Designing the Right Gap Between Your Ceremony and Reception

Tips on creating an idyllic in-between time for you and your wedding guests.

When laying out the logistics of your wedding day, your selected itinerary will be a hot-button topic worth reviewing over and over again. You want to ensure that you and your wedding party have enough time to do all of the behind-the-scenes work before the ceremony begins, plot out the timing of the special dances for the reception, and much more.

From time to time – especially for brides and grooms planning more religious vows – it may be impossible for your event to flow seamlessly from ceremony to reception without any in-between time. If this is the case, you need to spend some extra time “minding the gap” and creating a practical and concise plan for you and your guests during this period.

Here are some tips on how to go about planning this break:

Create a cocktail hour or extend options. Hopefully, the gap you have in mind will only last around an hour or so – which is normal. If this is the case, it’s common to host a cocktail hour for attendees. This is a great time for you and your wedding party to take professional photos, grab a quick snack, and perhaps even greet your guests at the site of your cocktail hour before the celebration kicks off. If the gap is going to be longer than an hour, it’s important that you provide friends and family with a list of nearby attractions – if not create activities yourself – in addition to your cocktail hour. If your nearest and dearest are all staying at the same hotel or resort, perhaps it would be a good idea to explore the grounds. However, we encourage you to whittle down your gap time as much as possible, as not to stretch the day unnecessarily or give your guests awkward “getting ready” time.

Ensure adequate driving time, if applicable. If you’ll be having a gap due to the separate locations of the ceremony and reception, take driving times into consideration. We recommend keeping all of your wedding events as local as possible, but if there is some travel involved, do your research. Look up driving times or simply drive and time the route yourself – be sure to add on about ten minutes or so for parking and walking as well. 

Provide information and transportation. Should there be travel involved, it’s courteous to provide transportation to your guests. If there is a bigger gap and driving required, be sure that friends and family receive all of this information up front so that they may plan accordingly. Perhaps there is immediate transportation available to take revelers to the cocktail hour/reception space – make this fact very clear on your wedding website and ceremony programs. Always keep your loved ones in the loop!

Factor in some alone time. If possible, schedule in just a few moments alone with your new spouse to take in the feeling of being married. After your wedding party’s photos have been snapped and they’re on their way to your celebration, we recommend taking a few moments of peace and solitude with your beloved. Perhaps you’ll even send your photographer along with the bridesmaids and groomsmen to truly make it a sweet and private experience. 

For more wedding advice, find out which wedding details you shouldn't procrastinate on, discover pieces of bad planning advice, and learn how to personalize your décor details

Opening photo by Aaron and Jillian Photography

Authored by: Megan Simpson

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