It's the first part of your wedding day when you, and your guests, can relax! The ceremony is over, you're officially married and you can finally start the party. But how long should a drinks reception be? What if it's not enough time for you to chat to people? To have your photos taken? But what if your friends and family are beginning to get bored - or hungry?! Planning the perfect length drinks reception (like anything) depends on what you're trying to achieve during this time.
Here are some factors that will affect the length of your drinks reception - but as a rough guide, I'd start with about an hour or more.
If you are getting married in a separate location you will want to build in a little extra time into your drinks reception (as well as the actual travel time). Guests may be slower at getting in to their cars than others, or they may want to pop to the restrooms once they've turned up. It's best to allocate a little extra time to allow for these transitions to allow your guests to settle in to the new location and begin to relax.
If you're planning on having photographs taken during your drinks reception. This is something that you will need to decide on as a couple, and speak to your photographer about. Consider whether or not you're having a whole group photo during this time? Are you having smaller group shots? Would you like to use this time to take your couples portraits? You may prefer to do these photographs later on, but bear in mind that the light may fade before you finish eating, and guests may have had a few more drinks by then!
If you are planning to use the drinks reception to mingle with all of your guests and catch up (to save on a formal receiving line), then you should definitely allow more time for this to happen. Depending on the size of your wedding guest list, you probably won't be able to talk to everyone; but if you want to spend this time enjoying your guests company, I'd highly recommend building in some extra time.
If your caterers need longer to prepare your wedding breakfast then you may need to increase the length of your drinks reception to give them time. This all depends on your caterers and what food you're having for your canapes and wedding breakfast. This isn't likely to be an issue, but always best to double check - especially if you want a speedy turn around!
If you need to swap your ceremony space into the wedding breakfast space you will need to allocate enough time to do this. If your wedding is at a venue, then the staff will be able to tell you how long this will take them. If it's at a dry hire venue, or in a marquee, you should check with your planner or catering team to see how long this will take; bearing in mind that the catering staff will also need to be serving your guests at the reception.
Finally, if you want to have lots of entertainment during your drinks reception, then I'd recommend that you leave more time. You may have an acoustic band, a live artist, an illusionist or something totally unique! Whatever you have planned for your guests, you want them to have time to be able to enjoy it, and if the act is only there for the reception, you'll need to leave plenty of time for the majority of your guests to be able to experience it.
When it comes to deciding the length of your drinks reception, make sure you sit down and really think about what needs to happen during this time - either behind the scenes or for you and your guests! Remember, trust the professionals that you've hired to help you with your wedding - they will be able to advise you and guide you!
For top tips to keep wasps and other insects away during your drinks reception - check out my blog post.
If you're planning your wedding and not sure what to do next - have a look at my services page to see how I can help you.