top of page

Wedding 101

Choosing and Setting the Pace of your Wedding Reception

     Have you ever been to a wedding reception that feels rushed?  Have you ever been to one that feels like it is never going to end?  I've been to both (I've seen everything happen at a wedding, and more), and it's not very much fun.  There is a large number of factors to consider when choosing the pace of your wedding reception.  At times, your preference for the pace may be superseded by the venue's requirements, or the caterer's, your guest count, or (like we have discussed in another article) your photographer.  This article will examine some things to consider when choosing your timeline, as well as some bumps in the road you may run into.


     Think about a wedding reception in your head right now.  What do you see?  Most likely an elegant reception with flowers, a big meal following a cocktail hour with plenty of drinks and hors d'oeuvres being served on trays.  Guests sharing love with the bride and groom, dancing, fun, and love.  Now what emotions do you feel when thinking about it?  Most likely feelings of happiness (especially if you are reading this in preparation for your own wedding), emotions of love and joy.  You most likely imagine a stress free affair that is laid back and flows through the course of a day (like you have seen and heard of many times).  Different weddings take place over different amounts of time.  If you have a short amount of time for your reception (4 hours or less), then you may have to omit some traditional festivities in order to save time.  A longer amount of time for your reception gives you the time to relax and there will be less pressure to cut traditional stuff. 

    The pace of your reception timeline is a delicate balancing act.  A timeline that is rushed will cause stress among the providers, and your guests will surely take notice.  This stress can radiate throughout a room (think of the way a child reacts to parents that are highly stressed out), and kill the mood.  The elated mood of a wedding reception is one of those things that can be easy to kill, but hard to revive.  On the flip side, a reception timeline that is too slow can drag and leave your guests feeling bored and/or restless.  If your entertainment cannot read the crowd and recognize the boredom, then he cannot take steps to get the mood up.  The key is a lot of preparation and anticipation of what kind of crowd you will have at your wedding. 


     What images come to mind when thinking of a fast paced wedding reception?  A lively, energetic crowd that dances early and ends early.  A quick buffet, maybe just heavy appetizers- a celebration that starts off and stays fun throughout.

     A fast paced wedding reception should not last longer than 5 hours at most, and it can have some drawbacks.  If the schedule feels too rushed, you can wear your guests out and overwhelm them.  If your entertainment is more relaxed, then a fast pace may throw them off.  I advise against the fast pace in general, but with a lot of preparation, it can be done.


     The mixed wedding reception takes from both the fast paced and the relaxed pace and combines them into a timeline that may start relaxed and pick up as it goes on.  Imagine a laid back cocktail hour, and as the night goes on, the pace rises and the night ends with a packed dance floor where everyone feels like they are a part of the celebration.  The mixed reception can work on a short time frame, but like we discussed earlier, you will probably have to omit some traditional festivities, especially if you want a lot of time for open dancing at the end. 

     Like any wedding timeline, it's a delicate balancing act.  A mixed reception timeline that starts off relaxed and does not build energy quickly enough will leave your guests bored and docile, and that's a tough hole to climb out of.  A mixed reception that builds energy too quickly can leave your guests burned out and overwhelmed (especially if you have a longer time frame).  Your MC should know how to slowly build energy over a timeline.


     The pace of your reception is up to you, but there are factors to consider.  The more information you ascertain, the better.  Plan for venue time constraints, guest counts, vendor time requirements, transportation, location, you name it.  The more information you have, the better able you will be to plan around these things and include everything you desire.

     Some locations only require 4 to 5 hours for wedding receptions.  If that's the case, a relaxed reception will be a challenge.




bottom of page