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 24

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...

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 ·
    View quoted message

    My thoughts exactly! While I don't think we'd be able to pull of snack/water, the hotel is in an area with lots to do around (there's a mall 5 minutes away lol).

    I know some guests who would be blitzed after a 2-3 hour cocktail hour, definitely something I don't want to worry about. I would have the reception (cocktail hour) stated on the invite so hopefully guests will know how much time they have. I also want vendors to be able to do their thing without navigating guests!

  • Allison
    Master October 2019 Ontario
    Allison ·
    View quoted message

    True! It is a open bar, but then more money for us to spend! Smiley winking

  • Seleena
    Super September 2019 British Columbia
    Seleena ·
    This is very similar to my situation as well! Our ceremony and reception are at the same location. We are supposed to start our dinner service at 6 pm and the venue recommends doing the ceremony between 3 and 4.

    I’ve decided to do the ceremony at 3:30 (finished by 4) and then we will probably mingle around for about half an hour. Then I want to go to bride and groom photos for about 1-1/2 hours. I figure if we start at 4:30, that’s when the cocktail hour will start. They pass hors d’oeuvres and cocktails to keep guests happy. By the time we are finished with our photos, the dinner reception will start.

    I don’t think a couple of hours is very long for guests. You could maybe limit guests drinks during cocktail hour? Maybe only have them serve alcohol for one hour and that’s it? I’m not really sure how that would work but it’s an option.
  • Casey
    Featured October 2019 Ontario
    Casey Online ·

    Give yourself enough time! I agree with the 5:30pm start. Especially because we all know that some weddings can fall behind, this way if your ceremony starts a little later, runs later etc. At least people are not rushing to cocktail hour!


  • Tori Doll
    Featured October 2019 Manitoba
    Tori Doll ·
    View quoted message

    Plus, as a guest - if it's not an open/host bar then they want drinks for cheaper

    As a bride/groom - if it IS an open/host bar then you encourage having a couple drinks prior to it being on your dime!

  • Valérie
    VIP September 2019 Quebec
    Valérie ·
    I'd totally go with the 5:30 start time for the cocktail hour Smiley smile If it's possible and in your budget, you could arrange to have a light snack + refreshments (water (still/sparkling), juice, pop) ready in your guests' rooms right after the ceremony.

    I agree with you here, that having the cocktail hour right after the ceremony might be an overkill and result in some guests getting a tad too drunk before dinner, which would drive me crazy!

    The biggest piece here, to me anyways, is that as long as it's communicated to your guests, either on the invitation or website, then they can plan whatever they'd like ahead of time (going back to the room, going out for a walk, mingle, etc.). I know I'd probably go for a quick power nap hahahaha

    Also, this would free up the space for the vendors to move rooms and setup without anyone in the way!

  • Allison
    Master October 2019 Ontario
    Allison ·
    View quoted message

    That's totally what I see happening too! Guests will be able to room hop and visit with others.

    At the initial venue meeting, my parents were there with me and my mom is under the impression that they started cocktail hour right after the ceremony. Meanwhile, I remember being told most brides start it at 5:30 pm.

    As a guest, I've never expected to have a cocktail hour provided for the whole gap duration. My FH has MOWED THE LAWN AND SHOWERED between ceremony and reception for one wedding we went too lol

  • Tori Doll
    Featured October 2019 Manitoba
    Tori Doll ·

    I would go with starting at 5:30.

    I say this because when I went to my FH's cousins wedding last year it was the same thing. As family we just went room hopping and spent time with family drinking our own booze that we brought Smiley tongue

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