Timing is Everything
January 24, 2014 11:21 AM   Subscribe

Afternoon WeddingFilter: We're trying to work out the timing for an afternoon wedding with a reception meal, and would love your advice and experience.

My partner and I are planning a wedding early this summer. We've devised a plan for a (mostly) outdoor wedding with a fun, picnic style reception (we have an indoor backup plan so no worries there). Originally we had planned a ceremony at 12:30, followed by cocktails and then a picnic buffet at 1:30. Everything pretty much winding up by 4, 4:30- a summer afternoon picnic .

Complications arose. Our preferred minister can do the ceremony - but not until 2 PM, due to other commitments. We'd really like to make the switch so as to make this possible. But this causes me some confusion about the rest of the afternoon. If we do ceremony at 2, then cocktails and 2:30, meal at 3:00 ...isn't that weird? It's either too early or too late for most people to think of eating. Maybe I'm wrong about that and people will adjust their schedules. Of course we could shift the whole thing to evening, but in fact we wanted to avoid a supper/evening reception partly due to cost , partly because "picnic" is the vision, and partly because we want to be able to enjoy the beautiful setting in daylight.

I'd like to hear your suggestions for working around this and still doing something as close to what we had envisioned as possible. We can certainly make some pre-ceremony snacks available for people arriving between 1:00-2:00, for instance. What other things do we need to keep in mind?Do you think guests would just be overly weirded out to sit down to a big picnic lunch at, like 2:30 or 3:00? You wouldn't think a move of 90 minutes would cause such a kerfuffle but it really does start to fall awkwardly in the day.

Thanks for any ideas you have, and on afternoon wedding timing in general!
posted by Miko to Human Relations (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Some folks I'm acquainted with just had a wedding booked around the same time schedule you've got to work with. Their ceremony was at 2 and they went ahead and had their meal at 3:30-4ish. Part of why this worked well for them is that they're big brunch people, and having the second meal of the day at 3:30 is a good partner with having your first meal of the day at 10.
posted by phunniemee at 11:25 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Instead of serving lunch, why not call it "heavy hors d'oeuvres"? People would know to eat a light lunch ahead of time, and understand that they're on their own for dinner, too.

Personally, I prefer snacky food to a heavy meal at a wedding. Bonus: you might save some money.
posted by magdalemon at 11:26 AM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is it a weekend day? I think most people will be just fine with doing a meal at 3pm as long as you do a good job communicating when the meal is and that it's a meal. I don't know what the fancy calligraphy way to say it is, but something like "We will be serving a full lunch at 3pm." If I got that I'd have a late breakfast and come prepared to eat at 3.

There are some people that are more rigid about their schedules either by habit or biology but I don't think there will be many, you can't please absolutely everyone and I think if you communicate your plan you will have more than upheld your hostly obligations.

(We had a big barbecue lunch at about 3:30 and it was fine.)
posted by ftm at 11:27 AM on January 24, 2014 [7 favorites]

There are enough things to stress about for your wedding. This one will work itself out. I think most people, when attending a wedding, generally expect it to be the one event for the day. They'll know to have a light lunch and that they'll be having an early dinner.

Every cookout I've ever had, and I've had a bunch, started at, like, 2:00 with food out around 3:00 or 3:30.

Just be clear in your invitations what you're doing so people know what to expect.
posted by bondcliff at 11:28 AM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think people's meal times tend to be a lot more loosey-goosey on weekends such that a picnic lunch at 3pm is not a big deal. As long as they know that's the schedule so they can have a late breakfast/brunch before the ceremony and can plan for just snacks or a light dinner in the evening, it isn't a problem.

I'd far rather that than the usual ceremony at 2pm followed by 4 hours of trying to kill time and not get too sloshed and eat but not too much since there'll be dinner later before the reception starts at 6pm.

It also seems like it would be possible to have the ceremony in the middle of the reception instead of at the beginning -- have your picnic from 12 to 2, then have the ceremony, then have desserts after. If you're having the ceremony and reception in the same place, I wouldn't feel locked into a ceremony first schedule.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:31 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Congratulations! I don’t think this is a problem at all. As you and others have suggested, people will adjust. Just be clear on your invitation about the meal time (e.g. “Ceremony at 2, lunch to follow”). I also think this eliminates any need for pre-ceremony snacks. People will have eaten lunch (or brunch) before they come.
posted by yawper at 11:33 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks so much, folks. Feeling better about it already.
posted by Miko at 11:38 AM on January 24, 2014

Personally, I think 3PM is a completely normal time to eat lunch anyway, so I don't think that's weird at all.

Everyone is going to be adjusting their regular schedules just attending your wedding, so I don't think it's a big deal at all--unless you're going to the extreme. For example, I attended a wedding where there was a formal sit-down dinner at 11:30PM.
posted by inertia at 11:47 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm an asshole and this is my take on it: Do whatever brings you the most joy. It's your day and really - how many times in life can you claim a day as your special day? People will adjust to your schedule for the day...regardless of what that is. Congratulations!
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 12:01 PM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Or call it afternoon tea? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_(meal)
posted by captaincrouton at 12:06 PM on January 24, 2014

Twenty seventhing that it'll be fine and people will figure out what they need to do in terms of lunch/snacks/dinner outside of the wedding itself.

While this is true, mostly I'm just chiming in to say congratulations and I wish you both a long, happy, healthy life together!
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 12:38 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

In my social circles a moderate meal at mid-afternoon or later following an event is a high tea. (Yes, it's a crazy thing Americans say without realizing that tea in the UK isn't really a fancy meal and "high tea" isn't a thing, but I think it gets across the idea you may be going for.) Or maybe "picnic tea"?

I agree that as long as people know what to expect and can eat in advance as required, you're fine.

One thing I would suggest being aware of is the timing of any photography you might be doing, as I've seen that go badly wrong at a couple afternoon weddings -- do you have a photographer who will be doing formal family portraits etc.? If so, and especially if they're being done between the ceremony and the meal, be aware that they eat up All the Time. (At least one wedding I attended had a sufficiently long ceremony plus photo break that we stopped for Wendy's on the way to the reception, which would have been the perfect crime if one of the people I was riding with hadn't brought their Frostee into the venue. Busted.)
posted by pie ninja at 12:43 PM on January 24, 2014

Yeah, thank you for that note. I've been thinking about that. A surprising trend I've learned about is that many photographers are now proposing to do the photography of the family/wedding party before the ceremony. At first I clutched my pearls, but I can see the practicality in not delaying the start of the reception. But thank you, I will definitely think about where that should go in the timeline.
posted by Miko at 12:54 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

A (tiny) warning on doing the photos ahead of the ceremony. Emotions are running high, you might be a bit stressed or nervous, or just really excited, and as a result, faces can be a bit...pinched? Anxious? The photos we took after the ceremony look much more relaxed and well, like us. We look at ease, and like the joy and pleasure are coming from a real place. There is a very different glow to our faces.

This might just be us, but I wanted to include it in case you think you might come across differently when you're feeling different things.
posted by barnone at 1:13 PM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'd go ahead and do it, but make sure to mention on the invitation that dinner will be served. I've been to an afternoon wedding before that had dinner at 3PM, and they didn't mention that it would be dinner, so my friends and I went to a big lunch beforehand, assuming it would be dancing and hors d'oeuvres, and weren't hungry for the reception.
posted by telophase at 1:18 PM on January 24, 2014

The way I would address this is to include a card in the invitation with suggested brunch venues.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:17 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I guess I will be one of the few (only?) dissenters! While it is true that most people won't have a problem adjusting their meal schedules, people with kids, older folks, and maybe people with medical conditions might have a harder time. We aren't all 20-something brunches anymore! A 2pm start time may make it difficult to get lunch at a normal time, and get to the ceremony comfortably on time and dressed up. I would suggest just pushing everything back another hour and a half so you have the ceremony at 3:30 followed by an early picnic dinner at 4:30-5. If you don't want to do that, maybe think about offering ways to do an early lunch on site for guests you know might need it?
posted by yarly at 2:34 PM on January 24, 2014

Also, in my recent experience photos take way longer than 30 mins. I think you might be looking at starting the "lunch" at closer to 4 anyway if you start at 2 ...
posted by yarly at 2:39 PM on January 24, 2014

My wedding was at 2 pm and we followed with heavy hors d' oeuvers and 30 yrs later, it's still the talk of the family.
It was relaxed and provided the opportunity for folks to mingle and visit and we had a chance to spend time with everyone in an unstructured setting.

Most importantly, Enjoy your day!
posted by mightshould at 4:32 PM on January 24, 2014

The benefit of doing pictures before the ceremony is that everyone still looks good and fresh. I think that having some "light" appetizers available around 1 pm while pictures are going on iis fine, ceremony at 2, more pictures and food setup after, then everyone eats.
posted by TrishaLynn at 7:25 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Congratulations and felicitations to you and your intended; I'm thrilled to join the well wishers congratulating one of my favorite MeFites! May you have great happiness always.

I don't think the time is odd at all. Most people are quite happy to accommodate the couple in their choice of time and venue. It really is your day. If there are dissenters, just remember that there always will be a few of those in life no matter what you do and we needn't take that happiness away from them. You can please some of the people all of the time, etc. However, on the subject of old people, if I may presume to speak for them, we quite like eating late lunch/early dinner, 3 or 4pm is ideal. The main thing, as you perceive, is to have the outdoor/picnic atmosphere. We love our garden weddings in the South; they are charming and memorable. I hope yours will go smoothly and be simply wonderful.
posted by Anitanola at 11:39 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

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