1. Gertrude

    I will be getting married next June, and I am working on the planning. My question is, what is an appropriate amount of time between the end of a wedding ceremony and the start of the cocktail hour prior to the reception? Note: The reception is being held roughly 20 driving minutes away from the ceremony.

    • Alicia

      Well think of it from the guest perspective. They will watch you walk out and then walk out themself and then get in the car and drive to the cocktail hour location. They will thus arrive 20 minutes after your wedding ends. If you do not have thr party start then what are they stuck doing? So plan for foods and drinks and somewhere to sit to be avaible starting 20 minutes after your wedding. But expect guests to mingle in from 20-40 minutes after the wedding.

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      One to two hours. You should plan on the receiving line taking about a half hour for a medium-sized wedding. Taking that into account, it will take people about an hour to get there. More than a two-hour gap and many of your guests won’t bother going to the ceremony.

    • AP

      As long as the guests know ahead of time that they will have a small break, it’s fine. You only (theoretically) get one wedding day and sometimes important things to the bride and groom end up making the schedule only possible in one way. If guests don’t like it (and are adequately informed), then they don’t have to come!

  2. It’s entirely situational: What kind of ceremony are you having, religious or secular? I had a religious (Catholic) service; when planning the wedding (which was held on a Saturday), the priest told me that the latest the ceremony could be scheduled was 2:30 (because there was a Saturday evening Mass). If the Mass lasted an hour (which it did), then pictures, and a bit of mingling, we (the bridal party) weren’t done until about 4 p.m.

    I could have started my reception at 4 p.m., but packages offered at the reception site were offered in terms of five-hour slots (unless one got the VERY expensive reception, in which case one had the site for 5 1/2 hours). I wasn’t sure I wanted my reception ending at 9 p.m. – that was a bit early, I thought – so we opted for the reception to start at 5 p.m. That gave our guests theoretically an hour to 90 minutes of down time.

    Our wedding was held in a rather historic area (downtown Bethlehem, Pennsylvania), so there were ways for our guests to entertain themselves; I researched hours, addresses, etc., of nearby (within walking distance) attractions, and posted this information on our wedding website. Unfortunately, it began raining between the ceremony and the reception – of course! – so guests couldn’t walk around outside, but our reception site, which was held in a hotel, had a bar, so guests could mingle inside and have a drink. Even after our ceremony, though, guests who weren’t part of the bridal party stayed around a bit and mingled.

    One can’t always account for every minute of your wedding day; even if you went right from the ceremony to the reception, someone will be left waiting – because you’re getting pictures taken, you’re transporting yourselves from point A to point B, etc.

  3. Rusty Shackleford

    The other variable is pictures. Traditionally, a cocktail hour is to occupy your guests while the wedding party’s photos are being taken.

    • Pam

      As a guest, I am always so happy to see on the invitation that the reception is right after the ceremony. As much as I may care for the couple being married, I really do not want to spend hours between each event. It’s nice to come up with ways for guests to entertain themselves, but are guests really in a position to visit tourist attractions while dressed for a wedding? Anytime a wedding has had time in between I feel like I’m at a 12 hour wedding that has now dominated my entire weekend. I realize that this might sound harsh, but after working all week and tending to all the other responsibilities in life, a fun, happy wedding that takes the usual half a day is a welcome event. Some things cannot be helped, but Rusty is right, the cocktail hour is for the guests while the wedding party is having pictures done.

      • Winifred Rosenburg

        That’s not possible when the ceremony and reception are in two different places and for most religious ceremonies the location doesn’t have adequate space for a reception. There has to be a gap for travel.

        • Pam

          It is absolutely possible. I’ve been to many, many weddings in which the reception was about half an hour after the ceremony…which means it is essentially immediately following b/c you just get in the car and drive to the reception from the ceremony. In other words, there is no time for me to go home and watch a movie, go sightseeing, go to the gym, etc etc, in between the ceremony and reception.

  4. Christopher

    My cousin is getting married in a few months, and my uncle just emailed me asking for help drafting the invitation to a post-wedding party. He got wind that I had a copy of the 17th edition etiquette guide, and assumed I’d be able to answer his question. Unfortunately, my situation is a bit more specific than the text. Perhaps one of the moderators can be of assistance?

    My cousin is marrying a girl from Germany, and after they get married abroad his parents are hosting a reception back in his hometown for all of the friends and relatives who couldn’t travel abroad for the wedding. The invite would be for a reception only, not the service itself. The book has an example to use for a post-wedding reception, though it states that the wording of the invitation should “indicate that the honor guests are a married couple.”

    My question is, which form is appropriate given that the couple is not married yet, but guests are being invited to a post-wedding reception? Mr. and Mrs. Joe Smith, or Mr. Joe Smith / and / Ms. Jane Doe ?

  5. Maria

    I have a question regarding wording on engagement announcements, wedding invitations, etc. I am recently engaged, and through a series of unfortunate circumstances, am not in contact with my mother (my father and siblings are also not in contact with her). She is unaware of the engagement, and we do not plan on inviting her to the wedding. Am I supposed to list her name on engagement announcements and wedding invitations, e.g. “Mr. & Mrs. Jones are pleased to announce the engagement of their daughter” or is just “Mr. Jones is pleased to announce the engagement of his daughter” with no mention of my mother acceptable? The latter certainly feels like a more honest acknowledgement of the current circumstances. Thanks in advance for your advice, I’m really torn on this one.

  6. Alicia

    If your mother is in no way in your life placing her in the lists of hosts for your wedding would be false. However given your mother is alive it is likely to prompt questions from those on the grooms side.
    You may avoid all this by using the “Maria Smith and John Jones together with their families” type of invite. This way you are neither recognizing your mother nor specifically excluding her.

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