(Closed) Ceremony + Reception in 4 hours

posted 5 years ago in Reception
Post # 17
58 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: May 2017

My venue also has a similar timeframe except our ceremony isn’t until 7:30. We are doing as many pictures in the hour before as we can that don’t involve us seeing each other.

Post # 18
4606 posts
Honey bee

View original reply
raineybee :  Have you thought about family style service? it’s much faster, and my guests loved it. In my area, it was also less expensive than buffet. 

Post # 20
345 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: September 2017

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raineybee :  

Is there a reason why you are doing your bouquets toss first? I would include it after dinner to get the energy up and draw people to the dance floor 😀.

Here is how I would personally construct your timeline:

3:00pm- ceremony begins 

4:00pm- cocktails and photos

4:30pm- guests directed to seats for dinner

4:35ish- Wedding party intros followed by first     dance

4:45pm- Buffet opens

5:15- Toasts and speeches while guests continue to eat, followed by the cake cutting

5:30- Dancing, Bouquet toss

7:00- reception ends


The keys to making this work are:

-taking as many photos as possible before the ceremony. Make sure your photographer is aware of his or her time limit after the ceremony.

– having a double sided buffet. Even better would be to have two double sided buffets If your caterer can accommodate that request.

– Making sure that someone is placed in charge of monitoring your timeline so things stay on track. I’m assuming that you aren’t working with a planner or coordinator since you asked this question, so this is VERY important.


Post # 21
345 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: September 2017

View original reply
raineybee :  I just saw the part about you providing some of the catering items. Will the serving company be setting up and replenishing your items?

How will your wedding cake be served? I suggest having it sliced and flipping the buffet to a cake station so guests can serve themselves.

Post # 22
299 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: November 2016

Even with a double-sided buffet, I’d recommend 30 minutes for everyone to get food – could be a bit less, but even at 20 minutes, it will still take up a bit of time (the buffet often does need to be refreshed during this time so there is a small bit of downtime in line, especially if it’s double-sided but only one dish to serve from on both sides). I find most people stop eating once speeches start, and in your case, some people may have only just gotten food, so I’d recommend speeches towards the end of your allocated dinner time, just before you cut the cake. 

Keep in mind guests will want to talk to you, greet you, congratulate you and it can be hard to keep that part moving quickly even when you head off for pics, once you return, people will want to chat and may not get in line for food. 

Are you serving alcohol? Just asking because if it’s from a bar, there is always a rush and line that bottlenecks and will keep some from heading straight for the buffet. Just something to keep in mind in terms of layout and timing. Having pre-poured drinks where guests can pick up and go quickly (works well with small drinks menu) may help rather than each drink being poured to order. Or you could even keep the bar closed during dinner if you have wine on the table – that can help control alcohol costs and avoid lines at a bar that impact the buffet line.

Good luck bee!


Post # 23
193 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: September 2017

Good luck with cooking! Not sure if this helps, but I used to cater film sets and one dish that was a huge crowd pleaser and really easy to make (and scale up) is this mac and cheese (https://smittenkitchen.com/2006/10/cheddar-and-elbows-exalted/). You don’t even have to cook the noodles beforehand!

Something else I’d recommend doing is roasting large meats that take little prep time, like a pork butt. Cover ’em in a mixture of salt and brown sugar, roast low for several hours and then half an hour on high heat to crisp up the outside, then shred up and add your favorite BBQ sauce and buns on the side. Voila, pulled BBQ sandwiches! 



Post # 24
102 posts
Blushing bee

Agree with other posters regarding the photos, because I’m sure you’re going to want those pictures. Could you take photos before the ceremony or even later in the night while everyone else is dancing? 

Post # 25
619 posts
Busy bee

Idk if someone has mentioned this, but where I’m currently living, it’s becoming increasingly common to have an “after party” at a local bar– no matter how nice the wedding reception was! They invite everyone, but inevitably only the young and party-ready continue to stay out and drink. This may be the perfect option for your special day! That way you can keep the reception within budget, older people can leave afterwards, and anyone ready for partying will be able to do that with you (and pay for their own alcohol)! 

Post # 27
440 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: April 2017

Will the venue decorate for you?  Do you have to include time for setup and teardown?   Also if you only get the venue right at 3, what about if your guests arrive early?  Do they have to sit in their cars until right at 3 pm?

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