How to Make That Gap Between Your Ceremony and Reception Work for You

Make the most of that wedding downtime

Updated 08/17/19

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You already know that timing on your wedding day is key. It keeps everyone on schedule, keeps the energy high, and helps make sure you can squeeze in every last moment you’ve dreamed of. And while you might know exactly when you want everything to happen, you’ll have to be flexible, especially when it comes to the timing of your ceremony. If you’ve opted to get married in a house of worship, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have certain set times to choose from for your walk down the aisle—meaning it might not be a convenient hour before your cocktail hour is set to begin. But if you find yourself with a few hours between the “I dos” and the party, don’t worry! We’ve got a few tips that will help you make that gap work for you.

Inform Your Guests

Make sure your guests know well in advance whether they’ll be on their own for a few hours before your reception begins. Consider going traditional with your invitation and including a reception card, which will help alert your guests to the more drawn-out schedule. Add a section to your wedding website with recommendations for nearby activities and entertainment options (including lunch spots and your favorite places for a drink!) where they can pass the time—and don’t forget to include it in any welcome information or gifts you provide.

Schedule Photos

What should you, your families, and your wedding party do during all of that time? Take pictures! Use it as a chance to explore the setting you’ve chosen for your wedding and get those location-specific shots that you’ll really remember.

Do Touch-Ups

Especially if you’re getting married in the summer, use that pre-reception time to have your hair and makeup touched up. You’ll want to look just as fabulous when you walk into cocktail hour as you did walking down the aisle.

Have Some Alone Time

Another great way to use up that gap? Have a little one-on-one time with your new spouse! Arrange for your hotel to deliver a delicious lunch (with champs, of course) to your honeymoon suite and take some time to bask in the post-ceremony glow. Better yet? Have your maid of honor or planner help you out of your wedding dress so you can slip on some leggings and a button down shirt (so you don’t mess up your hair or makeup) and enjoy that newlywed meal in comfort.

Feed Your Loved Ones

Make sure your wedding party gets fed during the gap, whether it’s with you and your partner or as a group while the two of you slip away for some quiet time. The last thing you want is for them to be totally famished once cocktail hour begins.

Provide Transportation

If your reception venue isn’t nearby, make the most of that gap time by helping to get your guests to the party. Inform them of when shuttles will be leaving or how to grab a designated car service like Uber, then make sure cocktail hour is ready to start as soon as they walk in the door.

Greet Your Guests

Another great thing about having your reception a few hours after the ceremony is that you’ll be able to get to cocktail hour before everyone else does. If you’re planning to have a receiving line, do so on the way into the cocktail hour space so you and your guests can say hello, then they can grab a drink. Even if you’re keeping things informal, having time to take photos and do touch-ups before the reception begins means you’ll be able to attend most of your cocktail hour, leaving you to mingle as you see fit.

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