert May 2020 Ontario
    Erin ·
    I like Holly's idea of the beer and wine hour. I think you should start your cocktail hour at 5:30, because your guests will for sure drink more while they are waiting for dinner. Also it will increase your costs for food. I think a longer cocktail hour will make your guests antsy, like when is this thing starting.
  • Holly
    VIP June 2019 Ontario
    Holly ·
    We have a similar situation. Our ceremony and reception are the same location but just side by side. Our ceremony is set to start at 3 probably be done by 3:30. Dinner is to be served at 6. We decided to have appetizers, wine and entertainment in between. So it's technically not a cocktail hour more like 2 cocktail hours lol we will have some lawn games set up and have the DJ playing music. This will also be a great time for guests to sign out guestbook and also take advantage of our "photo booth". It's also a super short drive to majority of the hotels so any guests staying the night can go check in. Since our guests are also all coming from out of town we decided to try and keep them as entertained as possible. Long waits suck so we'll hope they make the best of it!!

    For you I'd recommend maybe doing something similar, having some sort of entertainment then start the cocktail hour at 5:30. To avoid having guests getting too boozy maybe have it like a beer and wine hour instead, this way they can save the liquor for the reception! That's our plan lol
  • Bianca
    Featured August 2019 Ontario
    Bianca ·

    I'd honestly go with the venue's recommended time. Your guests will probably appreciate the time to go back to their hotel, relax, have a small bite, then be ready for the reception later. I've been to weddings that have had insanely long cocktail "hours" that felt endless and ended up with my now FH drunk in a bush.

  • Michelle
    Expert April 2019 Alberta
    Michelle ·

    I would start at 5:00 if Dinner is at 6:30. This is what I am doing, and I also have a 3:00 ceremony AND my reception and ceremony are at the same location. So we have very similar situations. We will be doing photos while our reception is being set up, so our guests are encouraged to leave for the 1.5-2 hours and come back for cocktail hour.

  • Allison
    Master October 2019 Ontario
    Allison ·
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    Yeah, we have to start our ceremony at 3 and be out of that space by 3:30. My photographer is telling us 2 hours for photos so we'd be done at 5:30 in time for a 5:30 start cocktail hour to mingle with guests then.

    I'll definitely ask my venue coordinator about only having booze for part of cocktail hour, see if it's a thing. I guess 5 pm could also work and have a hour and a half cocktail time!

  • Allison
    Master October 2019 Ontario
    Allison ·
    View quoted message

    Yeah, I don't want to rush the set-up staff in the reception hall with on-coming guests for sure!

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