The date, day of the week, and time you choose for your wedding reception will have a major impact on the overall success of your big day. Anyone who has planned a wedding (and there are great providers around here, you are lucky to have so much quality to choose from), or planned one with me before (and there have been many) will tell you that I commonly refer to it as a movie production. It's a big, expensive (no matter your budget, you are maxing it out) event that takes a ton of planning- and you only get one take. In terms of planning the timing for your wedding, it is also similar to a movie production. Think about it, why are so many blockbusters released during the summer months? It's because they know that school is out, and kids tend to see movies repeatedly, so they can increase ticket sales. In this article, we'll explore some pros and cons to think about when choosing the date and time of your wedding and reception.
SATURDAY NIGHT RECEPTION
Saturday night is the most popular time for wedding receptions. This is due to many reasons, such as most guests having that day and the next day off; and people tend to be more relaxed and receptive at Saturday night receptions. There are some cons to consider when planning a reception for Saturday night, let's talk about a few. Making sure that your ceremony does not take place at too early an hour will leave less likelihood for there to be a large gap in time before the reception. Depending on where your reception takes place, you may be limited as to how late in the day you are allowed to hold the ceremony. Something we like to suggest is that if you know there will be a gap in time between the ceremony and reception, provide information on things to do in the area and ways people can fill the time. If anything, make sure that you tell your guests in advance that there will be a gap in time. Don't surprise them. That said, it's always best to hold your reception immediately after your ceremony takes place. As many people know already, many venues book up Saturday nights 18 months, sometimes 2 years out (even more if your date falls is a popular one).
SATURDAY AFTERNOON RECEPTION
This is also a great option for your wedding reception. It shares pretty much the same benefits as a Saturday night reception, often without the gaps in time between the ceremony and reception. Many venues offer a discount from Saturday night weddings because they like to knock out two weddings in a day and cash in. Another benefit is that you and your guests can go out and enjoy the town afterwards, thereby pretty much continuing the good time!Some things to think about when planning a Saturday afternoon reception is that people tend to not dance as much during the daytime. People may have kids with them during the day, drink less during the day, and tend to generally relax more at night. I've been a wedding DJfor over 10 years, and while people do dance during the day, more people feel comfortable dancing the in the darkness. Don't get me wrong, a well planned affair with good entertainment and planning can definitely block out the sunlight from any reception!
Your venue may limit the time allowed for your recpeption. Many of them have evening weddings (that they charged more money for) coming in, and need to start preparing. This can have an obvious effect in terms of time for guests to dance, especially considering the fact that delays are the unfortunate nature of the beast at weddings.
Guests may feel inclined to leave a bit early at Saturday afternoon receptions. Some people make plans for Saturday night, others may just want to be home relaxing on their days off. People leaving early can have an effect on the reception, but there's a lot one can do to prepare and minimize the impact of an early exodus.
There's not a heck of a difference between Sunday and Saturday receptions from what I've seen, with the major difference being that most people have to work the next day. Of course, this causes people to drink less and probably feel more inclined to leave early. If you're planning a Sunday reception, I'd recommend trying to get it wrapped up between 9 and 10PM. That way people will be more inclined to stay until the end, and will still be able to get some rest for the work week ahead. Otherwise, be prepared for people leaving early. If you wrap up at a reasonable hour, it takes some pressure off of your guests, and won't have a huge impact on the enjoyment of your celebration. Make sure you know where your guests are coming from. If many are flying in from far away, then they are probably at a hotel nearby and will stay. If they are driving from a hour or two away, they may leave at 9 when your reception ends at 10. See what I'm saying? Another benefit to Sundays is that many venues, and some providers, offer discounts for Sunday services.
FRIDAY NIGHT RECEPTION
Friday night is a great option for wedding receptions. Most guests have the next day off, and are looking forward to unwinding with a good time after a long week at work. Many venues are also cheaper on Friday nights, and the availability tends to be a lot better than Saturday and Sundays. Some things to think about are that most guests and wedding party members will have to take the day off from work, and that's not always convenient. Fridays tend to have more traffic, and rush hour often conflicts with the start time of your ceremony/reception. You should be prepared, and have a plan for this to happen (shuttles, limos for family). Also, talk over the possibility with your vendors. Some people are tired after a day at work, and be a bit worn out by the time dancing comes around if they woke up at 6AM. Once again, being prepared mentally and planning wise can definitely alleviate the impact of these occurrences.
Weekday receptions are the least popular, but many people choose them. I have literally DJed a wedding on each and every day of the week. The most obvious, and probably biggest benefit to the weekday wedding is that many venues and providers provide large discounts for weekday services. Also, venues and providers tend to have much more availability. This is a weekend business, and most I know in this business welcome weekday work. That said, there's a mixture of pros and cons to weekday wedding receptions. The obvious thing to think about is that most people are coming to your ceremony and reception from work, and have to work the next day. If your ceremony is in the early afternoon, then some people may need to take a full or half day off .
People in your wedding party more than likely did have to take time off. While people are usually happy to do it, it's always good to be mindful and where you can, minimize the cost of attending and participating in your big day. Traffic can also be an issue during the week, as can people being less likely to party and way more likely to leave early. It's just the way it is, a majority of people do not want to let loose and party on a weeknight. Personally, I say don't do it. It can be fun, and I've done a lot of successful weekday weddings, but it's not the same. The money won't replace the memories.
Ah, the holiday weddings, they are great. Lots of added perks you don't get at other times. 3 day weekends make Sunday a great option, and the ones that fall on Fridays (2014, July 4 was on a Friday. Wedding fireworks? Sweet.) can make Thursday a great option. Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday, and brings family home to celebrate together. The night before Thanksgiving is a big party night and people tend to have more flexibility at work, it's a perfectly fine option. The Friday after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) is also a great option that shares the benefits of a Saturday wedding (and like I said, you've saved a trip for out-of-town family because they are home for the holiday anyway). New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are great options as well. New Year's day falls on a Monday in 2018, which means it will create a 3 day weekend (you already know the benefits). I've DJed many New Year's Eve weddings, and they rock! Guests are in a great state of mind, they are happy and in a party mood (a drawback is very limited availability, and you WILL pay more across the board). As always, be mindful of your guests and wedding party. Not everyone may want to give their holiday weekend up.
One may not think so, but this can have an impact on your wedding. I always recommend against having your reception on the same night as a major sporting event. This can suck, I know. It's not like when you booked the best venue in town 2 years out on November 3 (a prime date if it's a Saturday), that you knew the Red Sox would be in the World Series and THAT is the day of game 7. Your wedding suddenly becomes a secondary issue, and that's just the worst. In the age of smart phones, someone can stream the game, and all of a sudden you have a crowd massed around the person during dancing time (I had that happen with a regular season game). Say you hold your reception on Super Bowl Sunday in Boston, and have a bunch of die hard Patriot fans come (the Pats annually have a pretty good chance of being in the Super Bowl), and they lose. Say Malcom Butler didn't intercept that ball in '15- say Pete Carroll was actually smart and handed the ball to Marshawn Lynch, and you were having your wedding reception (I bet whoever did have one when the Pats won ended up having one hell of a party afterward. Not so much for Seattle- HAHA). You end up with people down in the dumps at your wedding, and that's no good for anyone. On the flipside, if they win, you end up with happy people. It's up to you whether or not you want to take the gamble. Another biggie to remember is that if you do hold your wedding and reception in the same city as a major sporting event, availability across the board is limited and way more expensive. Hotel rooms in and around New Bedford were filling up with press when the Sox were in the Series, or when the Pats are in the AFC Championship. (Yoda voice) Mindful you must be.
LENGTH OF RECEPTION
Put a lot of thought into how long you want your reception to last. This can be a delicate balancing act. If it's too short, you can cut the dancing and good times off. If it's too long, people will hit their ceiling. It's important to note that a wedding reception is not the same as partying at the club or bar. People have a finite amount of dancing and partying in fancy clothes in an elegant venue setting. Some have higher than others, but everyone has a ceiling. I suggest keeping it 4 to 6 hours (outside of the ceremony). The longest I've done is 8, and if you plan for that, it can work. The question I always ask when talking to the bride about timing is: How do you want the reception to end? If you let it taper off, people may not remember it, or remember it less fondly. How many movies have you seen, books you've read, that are great all the way through until a bad ending? What do you remember about it? Most likely abad ending. I always say end it on a high note with asendoff, while people still have some energy in them. An upbeat, positive ending/sendoff will leave a lasting effect with your guests, but it has to be planned. Many people feel inclined to 'get your money's worth', and stay until the end because you paid a lot of money. I get it, but ask yourself: How will people remember it? If you have a reception scheduled until 11, when a 10 o'clock ending may result in a more positive, upbeat, and memorable sendoff, then why not? In the future, saving the money will not be a viable substitute or justification for a less than memorable reception and sendoff, I promise. If you feel like wrapping up an hour early will give for a more upbeat and memorable sendoff, then end it early and give people an hour to talk and say their goodbyes before the room is cleared and closed. Even when they end on time, guests are slow to leave. When you leave, the wait staff can leave, and they have been working hard seeing that you have a good time. Sometimes a soft sendoff can work, where you can end the official 'reception' and keep the music going for the younger crowd. This can allow the older folks to leave without feeling like they missed anything. By absolutely no means am I saying that one should look to end a reception early (I never have), just that the path that that should be taken is the path that is going to have your guests remembering the fun they had for years to come- and to assure that, nothing should be taken off of the table.
There's lots to think about here. My biggest piece of advice is not to let money dictate your decision on timing of your wedding/reception (easier said than done, I know). In my opinion, you are better off at a cheaper venue on a Saturday night than you are at an expensive one on any weekday, and this is far from my first rodeo. That said, good thorough planning, a good planner, and entertainment director will be able to provide a good time in pretty much any setting. Prioritize the entertainment in your budget, we'll get to that in a later article.
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