What do your guests do between ceremony and dinner and do you need to entertain them?
This is a topic that I see come up again and again. What surprises me most is the amount of thought that couples, particularly brides, put into this. When I got married, it didn’t really cross my mind as I knew that I would be busy taking photographs for most of it! I thought it might be helpful to write a bit about it….
So, how much time is there between ceremony and dinner…
This really depends on a few factors. The biggest being, where your ceremony is taking place relative to the venue.
If you are having a church ceremony, you know that it will be longer than a civil and you will also know that you and your guests will have to travel to the venue.
If on the other hand, you choose to have a civil ceremony at the venue, well, you have a lot more options in terms of start times. But, this also depends on if you are having your ceremony in the same room as your reception meal. I’ll come back to this further in the post.
Church to Venue
Let’s just say for example that you are getting married at 1.00pm in a church in Galway city area and that your venue is within a 20 minute drive (totally biased :)).
I would let couples know to allow up to 1-1 ½ hours from start to finish with a church ceremony. This time generally includes the line up at the back of the church. This will also depend on if you are having a full or part mass within the ceremony.
So, realistically your guests will more than likely go straight to the venue. There will always be a certain number of guests who will “stop on the way”. They will arrive to the venue at approximately 3pm.
Arrive to Venue – what next?
Many venues will include a welcome drinks reception as part of the wedding package so make sure to check this out when you are looking at venues. This will usually this include Prosecco and Canapés with Tea/Coffee and Biscuits.
Not all venues offer this in a package but I would encourage you to have something for guests when they arrive. It’s always nice to have the option of a cup of tea OR a glass of bubbly. Your wedding coordinator at the venue will be able to advise you on this.
Ceremony at Venue – how does this work?
Some hotels offer different rooms for your civil ceremony. The room you have your ceremony in is generally determined by your final guest numbers. Generally speaking it will be in a different room to your reception meal.
This means that you can have a later ceremony time as all your guests will be at the venue already.
Guests will have the welcome reception after the ceremony as above.
How long does the welcome reception last?
It should not really last more than a maximum of 2 hours. Whilst how much your guests drink is something that is completely out of your control, the last thing you want is guests drinking too much. I know that this is something that every bride worries about and probably thinks about way too much.
It is always nice to have background music during a drinks reception and there is nothing nicer than a pianist and singer. It creates a nice buzzy atmosphere. But, as far as i know, all venues (unless you are having a marquee, outdoor or maybe a castle reception) will have a built in PA system that they play music through.
If your budget allows it, you can look at a caricature artist or magician. If your budget doesn’t allow for this, please don’t get yourself stressed about it.
The reality is that the majority of your guests will not have seen each other for a long time. Family members may not have caught up since the last family occasion, which may not have been such a happy occasion. Friends may not have seen each other or years and have lots to catch up on.
What I am really trying to say is that your guests will be chatting!
Bar Tabs and Open Bars
I can honestly say that I have only worked 1 wedding in my 10 years wedding panning where the drinking got out of hand and this was down to an open bar that the groom let go out of control!
Thankfully it is not expected at an Irish wedding that there is an open bar for on arrival for guests. If it is something that you would really like or maybe your parents would like to have, well then my top tip is to have a set figure and don’t go over it. My second top tip with a bar tab is not to have top shelf drinks/shots or double measures. It is also a good idea to have the coordinator or manager on duty let someone know (usually one of the groomsmen) when the limit is being reached.
What about the Bride and Groom I hear you ask!!!
Well, you are paying a lot of money to have fabulous snaps of you so after the ceremony you will be whisked away by your photographer with or without your bridal party.
You will miss most of the drinks reception but any photographers i have worked with over the years always have the happy couple back in time to soak up some of the reception
You will also have some time to take more shots if you need to when all your guests are being called for dinner.
When should we sit for dinner
I have always had the same opinion on this since my first job as wedding coordinator. Get the venue to call for dinner between 5/5.30pm so that you are starting to eat around 6/6.30pm. Nobody wants a long drawn out dinner that goes on for hours and suddenly its 11pm before you are hitting the dancefloor!!