How Much Time Should Pass In Between the Wedding Ceremony and Reception?

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Many ceremony venues like churches only have early-afternoon time slots available, which means you might wind up with several hours' worth of lag time between the end of the ceremony and start of your evening reception. Will your guests mind? Is there a way to work around this? Our wedding etiquette experts are here to answer your wedding timeline questions in our daily post.

Our church ceremony begins at 1 p.m. and our reception doesn't begin until 4:30 p.m. Is that too much of a gap between the ceremony and reception?

This is a tough one. You definitely want to minimize the time between your wedding ceremony and reception to make it easy on your guests, but sometimes circumstances don't make that practical or possible. Churches often have time constraints, which can impact the timing of your wedding day. But when guests have too much time on their hands between the ceremony and reception, they'll either starve (and get cranky) or find a nearby cafe and stuff themselves. Ideally you want your guests to eat and drink and be merry at your reception, not at a bar they found along the way.

But in your situation, if your ceremony begins at 1 p.m., that means guests will be departing from the church around 2 p.m., leaving them with two and a half hours to kill before the 4:30 p.m. ceremony. While not ideal, it's not a huge time gap (we've seen much longer ones!). Just make sure your guests are entertained or have the option of being entertained. You may want to plan an outing—a sightseeing bus tour, maybe?—or set up a hospitality lounge, with drinks and snacks, at the hotel where your guests will be staying (you can include information and directions in the ceremony program). Your main goal is to make sure nobody's left in the lurch with nowhere to go and nothing to do. Then, make sure your caterer knows to begin serving drinks and hors d'oeuvres immediately at 4:30 p.m. because your guests will definitely be ready to get the party started!

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