The Waiting Is the Hardest Part
March 30, 2005 6:47 PM   Subscribe

Weddingfilter: Church ceremony from 2 to 3pm; reception starting at 7pm, less than a half hour of travel in between. Is it too long to make people wait? Out of towners will have hotels nearby; friends might not really have anywhere to go.

Side question: am I weird about my aversion to having an afternoon reception, which somehow doesn't seem as magical to me? Facility seemed to look prettier and glowy at night.
posted by onlyconnect to Society & Culture (30 answers total)
This happened to my wife and I last fall. The church where the ceremony was held is about 30 minutes from my house. So let's see drive to church, attend one hour ceremony, drive home? Drive back to reception later? Go to a bar for four hours? No, we just blew off the ceremony and attended the reception. Yes, it is too long to make this person wait.

Afternoon, evening, it's all good. Congratulations.
posted by fixedgear at 7:00 PM on March 30, 2005

Is it too long to make people wait? Umm, yes. How many people are we talking- 50, 100, 500?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:01 PM on March 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

Out of towners came for your wedding, not to wait around in hotel rooms, right?

Depending on the location and duration of your reception, starting it at 5pm would provide daylight for travel between ceremony and reception, and add the dynamic and romantic effect of fading daylight for the rest of the affair.
posted by pmbuko at 7:03 PM on March 30, 2005

It seems like a while. If you're dead set on the times, you may want to give people some ideas of things to do in the meantime, and maybe people will want to go and change or something, but I was in a situation like this once in an out of town location -- wedding was a bit earlier, reception was definitely nearby and much later -- and it was awkward. We wound up getting to the reception early and standing around while the wedding party was getting their pictures taken and feeling a bit in the way.

As a guest, I'd much prefer to just put myself in your capable hands from the time I show up to the time I leave, but not be given 3-4 free hours in the middle to sort of "hang out." This is especially true if you have invited people who don't know other people too well, or people without dates, that's a lot of time to mill around in fancy clothes, it's not like you could go catch a movie.
posted by jessamyn at 7:03 PM on March 30, 2005

Nope, not at all. My brother and his bride did something similar when they got married--not quite as long as the intermission in yours, but still on the order of hours. They reserved a suite in the hotel where most out-of-towners were staying where people could hang out and socialize in between. The hotel threw in some non-alcoholic beverages and snacks for the suite, and as best man I provided beer, etc.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:04 PM on March 30, 2005

That sounds like a great idea, DevilsAdvocate!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:06 PM on March 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

Emphatically yes. It's not fun to kill four hours in a hotel room in your nice clothes. Also, although I'm sure all of these people love you dearly, asking them (especially those who are not coming from out of town) to sacrifice their entire afternoon and evening is really a big imposition on everyone's time.

I don't think it's weird that you would rather have an evening reception; evening events are, almost by definition, more formal than afternoon affairs. But the solution to that is to move the church ceremony later or to have an afternoon reception, not to sorely inconvenience all of your guests. Remember, it is supposed to be fun for your guests, as well as an affirmation of your undying love.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 7:08 PM on March 30, 2005

The only wedding I've been to with a similar delay, the guests got drunk and boisterous. Four hours of playing quarters in a hotel room or drinking wine a the pre-reception wine tasting tends to make people that way.
posted by Frank Grimes at 7:14 PM on March 30, 2005

The out-of-towners indeed have it worse than the local friends. The locals know how long it takes to do X in the town, so they can effectively kill time in a manner that suits them. The OOTs, however, are stuck in some damn hotel room with their thumbs up their bums. Bleagh.

Try to arrange some way for the OOTs to be amused.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:24 PM on March 30, 2005

It's too long. At my wedding, I remember thinking briefly that it may have been better if it were already dark out when the reception started, but it was one passing thought.

Really, it was a wonderful event that had little to do with the time of day when it occurred. Plus, if you have an afternoon reception, I bet you'll save a ton on booze!

I think the biggest mistake a bride can make is getting too wedded to the ideal wedding in her head, because it means she misses the joy of some of the accidental occurrences.

Make it easier on the guests, and they will thank you.

I had my wedding and reception in the same building, so it was just a walk through some French doors to the reception, and that made such a nice vibe. We even had pictures taken before the reception so that noone had to wait around between for our entrance! We weren't royalty. We were regular people who want to see our friends and family after our ceremony, and they wanted to see us.
posted by abbyladybug at 7:25 PM on March 30, 2005

As the super-lucky fella involved here, I want to know if a very ritzy/impressive/opulent reception location would keep you all from relaxing and enjoying yourself. Would you be inhibited by a swanky place with with high ceilings, a luxurious feel and a freshly-minted look? Or would you just head for the bar and slap your friends on the back like you ought to at a joyful celebration?

This is not settling an argument or anything, so don't worry about getting in the middle of a fight. We're just trying to cover all the dimensions of being good hosts.

(Personally, I'm down on the idea of a pre-reception being used to fill any time gap. I think it really defeats the purpose of the reception itself.)
posted by NortonDC at 7:32 PM on March 30, 2005

Too long IMHO. Get dressed up, go to church (usually driving well out of the way) then drive back home and sit around for a couple hours in the dressy clothes, not long enough to nap, not long enough to grab something to eat since you'll be eating soon anyway, drive out to evening reception, spend the first two or three hours stuck at tables eating - these are the kinds of weddings you approach as something to slog through, not to have fun at; you do it out of duty to satisfy the couple's wishes of whatever they think is a perfect wedding, but it's not really very nice on the guests. The best weddings I've been to had the ceremony and reception in the same place or very close together with no waiting time between the two, maybe a half hour or hour for pictures but the guests could wander about and have cocktails/hors d'oeuvres.

I have to say I've always found the practice of abandoning the guests for that space of time sort of rude, at the weddings I've been to that have done so, especially if there's a large number, especially if they're coming from out-of-town. It reduces your involvement as a guest in their celebration to being witness to a display, and isn't enjoyable. Can you move up the time of the wedding ceremony? Can you start the reception earlier? If people are giving up most of their day to your wedding that's a while to make them wait to eat, too. It's not weird to prefer an evening reception but if it's as formal an affair as it sounds, they're going to be sitting to dinner for those first couple hours anyway, so why not start earlier - it'll be evening by the time the toasts and dancing start, and that will be the "magical" part of the night, not the dishing of the prime rib or what have you.
posted by Melinika at 7:39 PM on March 30, 2005

The last wedding I went to had the ceremony and the reception in the same room and we had to hang out for about two hours in between, and it wasn't fun. The worst part was that we were expected to somehow disappear, rather than given somewhere organised to go to, especially as we didn't know the area. The wedding before was the same deal, but we were all taken to an uncle's restaurant for the afternoon, which was fine (especially as it was quite crowded so we met new people).

If you must have the gap, I'd suggest either booking somewhere or making a list of places to spend the afternoon (where you won't look daft in your best clothes) and printing it on the program.
posted by cillit bang at 7:42 PM on March 30, 2005

Firstly, as anyone will say, "It's your wedding, do as you please." However, rightly, you should know this is as far from the truth as can be imagined. I think that requesting guests to wait for more than an hour is unacceptable. Would you ask someone to wait outside your home for three hours until you arrived? This is all mute if you are willing to provide them drinks and/or entertainment in the interim, otherwise I think you should give them the either/or choice, as towards, the ceremony or the reception.

Have a great wedding, but remember, you're in it for the marriage... This is 'just a day.'
posted by sled at 7:43 PM on March 30, 2005

I wholeheartedly agree that making the guests wait around for hours is really a bummer. It's awkward for them and can really put a damper on the wedding excitement. The last wedding I went to had a really lovely, quick ceremony (30 min or so), then FOUR HOURS of downtime before the reception. By the time we made it to the reception the general feeling had gone from "congratulations, what a wonderful occassion!" to "Where's the booze? I'm hungry. How long is this going to go?"
posted by bonheur at 8:02 PM on March 30, 2005

Response by poster: Okay, you have all convinced me that it's too long to wait. And I'm hearing you on the "find your fun as it comes to you" thoughts. (But, doesn't it say something about the feel of the event if I'm going to save alot on booze? Isn't booze the great social lubricator and shouldn't I want people to drink?)

And speaking of social lubrication, I am down with my honey NortonDC's question about swanky reception halls. I tend to think a pretty fancy place (i.e., a country club) could get in the way and inhibit people. Total of about 120 guests, half friends, half family, none with particularly blueish blood.

Anyway, thanks for all the helpful responses. They have changed our plans already.
posted by onlyconnect at 8:20 PM on March 30, 2005

Response by poster: (Um, but we're still getting married. Plans haven't changed *that* much!)
posted by onlyconnect at 8:21 PM on March 30, 2005

We wanted to avoid this very issue as well, and I do agree that an evening reception is somehow more festive. Based on your comment directly above, this may be a bit late, but our solution was to hold our ceremony at 5 pm. Ceremony at 5, cocktails and hors d'oeuvres began immediately afterward, then we joined the reception around 6:15ish after some photos. Our ceremony and reception were all on the same site, which helped things flow smoothly. Your schedule will be a little different, but getting the ceremony and reception as back-to-back as possible is very considerate of your guests' time. An added bonus of having a later ceremony is that you don't have to start your day at like 7 am. I think I rolled out at like 2pm, which made a lot of difference 12 hours later. Good luck!
posted by boomchicka at 8:26 PM on March 30, 2005

Usually, I consider the wedding and reception a single event. With that much time between them, I would consider them two, and only attend the ceremony. I don't take my kids to weddings (even when they're invited,) because they'd just be disruptive, but without enticing a grandma or aunt to stay the night at my house, there's no way I could arrange for childcare for 10 to 12 hours. (And for folks coming from out of town who have been invited to bring their children, you're just asking for some kind of incident to occur at the reception if they have to wait four hours to go from the wedding to the party. Even the most docile child can turn ferocious when tired.)

If you've invited no one with kids, please disregard!
posted by headspace at 8:28 PM on March 30, 2005

Just a note on the alcohol - we didn't serve at our wedding because of cost and because one set of parents is a little more . . reserved . . than the other set. We did get lit up with our friends after the reception, and the after-party in our PJ's with our closest friends was really one of the best parts of the whole affair. I actually remember more about the after-drinking than I do of the reception. :)
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:30 PM on March 30, 2005

We had a similar situation arise at my uncle's wedding; left to our own devices, we ended up repairing to a nearby coffee shop with the other out-of-town relatives for a few hours. In full formal regalia. This did not win points for my uncle.
posted by Soliloquy at 8:30 PM on March 30, 2005

The other problem I see with that much time between ceremony and reception is that it would almost certainly require your guests to change clothing. Appropriate attire for an afternoon event and an evening event are different in almost every level of dress.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:01 PM on March 30, 2005

Way, way too long.

At my recent wedding, we had the wedding and reception at the same venue - guests walked straight from the wedding down the stairs to where their drinks were waiting. Half an hour later, our photos were done and we joined them.

We got dozens of compliments about "how great it was not to have to wait hours for the reception for once!"
posted by Jimbob at 10:21 PM on March 30, 2005

I've no problem with a fancy schmancy location. The food is usually better. I'm not thinking about joining, I'm just there to celebrate with my friends.

Appropriate attire for an afternoon event and an evening event are different in almost every level of dress.

Umm, it is business suit for me and most men in America, regardless of the hour.
posted by fixedgear at 3:42 AM on March 31, 2005

Onlyconnect, first of all, congrats! As for the swanky reception hall...even if your family and friends don't normally attend affairs at swanky places, I don't think a posh atmosphere would inhibit people at all. It might be a nice change of pace for some people to enjoy a luxurious atmosphere where they normally wouldn't go. I've been in weddings of every variety from the crappy banquet halls to super-swanky country clubs. I've had just as much fun at all of these receptions. Despite the surroundings, if you're with family and good friends, you're more focused on catching up with people you haven't seen in a long time, enjoying the food, wine, music, company, what have you...

I'm with "your lucky fella" in heading to the bar, slapping friends on the back like I ought to at a joyful celebration!
posted by zombiebunny at 5:08 AM on March 31, 2005

What LittleMissCranky and bonheur and boomchicka and jacquilynne others have said. That's too long of a time to hang out in nice clothes. You want to keep the momentum going, not kill it. The weddings I've been to with such lags featured SEVERAL people face-down in the mashed-potatoes drunk. Don't worry about the place being too swank; your guests will get used to it within five minutes.

I understand the afternoon/evening magic differential, and that's why we started our ceremony at four. (We also had the whole shebang in once place, which helped.)

posted by mimi at 5:33 AM on March 31, 2005

It really depends on the families of the bride and groom.

Maybe it's customary in their families to have long drawn out get togethers. It may be a more old fashioned way to do it.

Or, there may have been a scheduling conflict with the church and the place of the reception. Either place could be pretty meaningful to the bride, groom, or parents (at least for the controlling type) so they probably just didn't want to budge if they were told, "It's this time or nothing".
posted by echolex at 6:19 AM on March 31, 2005

NortonDC: regarding the fancy place. I'm about as casual as they come in terms of my own personal tastes in food/location/dress whatever and I think a fancy location would be fun to visit on the occasion of someone else's wedding. I'm already dressed up, it's the sort of place I would never go on my own, and I'm an invited guest so I belong there. Yeah I think it would be fine, fun even.
posted by jessamyn at 7:13 AM on March 31, 2005

So it looks like the long gap question has been settled. For what it's worth, I agree with the majority. Most folks I know would find a way to deal with it, but the point raised about any children (especially small ones) involved is a very good one. You'll have cranky kids, parents scrambling for babysitters, and/or absent guests.

As to your second question, I agree with jessamyn--I cannot imagine a place that would be swanky enough to inhibit me, or folks like me. Hell, I think the swankier the place, the more likely I'd be to grab a PBR and make a lot of noise, OR to be all fancy and swanky and drink cosmopolitans or whatever it is fancy people drink. When I think about the good receptions I've been to, the swankiness of the venue doesn't figure into it a whole lot, really--country club, laid-back bar, Chinese restaurant, a university's alumni house, a friend's back yard, whatever. I think the only bad ones I've been to have been the Junior-mints-in-the-church-basement ones.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:46 AM on March 31, 2005

That is way too long to make people wait, whether they have hotel rooms or not. Have a cocktail hour at 4pm and start the reception at 5pm.

Daytime receptions are different. They're cheaper because everyone wants evening receptions for some unknown reason.

Of course, our reception in May is in the evening...
posted by suchatreat at 8:12 AM on March 31, 2005

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