Long cocktail "hour" due to "Catholic gap" – help!

posted 3 years ago in Reception
Post # 16
54 posts
Worker bee

Are most of your guests used to a gap? They’re very normal in my area so don’t even faze me, even though they get a lot of heat on these boards. Just know your guests and what they’re used to. I would have the gap and start cocktail hour at 4 (or 3:30 at the earliest for an extended cocktail hour) and dinner at 5. It’s winter and will be dark early so don’t think 5 is too early for dinner at all. 

Post # 17
1599 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: October 2019

It just depends on if your guests would have a place to go for the gap. I’d be annoyed if I lived 30 or more min away but wasn’t getting a hotel.

Post # 18
402 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: September 2017

That’s a big gap. FWIW, we had a Catholic Mass and our cocktail hour started about a half hour or so afterwards. We were not present and did photos at that time. Our venue was in a different location from our ceremony, so that gave guests ample time to drive, etc. for the rest of the reception. 

Is your reception venue close to the church? 

I’m wondering if you could move up the time to something like 2.30-3.00 PM so that guests don’t have as long a wait. 45 minutes is much more bearable. 

Post # 19
10837 posts
Sugar Beekeeper

Well exactly, if the ceremony is over by 1.45, a luncheon reception would be lovely. In fact if the ceremony could be a tad earlier it would be perfect. 

View original reply
weddingmaven :  

Post # 20
22 posts
  • Wedding: September 2019 - City, State

Hi bee. It’s not just with a Catholic weddings. I have been to other Christian weddings, the most recent being a few months ago, there was like a 6 hour gap!!!!!! The bride was late for the ceremony so everything dragged on. There were canapés provided but by the time reception started at around 7pm everyone was antsy and annoyed.That’s just an over the top timeline. 

But also, another wedding had a couple of hours in between. Local wedding. Many went home and chilled or changed into an evening outfit for the reception. 

I am having a Catholic wedding but lucky me our ceremony would be later due to the practicing of the kiddies confirmation taking place that Saturday. So it’ll be like a 2 hour gap. 

Anyway, it’s your wedding. You do as you see fit. It’s your day bee.  Guests aren’t allowed to get fed up with you. They must just enjoy the free food lol. 

Post # 21
228 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2012

the long cocktail hour depends on the guest.

I went to one wedding with a long cocktail hour, and it was fine, as I had lots of friends at the wedding so we chatted. Another long cocktail hour was torture, as I only knew me, my husband, and a handful of others vaguely… so I had to sit and make small talk to people I did’t know and wouldn’t talk to anytime again soon for two hours. wedding, cocktail hour, and reception were all in the same area for that one, so I couldn’t sneak out too easily.

Post # 22
1193 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: October 2017

View original reply
ispeakingifs :  Not sure where he heard that but that’s definitely not a thing! Maybe somebody somewhere mentioned that jokingly as an explanation as to why there was a gap and that’s where he got it? 


 OP: I would just go ahead and get dinner started earlier rather than later. If there’s a salad course, etc. that will eat up some time too. For a 1 PM ceremony, guests might have had to eat lunch earlier in order to get ready, travel time to church to get there early (I typically aim for a half hour before ceremony is intended to start) so an “earlier” dinner might not be that early to many of your guests. Plus I’ve only ever heard people complain about having to wait for food, not that food came too quickly!

Post # 23
1135 posts
Bumble bee

I think you should strongly consider doing a cocktail hour immediatley following the ceremony (accounting for travel time) and then a late lunch. Wedding receptions are long enough as it is without having to wait around. I’ve been to many catholic weddings and I’m very greatful none of them had a gap.

Post # 24
357 posts
Helper bee

I do not have experience with the Catholic gap specifically.  However, I did attend an evening wedding with an hour and a half long cocktail hour with very light appetizers followed by an hour plus long wait for dinner.  People were hungry and grumpy.  And there was no reason for it other than poor planning.  The wedding was nice, but what I remember most is being hungry. 

So if you are going to have a gap, I suggest managing expectations by telling people in advance about the long break and serving lots and lots of food during cocktails.

Also, I do not think 5 p.m. is too early for a winter dinner. It makes sense given your time line and people will be ready to eat. 

Where is the reception? Knowing that might help with activity brainstorming.  I once attended a wedding on the Queen Mary and the couple gave guests the option of taking a tour of the ship or drinking while they took pictures. And a backyard wedding with lawn games that went over well. 

Post # 25
234 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2019

I’ve literally never been to a wedding WITHOUT this gap. It wouldn’t phase me or anyone in my group at all. As a guest, you just find a local bar and have a couple drinks. It’s only a little weird when it’s black tie, but even then I’ve never heard anyone say anything. FWIW, my ceromony is starting at 2 and the cocktail hour begins at 5. I think you’re totally fine. 

Post # 26
3273 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: September 2018

This is quite usual in the UK and would phase me. 5 (or even 4) is not too early for a wedding breakfast but if you are eating outside of normal meal times let people know. If you’re wedding is at 1 they’ll get there for 1230 and may only have a light meal so lots of apps are important.

Post # 27
183 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: October 2012 - Prairie Production- Chicago (loft)

I just went to a wedding with a more traditional religious ceremony. It ended at 2 and the reception started at 6. Most people were local and those that were not within a 1/2 hour driving distance – many rented a hotel room. After the ceremony I went back to the hotel to take a 3 hour nap, then got up and actually got ready with a fancier outfit and better hair. 

I did notice that their ceremony had way less people compared to their reception. Ceremony …maybe 60, reception 250. At mine I had equal amounts becsuae of the short time in-between. I found out that many people at my cousins wedding said they were only coming to the reception because they didn’t know what to do with the time in the middle.

Post # 28
1057 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2018

5pm is not too early. With weddings around lunchtime I actually like an earlier dinner as, if I’ve had to travel for it, I often haven’t had much lunch. Our timeline was:

2-2.45pm ceremony

2.45-3.15 photos

3.15-3.45 transfer to reception venue (not near the church. We went a bit later ourselves as we had more private photos). 

3.45-4.45 cocktail hour. Tbh it would been fine for this to be longer, everyone seemed to be having fun chatting. 

5-7pm dinner 

7-7.30pm speeches 

7.30-11. 45pm dancing. 

I wouldn’t particularly like a 5 hr gap unless the wedding was in a touristy place with stuff to do, I had lots of friends to hang out with, or I could go home in the middle  But it wouldn’t stop me going. 

Hope this helps. 


Post # 29
295 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: September 2018

This is normal/expected in my area, so like PP said, you just have to know your crowd. I think a slightly longer gap is preferred, because most people go to a restaurant in between and catch up with friends/family.

Venues around here won’t even let you start earlier because they want to make as much money as possible, so typically they schedule multiple weddings in a day with one starting in the early afternoon and the other starting in the early evening.

Post # 30
1217 posts
Bumble bee

I was raised Catholic (no longer practice) so I’ve been to my share of weddings with a large gap.  Even though it’s pretty normal due to church restrictions, I don’t care for it.

What I have seen is if the wedding is local and not to far a traveling distance, many people will go home after the ceremony to change then go to the reception.  I would not, however, want more than one hour for cocktail hour.  Especially with traveling, people aren’t going to have time to grab a snack in between, and chances are they ate pretty early in order to attend the ceremony.

What I see more, like 

View original reply
langel86 has seen, is many people only attend the reception.  If they have kids, that’s a long time to hire a babysitter.  Even if they don’t have kids to worry about, it’s still a really long day and probably only your nearest and dearest will attend the ceremony.

I got married last December.  Our ceremony was at 3, cocktail hour at 4 and dinner at 5.  It worked out very well.  I would double check with your church and see if they have a later ceremony time.  Otherwise I do think you run the risk of low attendance.

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