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Cocktail reception wedding start/end time

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So_happy

Brilliant_Rock
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We have 2 untraditional components of our wedding. One, it''s a cocktail recpetion, and two, it''s on a Sunday night. This leads me to many scehduling worries.

We''re having our cermony in a park and our reception in a venue that is on the beach. The reception is an HD & Cocktails recpetion for 100 guests on a Sunday and I''m considering having the ceremony begin at 6pm and then the reception begin at 7pm and go to 11pm. Do you all think that is a good time frame? I''d love to start at 7pm so that people would clearly realize they need to eat a full meal beforehand, but I think the sun will be setting around that time and I don''t know if I want that. Full sun sounds prettier to me with all the flowers etc that we''ll be surrounded by in the park.

Can I get away with a ceremony start time of 6pm or is that still awfully close to "normal dinner hours"? We will be having a pasta station along with HDs but I still don''t want my guests to be confused about what/if/when they should eat beforehand. I will let guests know of our reception style but I''m still concerned that some won''t understand.

And it being a Sunday night and all.......should I worry about the end time as well? Asside from those flying in, the furthest any guest would live is a 2 hour drive......if they chose to stay until the end and drive home, would getting home at 1am on a Sunday night (er....Monday morning) be totally horrible?

I could use your perpspectives :) So, building in 30 minutes of travel time between ceremony and reception venue, when should this whole thing begin and end?
 

JulieN

Super_Ideal_Rock
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Well, you could cut the cake around 10 or before, so people who need to leave early can get out.

I think starting at six is too long to go without a full meal. That means time to get ready + travel time, people probably haven't eaten since 4. It doesn't have to have multiple courses or sit-down or anything. I wouldn't mind loading up on pasta. Just have enough so that everyone can eat.
 

mela lu

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I agree. 6 is too early without serving a meal.


My 2cents:

As long as you''re prepared to serve ''enough'' food that your guests aren''t hungry I think It''s fine. This is a tricky area...because a lot of guests remember the food (or lack of).

I''m doing a cocktail party from 4pm-8pm. with finger foods and an antipasto buffet. I love the idea of day light as well, and by starting it at 4 and ending it at 8, I know no one expect a full dinner.

GL. this is tricky!
 

JCJD

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For our cocktail reception, I plastered "Hors d'oeuvres and dessert reception" everywhere - invites, reception cards, website, ceremony programs. This way, there was no way anyone could miss that there would not be a meal served. If you do this and make sure your guests know well in advance that there will not be a full meal, I think you'll be OK starting it the ceremony at 6pm. Plus, it's Sunday, when most people won't have to get off work early just to eat (mine was Friday night at 7pm, reception started around 8, so people had time to get home from work, get ready, and eat before the wedding).

Also, because of the long travel time for some of your guests, I would cut the cake really early, more like 7:30pm instead of 10 as suggested earlier. This way the 2-hour commuting guests will be able to have some cake and enjoy the reception before having to take off for home later in the evening. Some may just leave after eating the cake, but that happens no matter when you serve it.

If you don't want to do these things, then moving the time earlier on Sunday would be just fine. Maybe ceremony starting at 2, reception ending around 7 or 8pm. This is a between-meal time, but still early evening and therefore cocktails and dancing appropriate. HTH!

ETA: Cake cutting - I know a lot of people traditionally end the reception with cutting the cake (I didn't). However, if you do decide on the evening wedding, you will want your OOT driving guests to feel comfortable leaving when they need to work the next morning, but you also want your late-night guests to stay and party with you. This is why I suggested cutting the cake really early on. THis way, it's too early to signify the end of the reception so people shouldn't feel like they have to leave but it still keeps your driving guests' situations in mind. Hope that makes sense now.
 

So_happy

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Date: 2/22/2007 3:26:19 AM
Author: JulieN
Well, you could cut the cake around 10 or before, so people who need to leave early can get out.

I think starting at six is too long to go without a full meal. That means time to get ready + travel time, people probably haven''t eaten since 4. It doesn''t have to have multiple courses or sit-down or anything. I wouldn''t mind loading up on pasta. Just have enough so that everyone can eat.
The caterer has a timeline sketched out that has us cutting the cake at 9:30 so that part is good. I did hear that this is a signal to many people that it''s okay to leave if they want to head out a bit earlier.

If we keep the 7-11 time frame for the reception, it is going pretty much like this as of now:

7-8:00 is our cocktail reception''s cocktail hour: huge antipasto display that has meats, cheeses, peppers etc.
8-8:30 they will begin to pass HDs. 4 diff kinds. I belive the antipasto display will remain during this time
8:30-9:30 the pasta station will be set up where guests can have chefs create many diff kinds of pastas and sauces
9:30 cake will be cut and then served buffet style along with silver coffee service
9:30-11 the party will continue :)

Does that sound like enough food? If you ate dinner at 4pm, would you feel satiated with that kind of food begininng at 7pm and going unitl 9:30pm?

THank you for your input :)
 

So_happy

Brilliant_Rock
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Date: 2/22/2007 10:22:11 AM
Author: mela lu
I agree. 6 is too early without serving a meal.


My 2cents:

As long as you''re prepared to serve ''enough'' food that your guests aren''t hungry I think It''s fine. This is a tricky area...because a lot of guests remember the food (or lack of).

I''m doing a cocktail party from 4pm-8pm. with finger foods and an antipasto buffet. I love the idea of day light as well, and by starting it at 4 and ending it at 8, I know no one expect a full dinner.

GL. this is tricky!
Seriously, I wouldn''t mind starting the reception at 4pm (that''s the earliest our venue will allow it) but I have this thing about not liking to dance when it''s still daylight out lol. Our venue is covered with windows overlooking the ocean so it will be VERY apparent what time of day it is. Since we want a dancing atmosphere, I am really trying to have it when it is dark out. Civil twighlight (when it is considered dark) is at 8pm that night so I guess I could balance my reception so that if it went 6-10 i''d have 2 hrs of dark for the boogeing and folks could get out an hour earlier............. but then the recpetion would REALLY be during dinner time.

Do you think I have enough food to be considered a meal? Antipasto display, pass HDs, pasta station, and cake/coffee? Perhaps if I can puff up my confidence that this will in fact be considered on par with a meal, then I can do the 6-10 timeframe....
 

So_happy

Brilliant_Rock
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Date: 2/22/2007 12:55:04 PM
Author: JCJD
For our cocktail reception, I plastered ''Hors d''oeuvres and dessert reception'' everywhere - invites, reception cards, website, ceremony programs. This way, there was no way anyone could miss that there would not be a meal served. If you do this and make sure your guests know well in advance that there will not be a full meal, I think you''ll be OK starting it the ceremony at 6pm. Plus, it''s Sunday, when most people won''t have to get off work early just to eat (mine was Friday night at 7pm, reception started around 8, so people had time to get home from work, get ready, and eat before the wedding).

Also, because of the long travel time for some of your guests, I would cut the cake really early, more like 7:30pm instead of 10 as suggested earlier. This way the 2-hour commuting guests will be able to have some cake and enjoy the reception before having to take off for home later in the evening. Some may just leave after eating the cake, but that happens no matter when you serve it.

If you don''t want to do these things, then moving the time earlier on Sunday would be just fine. Maybe ceremony starting at 2, reception ending around 7 or 8pm. This is a between-meal time, but still early evening and therefore cocktails and dancing appropriate. HTH!

ETA: Cake cutting - I know a lot of people traditionally end the reception with cutting the cake (I didn''t). However, if you do decide on the evening wedding, you will want your OOT driving guests to feel comfortable leaving when they need to work the next morning, but you also want your late-night guests to stay and party with you. This is why I suggested cutting the cake really early on. THis way, it''s too early to signify the end of the reception so people shouldn''t feel like they have to leave but it still keeps your driving guests'' situations in mind. Hope that makes sense now.
Thank you for your advice. I really appreciate it! Especially because you''ve had a CR too :) Okay, so you suggest cutting the cake at 7:30? And you based that on a 7-11pm end time......so a half hour after the reception starts? Not too soon?

I want to still have first dances, toasts, bouquet toss etc so I was thinking that these things will punctuate the reception a little and maybe even provide a little structure so that it doesn''t feel like a 4-hour dance with snacks. I like the idea of cutting the cake towards the end (9:30) because that seems like a traditional thing to do and will be expected then......Can you tell me a little bit more about your time line? How did all of your activities of interest work out?
 

JulieN

Super_Ideal_Rock
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Jul 25, 2005
Messages
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Date: 2/22/2007 12:58:34 PM
Author: So_happy


The caterer has a timeline sketched out that has us cutting the cake at 9:30 so that part is good. I did hear that this is a signal to many people that it's okay to leave if they want to head out a bit earlier.

If we keep the 7-11 time frame for the reception, it is going pretty much like this as of now:

7-8:00 is our cocktail reception's cocktail hour: huge antipasto display that has meats, cheeses, peppers etc.
8-8:30 they will begin to pass HDs. 4 diff kinds. I belive the antipasto display will remain during this time
8:30-9:30 the pasta station will be set up where guests can have chefs create many diff kinds of pastas and sauces
9:30 cake will be cut and then served buffet style along with silver coffee service
9:30-11 the party will continue :)

Does that sound like enough food? If you ate dinner at 4pm, would you feel satiated with that kind of food begininng at 7pm and going unitl 9:30pm?

THank you for your input :)
I think you can move up the passed HDs to 7:30, and inch everything up a half hour.
 

JCJD

Brilliant_Rock
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Date: 2/22/2007 1:14:10 PM
Author: So_happy
Can you tell me a little bit more about your time line? How did all of your activities of interest work out?
Sure!
Again, this was a Friday night.

7:00pm - ceremony starts
7:30 ceremony done - married!
Reception immediately following (about 15 mins drive away). Guests were encouraged to eat as soon as they got there. Meanwhile, hubby and I took pictures.
8:30 We arrived at reception, immediately the…
8:35 First dance
8:40 Father-daughter dance
8:45 General dancing
9:45 Best Man and Maid of Honor toasts
9:55 Cake cutting
10:00 Bouquet toss
10:05 Garter toss
10:10 Dessert served (rest of food put away) and dance the night away!
Then we left around midnight. There were still many people there when we left.

Basically, the guests kicked off the food as soon as they got there, we kicked off the dance as soon as we got there, and we just had one more "burst" of activity (toasts, cake, bouquet, garter) in the middle of the reception. Since it was a Friday, people were OK staying out later. Plus, I was unaware that cutting the cake signifies the end of the reception until about 6 months ago (married 1.5 years now), and apparently so were our guests, because we had a swinging party!
 

mela lu

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Nov 21, 2006
Messages
2,481
Date: 2/22/2007 1:08:18 PM
Author: So_happy

Date: 2/22/2007 10:22:11 AM
Author: mela lu
I agree. 6 is too early without serving a meal.


My 2cents:

As long as you''re prepared to serve ''enough'' food that your guests aren''t hungry I think It''s fine. This is a tricky area...because a lot of guests remember the food (or lack of).

I''m doing a cocktail party from 4pm-8pm. with finger foods and an antipasto buffet. I love the idea of day light as well, and by starting it at 4 and ending it at 8, I know no one expect a full dinner.

GL. this is tricky!
Seriously, I wouldn''t mind starting the reception at 4pm (that''s the earliest our venue will allow it) but I have this thing about not liking to dance when it''s still daylight out lol. Our venue is covered with windows overlooking the ocean so it will be VERY apparent what time of day it is. Since we want a dancing atmosphere, I am really trying to have it when it is dark out. Civil twighlight (when it is considered dark) is at 8pm that night so I guess I could balance my reception so that if it went 6-10 i''d have 2 hrs of dark for the boogeing and folks could get out an hour earlier............. but then the recpetion would REALLY be during dinner time.

Do you think I have enough food to be considered a meal? Antipasto display, pass HDs, pasta station, and cake/coffee? Perhaps if I can puff up my confidence that this will in fact be considered on par with a meal, then I can do the 6-10 timeframe....
I do think this will be okay...those who are hungry can just ''hover'' a little longer at the buffet/ pasta station! LOL! You should be fine, but I like the idea of inching everythin up 1/2 hour...as time goes so fast, it''ll be dark before you know it ;-)
 

So_happy

Brilliant_Rock
Joined
Nov 12, 2006
Messages
1,084
Thank you all for your perspectives. It is helping me think of things I haven''t thought of yet! I''m still considering my timing problem and I''m thinking that perhaps my real question should be: Should I be more worried about the cocktail-reception-during-normal-dinner-hours thing or the ending-earlier-because-it''s-a-Sunday thing?

So.......as a guest at this wedding, would you be more unhappy to:

attend a sit down reception on Sunday night that ended at 11pm

OR

attend a cocktail reception on a Sunday night that occured during your normal dinner hours
 

JCJD

Brilliant_Rock
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Messages
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Start a poll!

I''m a bedtime-at-10pm kinda gal, so for me I would be more upset about attending a sitdown reception that ended at 11pm. People can (and often do) make meals out of hors d''oeuvres, so I wouldn''t worry about that too much. Plus, your pasta bar sounds like enough for a meal anyways.
 

Kit

Brilliant_Rock
Joined
Sep 7, 2005
Messages
501
If I had to be at work the next morning, I would want to be home by 9:00 or 10:00 at the latest. Expect people with kids to leave early...in fact, if I were you I would plan to cut the cake before 8:00 or else you may have a mass exodus on your hands prior to the cake cutting. Younger people will probably stay the duration. If you cut at 10:00 many of your guests may not be there.

If it were me, and I got an invitation to a wedding that began at 6:00 OR 7:00, I would assume dinner. But that''s me.

I don''t think you have a choice given the Sunday night aspect, I think you have to start at 6:00, or earlier. And honestly, a 4:00 or 5:00 reception time is more appropriate for a cocktail reception IMO. I think you''re asking a lot of your guests to not serve them dinner at a dinner-hour time and then ask them to stay late on a Sunday.

I just don''t want you to end up at your reception with people leaving left and right, and your being disappointed, hope you don''t take my thoughts as being critical--am trying to be realistic.
 

So_happy

Brilliant_Rock
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Messages
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Kit~ You are pretty much confirming my "fear" of what some of my older guests might feel. We will probably have about 30 younger guests (who, as you predict, will probably stay in spite of having to work the next day
), 40 family members (who will stay no matter what and will probably stay over night in a hotel anyway) and about 30 others who, perhaps due to age or whatever, may want to be home snug in bed by 10pm :) If I for a moment forget about the food issue (as I really believe there is enough food for a meal!! I just have to keep reminding myself that just because it doesn''t come on one 10" plate at one time that it is still considered a meal) then the bigger issue seems to be about my end-time on a Sunday evening.

To that end, I think a 4:30-9:30 timeframe may suit us better. I still get my full daylight ceremony, the guests will still be in the venue by the time the sun sets, and I still get 1.5 hours of dancing in the dark
I am hoping that ending at 9:30 is much gentler to those who are driving 2 hrs home and if that still does not help, I can cut the cake at 7:30 and they can get a head start........although I''m wondering if those guests coming from 2 hrs away would even consider driving 4 hrs round trip for a wedding they''ll only stay at for 3 hours!!!

So, I''m taking completely from JCJD''s timeline here (because I liked it sooo much....thankyou!!) but this is how it might run:

4:30-9:30
4:30-5:00: ceremony
5:00-5:45: while we take pictures, guests travel to the reception site
5:45-6:15: while we travel to reception site, guests are greeted with an open bar and stationary antipasto platters
6:15-6:30: grand entrance and significant dances then passed HDs begin while pasta bar is set up (and more open bar of course!!)
6:30-7:30: general dancing, us schmoozing with our nearest and dearest, and pasta bar is available (along with an open bar)
7:30-8:00: toasts, cut cake, bouquet, garter, cake and coffee are served buffet style (uh....open bar still)
8:00-9:30: partying continues (but, alas, the bar must close at 9pm...house rules)

Does that sound alot better than 6-11? Does anyone see any problems that I''m not seeing off hand?? Thank you so much for all your ideas!!!!!
 

JCJD

Brilliant_Rock
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Hmmm... It may just be me, but I personally would expect full dinner MORE with the 4:30 start time than with the 6 start time. Your reception would basically be starting at 6, which is dinner time to me! I have attended 2pm ceremonies that serve a sit-down dinner at the reception. On the other hand, I've also attended 2pm ceremonies that were cake and punch receptions, so take that for what you will.

I really think that a good option would be to have the 6pm ceremony and make sure everyone KNOWS that it's a pasta bar and cocktails reception. That way, people at least aren't surprised there isn't a "meal" when they get there.
 

Kit

Brilliant_Rock
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Messages
501
Your new timeline sounds MUCH better. Nice work (good job jcjd too!).


People who must leave can do so after dessert...those who want to stay can party till the end. You are meeting all the needs of your guests. And I definitely wouldn''t worry about the food...as long as people aren''t hungry it doesn''t matter whether they eat standing up or sitting down. Just make sure you have plenty of food--sounds like you''ve got that covered. And don''t serve anything that requires at knife at your CR, that is my biggest pet peeve!!
 
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