Post # 1
We are thinking about a cocktail hour from 3:45 to 5:30 – the idea being that our ceremony officially starts at 3 and probably won’t go longer than 3:45, then dinner doesn’t really sound like dinner until at least 5:30/5:45. Plus it would give us time to both take pictures AND enjoy some time mingling outside with our guests before we all head inside for dinner.
Assuming there is enough food/drink to last that long, is it still too long before dinner?
We would probably have a couple games there and possibly a receiving line, and also maybe some popsicles for the afternoon heat.
It would be shaded and there would be a few picnic tables around for people who want to sit.
Post # 2
Will your guests HAVE to stay outside during the cocktail hour? If so, what do you expect the temperature to be?
Post # 3
I’d have a shorter cocktail hour and just have dinner early. I think guests usually go to weddings hungry no matter what the time is. If you’re having an early wedding, they’ll likely think they’ll be having an early dinner and plan accordingly.
Also, you could always do your first dances and toasts before dinner, so that would push it back a bit.
Post # 4
Where are you getting married? Is there an indoor option for guests? What if its 95/100 with high humidity? Is there enough seating for everyone?
That is going to be one of the hottest parts of the day – if I was stuck outside, honestly – I’d probably go sit in my car wiht the AC On and be super annoyed. Popsicles wont do anything. Also, heat makes people exhausted so you can expect early departures if people are sitting/standing in the heat for 2 hours.
Post # 5
Wait – are you wanting to keep these people outside in the heat for all that time so that you can take pictures AND attend your cocktail hour? The purpose of the cocktail hour is to host your guests while you finish pictures. yes, that is way too long.
Post # 6
DH and I attended a wedding with a two hour standing cocktail hour. Outside. In November. After sunset. In the mountains – so the opposite weather problem – and it was MISERABLE. Please don’t do that to your guests.
Post # 7
I’ve been to weddings with a 2 hour cocktail hour. Typically weddings in the UK are early afternoon until late. The last wedding I went to was 11.30am until midnight. The cocktail hour was 1pm-4pm. It was absolutely fine, we had a lot of fun, a lot of drinks, some snacks, and enjoyed the gorgeous weather and setting. It worked so well. 2 hours is fine.
Post # 8
Assuming that you are going to be supplying the alcohol, I would be nervous that the guests might consume a little too much. Two hours is a long time to be drinking, especially if they will only be snacking during that time.
Post # 9
If you serve hors d’oeuvres I don’t think that’s too long (assuming you don’t have the climate issues other bees have mentioned), but it could be expensive — more alcohol will be consumed than if they only had to wait an hour or so. I would be more worried about starting dinner so early. If your wedding doesn’t start until three, people will have had lunch, and most people (the ones I know anyway) don’t eat dinner until 7 or so.
Post # 10
We technically had a 2.5 hour cocktail hour – Catholic wedding at 1:30 that ended around 2:30, reception hall open at 3:00, and we made our “grand entrance” around 5:30. This is typically how it is done in my family/region, since Catholic weddings have to be so early here. The wedding party went from the church to the cocktail hour to see our family and grab a snack, then took pictures outside, then came in at 5:30 for our “grand entrance.”
It worked fine for us! I know some guests went home in between church and reception, others went back to their hotel room, etc. (they are used to the “Catholic gap”). But some were there the whole day, and it worked out fine! Our cocktail hour was inside our main reception hall so there was seating and an array of appetizers, the full bar and drinks available, and the DJ playing music.
So I wouldn’t be too worried about the length of time. I would be concerned about people being outside in the heat, with mostly standing room – that doesn’t sound so pleasant. Can you add more seating? Could it be moved to an indoor location?
Post # 11
Ugh a 45 minute ceremony and then a 2 hour cocktail hour? I would be miserable, especially if I didn’t know anyone. At least let your guests know there is a 2 hour CH so they can leave and come back.
Post # 12
Two hours is just too long. I have been to weddings with 1.5 hour cocktail hours and that was pushing it. After two hours of drinking, eating, and mingling I will be ready to start winding down my night, not ramping it up.
I would have a one hour cocktail hour (hence the name) and accept that you won’t be able to attend the cocktail hour yourself. That is unless you decide to do a first look so that the majority of your pictures are done before the ceremony and then you can enjoy the cocktail hour as well.
Post # 14
Two hours is rather long. My husband and I had passed Hors D’oeuvres and free drinks (so, basically cocktail hour) after the ceremony while we got photos taken. However, we did not attend our own cocktail hour, that would have defeated the purpose (once you enter the equation, it’s the start of the reception). We were outside getting photos taken while our guests enjoyed light appetizers and drinks inside the reception tent. After our photos were done, we were announced, walked in, and then the reception officially started. But, just because the reception started at a certain time, doesn’t mean we ate right away (we had a slideshow video first). So, just because your reception might start at a certain time, it certainly doesn’t mean the dinner has to be served immediately. 🙂
While reading your post, all I could think about is a wedding I went to a couple years ago for my husband’s cousin. The bride and groom and their wedding party delayed the reception from starting for about 2 hours or so because they ran off, drove around town in a party bus, and decided to get trashed before dinner. Now, I’m not talking about the typical “Let’s go to a couple bars, show off, do some shots, and then head to the reception which doesn’t start for another hour” type of thing. Nope. The reception was scheduled to start immediately following the ceremony, so all the guests high-tailed it to the hotel it was being held at. Everyone sat around twiddling their thumbs at the reception hall, starving to death, and completely bored. We almost left before dinner was even served. But then, someone made the decision to start food without the bride and groom. A few minutes after most people were done eating, the bridal party stumbles in, drunk off their butts. Then, they had to eat their dinner while we all watched, bored again, until anything else could happen with the reception. We decided not to stick around any more and left before they even finished eating (and drinking more). That was probably abound 8:30 or 9:00 at night when we did leave, so it’s not like we left “early”, and other people had already left before that because they were fed up. It was ridiculous and super rude.
Not saying a two hour cocktail “hour” would necessarily be rude and ridiculous, though. But sometimes, even though our Big Day is indeed *our* day, we also need to keep in mind how comfortable our guests are as well. So why not bump the wedding ceremony back an hour? Or let people have the cocktail hour (only an hour or so) inside, instead outside in the heat? Or push the cocktail hour/start of reception back an hour. Are any of those options possible?
Keep us posted! 😀
Post # 15
Thank you everyone for responding! I’ll try to respond/answer the questions people asked directly. First though – after thinking about it, I knew that I was a bit nervous about it and talked to Fiance.. we agreed that an earlier dinner is probably not the end of the world, so we have changed the cocktail hour timing to 3:45-5pm and will possibly then have a receiving line into the reception space.