How Long Should a Wedding Reception Be?

Wedding timelines can be tricky. When you’re planning the nitty-gritty of the wedding day timeline, you may have asked yourself more than once: How long should a wedding reception be, really? In this guide, we go over what’s traditionally “accepted,” as well as what you should do given your own unique circumstances.

Keep in mind that there are lots of factors to consider when making this decision. Discover what they are and how to strategically plan your wedding reception below.

So, how long should a wedding reception be?

Depending on who you ask, four hours is typically considered long enough for a wedding reception. But the truth is that it may not be up to you, and reception length can vary due to a ton of different factors. For example, many wedding reception venues have a set amount of time you’re allowed to use the space built into the contract.

If the venue doesn’t have a set start time, they may have a strict end time. You can expect a more conservative reception venue to end the party around 11 pm or midnight depending on a few different factors, including:

what they have booked the next day

how they plan their clean up (some do it immediately, others wait until the morning, others expect you to handle it before you leave)

the noise ordinances for the area

If you’d like to save a little bit on this area of your budget and an early night sounds like the perfect way to kick off your marriage, consider bringing it up when discussing pricing with the venue.

RELATED: Questions to Ask a Wedding Venue: The Ultimate List

Some wedding venues are more relaxed than others. They may even give you access to the space the week leading up to the wedding. You can use this time to arrange furniture, bring in decor, and set up your larger electronic equipment such as lighting and music. If you do get to enter the venue ahead of time, you may be able to save on your rental fee by limiting your time in the space on the day of.

If your venue is flexible, your wedding reception may be able to go until the same time bars in the area typically close. But before you commit to a late-night party, ask yourself whether or not your group of wedding guests will be interested in staying that long. Some weddings have crowds that prefer to end too early than let it drag on too late. Others could dance the entire night away and do it again the next day. The truth is: Every wedding is different, and what works for one couple and their guests may not work for the next.

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