Gap between wedding and reception? Thoughts

posted 2 years ago in Etiquette
Post # 2
5472 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: July 2018

I don’t see how it actually saves any time, it just means your guests have nothing to do while you take photos.

Generally people have gaps when they are unavoidable, so cases like an early church service and their reception venue doesn’t open until slightly later.  I’ve never seen anyone plan to have a gap. 

Post # 3
1527 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2018 - Location

I think an hour is ok if you provide drinks, snacks, and a place to sit to your guests. 

I’m assuming the ceremony is the same venue as the reception? 

Post # 4
740 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2019 - City, State

Are you saying there would be a gap between the ceremony and the start of the cocktail hour? If so people do not like to wait around after the ceremony to find something to do until the cocktail hour. I mean an hour wouldn’t be to to bad but and hour and half, that’s a little much. 

Post # 5
13720 posts
Honey Beekeeper

Anything unhosted in more than the time it takes to get from ceremony to reception, is not polite. You can take photos before the ceremony, during a cocktail hour, or both, but making your guests wait around for you is very inconsiderate. 

Post # 6
701 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: August 2019 - City, State

View original reply
Newtothebee3 :  Personally I hate gaps of any sort. I specifically have my ceremony and reception at the same location to avoid any gap between them.

I also think it’s a bit silly because if your guests arent being entertained by cocktail hour, they will likely go to a coffee shop or bar to grab a drink of some sort and likely a bite to eat. Then they ruin their appetite for the expensive meal you’re providing.

Post # 7
7457 posts
Busy Beekeeper
  • Wedding: September 2012

Gaps are rude. I know a million people will give the argument that in Catholic weddings a gap is normal and expected because they have to have an early ceremony time. Just because you have to have an early ceremony time doesn’t mean you have to delay your reception start time 3 hours….people do it because they want a typical “evening reception” instead of hosting their reception to start immediately following the 2pm ceremony. I get that selfishly they want an evening reception, but IMO that shouldn’t come at the expense of your guests. The cermeony is for the couple – the reception is a thank you to your guests for witnessing your marriage and celebrating with you. 

And before I get slammed, DH is Catholic as is all of his family. In our almost 20 years together I’ve been to plenty of Catholic weddings. Every time I find it annoying to have the gap. Most commonly I see people usually heading to a bar/cafe for drink and apps. The problem is they show up to the reception not hungry. In the times I”ve not done that you’re heading home or to your hotel to sit in nice clothes with your hair done just waiting until it’s time to leave again. I have no interest in laying down to take a nap, or walk around and sightsee, when I’m all done up for a wedding.

I get it, as a wedding photographer we LOVE having extra time for photos. And selfishly I love having to not stress about making sure we fit it all in during an hour…..but I don’t love it enough to subject your guests to a giant gap. This is the reason the First Look was created. 

Post # 8
1369 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: November 2019 - City, State

An hour to and hour and a half is fine.  If you go over that, then it gets stressful for guests to fill the time.  But most people can mingle and chat for an hour.  I went to a wedding last weekend though where the ceremony ended at 345pm and the cocktail hour didn’t start until 630 so we had to go to another restaurant/bar to fill the time.  They didn’t even serve dinner until 8pm, it was ridiculous.

For our wedding, the ceremony ends at 330-345 (after the church exit photos), and the cash bar opens for guests at 400pm.  Cocktail hour actually STARTS with open/free bar at 430, but we wanted to give guests the option to grab a drink right away if they wanted.  That should give people enough time to leave the church and get to the reception venue (it’s literally next door to the church), and then maybe have 10-15 minutes to kill before the bar opens.  Not ideal, but I think it’s acceptable.  Then we have all of cocktail hour to take pictures (430-530).

Post # 9
3484 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: July 2011

This is totally normal for UK weddings. Usually the ceremony is at 1pm, then the meal isn’t until 3/4 ish. In between there are drinks, canapés and photos. 

View original reply
Newtothebee3 :  

Post # 10
486 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2018

If I understand correctly – you want to have a gap before the cocktail hour? umm noo you can’t have guests sitting around with no music, drinks or nibbles for any amount of time as far as i’m concerned. I know some guests that would be inclined to leave out of boredom and irritation. 

Post # 11
4959 posts
Honey bee

Ugh.  Hate gaps.  And 1-1.5 hours?  What am I supposed to do with that?  By the time I go somewhere else to bide my time I just have to leave again.  (Also, I really hate the “Oh, but it’s great so everyone can freshen up” line.  Freshen up from what?  All I did was sit quietly for 30-60 minutes.)

Generally, cocktail hour IS THE THING that fills any picture taking gap.  The couple goes to take their pictures during cocktail hour while their guests are properly hosted for the duration and then the couple joins them to start the dinner reception.  


Don’t create an artificial gap just because you want to join in and play during cocktail hour, too.  If you really want to partake in cocktail hour, I recommend a first look and doing photos beforehand.  If you don’t want to do a first look, then do as many separate photos as you can beforehand so that come after the ceremony you only need to do photos of you together.  That shouldn’t take the whole hour and you can join cocktail hour partway through.  The majority of my friends and family have done this.

Post # 12
907 posts
Busy bee

Take your pictures before the wedding or offer your guests a cocktal hour while you take pictures after the ceremony.

Gaps for no reason/with nothing to do are terrible.

Post # 13
9878 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: August 2012

It’s kind of the point of the cocktail hour to entertain your guests while you take photos. Do a first look and get all your bridal party/family photos out of the way beforehand to save time.

If you can avoid the gap, I would. Nothing says classy like a bunch of your guests sitting in a McDonalds in their fancy clothes while waiting for your reception to start (yes we’ve had to do this. No we were not pleased about it).

Post # 14
7441 posts
Busy Beekeeper

I don’t have a problem with gaps if there’s a normal reason for it like the ceremony and the reception are at different places or something, but the situation you described sounds weird and pretty awkward. 

Post # 15
793 posts
Busy bee

View original reply
annabananabee : ” Freshen up from what?  All I did was sit quietly for 30-60 minutes.)”

LOL  the Bees are making me laugh today 🙂 Love this. 

View original reply
starfish0116 :  I can definitely relate to this. My husband and his family are all Itialian Catholic and I’ve been to several weddings with huge gaps, though I’ve noticed this becoming less of a trend in recent years as the younger generation (twenty and thirtysomethings) seem to be going for more unique than traditional weddings.

I’ve seen these gaps handled one of two ways- we’re either left to our own devices for several hours, either locally or in another city* or else someone in the bride or groom’s family hosts people at their homes. One wedding for example- ceremony at 12, went back to the aunt of the bride’s home from 1 til 4:30, then went to the reception- which still had a cocktail hour before the wedding party showed up around 6. The bride’s aunt was a generous host, putting out food and drink etc and making everyone feel welcome- and I actually had a nice time there, but the thing is, after going to the ceremony and then having a large lunch at the aunt’s house and sitting out on her patio etc, I was done! I wanted to go home and have a shower and a nap. And of course I couldn’t because I didn’t want to be rude, so I arrived at the reception tired, still full from lunch, and just looking forward to the reception being over (a reception the bride and her family had worked very hard putting together, which made me feel bad). 

* the mid-distance gaps are the very worst of all the gaps. If it’s a local gap, we can at least go home for a few hours, a longer distance gap and we have a hotel we can go chill in- though in both of these situations it’s still awkward being all dressed up and watching the clock. If it’s a mid distance though- say an hour’s drive, it’s too far to drive back and forth for a 3 or 4 hour gap, but we likely haven’t booked a hotel to stay overnight, and being too dressed up to go for a long walk or visit most attractions,  so yay three hours in a coffee shop. 

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