How Long Should a Wedding Reception Last?

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Q: I found a wedding venue I love that will let us start as early as we want, but the bad news is we have to stop the music by 10 with NO exceptions. I really wanted our wedding to go until midnight, but the venue is not budging! Should I find another venue or just start earlier?- Mary

A: I hear this frustration A LOT from brides. You want the party to go late into the night, but you’re restricted by how late the venue will allow your reception to go until. I was totally one of those brides. We were lucky enough to have a venue that let us go until 2 a.m. if we wanted, but the thing is, nobody wants to stay at a wedding that late. So, just how long should a wedding reception last? And what would your wedding timeline look like if it has to end by 10 p.m.?

The first thing you’ll want to figure out is a total length of time for your wedding ceremony/reception. I think the magic number for a ceremony and reception is 6 hours total. That would be an hour (ideally 30 minutes or less) for the ceremony, an hour for cocktails immediately following the ceremony, then 4 hours for dinner/dancing. This will change a bit if you’re having your ceremony and reception in different locations (if you’re short on time this is another big plus to having them in the same place). However, assuming you are having your ceremony and reception at the venue and you have a hard stop of 10 p.m., here’s how I would plan your wedding timeline:

4:30 p.m.: Ceremony starts (however you would say 4 p.m. on your wedding invitation, as you always want to give 1/2 hour for guests to arrive).

5:00: Cocktail hour with passed hors d’oeuvres

6:00 : Guests asked to take their seats

6:15 : Introductions

6:30-6:40 : First Dance/FOB/MOG dances

6:45 : First course served

7:00 : Toasts

7:15 : Second course served

7:30 : Dancing begins

8:30 : Cake cutting

8:40 : Parents of the Bride and/or Bride/Groom Speech

8:45 : Cake served

10:00 : Event ends

Now, admittedly, at 10 p.m. most of your friends will want to keep the party going, and that’s great! This is when you call Uber and take the party back to your hotel bar, or friend’s house, or other favorite club or bar and keep dancing until 3 a.m. if you want! And even though a 10 p.m. cut-off means you’ll have had to end the party earlier than you wanted, you’ll still get the FULL 6 hours you would have had if your venue let you go until midnight. You’re just starting a bit earlier! And honestly in hindsight, even though my wedding went until 1 a.m., I can tell you that there were like 10 of us left, and we could have easily taken the party to a bar a few hours earlier and had JUST as great of a time. So if I were you I would stick with the venue you love and don’t worry about the time. You’ll have an amazing wedding no matter what!

Have a wedding question? E-mail us at hello [at] womangettingmarried.com!

See More: Here’s What My 1 a.m. Wedding Timeline Looked Like

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