How Long Do Wedding Receptions Last: Reception Timeline

If you’re curious about how long do wedding receptions last, it can take a total of four hours. But then, the wedding itself will usually run for six hours. 

We will discuss a sample wedding reception timeline to help you make a practical schedule for your wedding day. And to further know what to expect with the events in a wedding reception, please read what is a wedding reception

how long do wedding receptions last


Exactly How Long Do Wedding Receptions Last

Weddings vary in type and elements because of the different cultures and practices of couples. But since reception is usually a laidback celebration without many restrictions, as with a wedding ceremony, most receptions last four hours. 

A typical wedding day can take six hours, including the wedding ceremony. The ceremony can run for two hours, while the reception is usually longer as the guests dance, drink, and party at the venue all night long. 


How long wedding receptions should last

However, there are other factors to consider as they can influence how long your wedding reception can take. For example, the time of the wedding reception and how long the reception venue allows their clients to book their place. 

Furthermore, you want to allocate time for other wedding events and practices. For example, perhaps you’ll have photo sessions between the reception events, or the venue location differs for the wedding ceremony and reception.

Please discuss with your wedding coordinator the expected timeline throughout your wedding day. And of course, clarify with the venue manager the events and schedules to know if you are limited with the booking period. 

You can read what is a wedding venue to know why it’s an influential factor when planning the wedding schedule. 


What Time Do Most Wedding Receptions End?

Most wedding receptions take four hours, ending around 11 pm since a typical reception happens in the evening. You can start the reception between 7 to 8 pm, but remember to include the cocktail hour or receiving line. 

These parts of the wedding day timeline give guests time to mingle and settle in the reception venue. However, perhaps you also want to give your guests quick chitchat, or the venue needs time to decorate the place for the reception. 

You should also consider the travel time if the reception venue is far from the wedding ceremony. This way, you can book the right time at the reception location regarding when you’ll start the reception. 


Are 4 Hours Enough For A Wedding Reception?

Four to five hours is the usual time allocated for a wedding reception by most couples. However, four hours would be enough since you can still have the introduction, speeches, dances, toss, dinner, cake-cutting, and partying without the guests feeling rushed.

A wedding reception dinner can take an hour, so you’ll have three hours to do the wedding reception traditions like dances and tosses. However, you don’t want the reception to last too long because you’ll worry about entertaining the guests. 


Are 6 Hours Too Long For Wedding Reception?

A wedding reception can go past four hours. This is because some weddings are big, or the couple may want to incorporate various traditions and elements in their wedding reception. 

Just make sure to discuss the expected booking period of the venue to avoid issues. You also want to manage your budget as long wedding receptions will need a bigger budget.

For example, will you have performances or book entertainers to fill the time? You will also need more food and drinks since the meal time will be longer. 


How Long Is Too Long For Wedding Receptions?

A reception that will take longer than 6 hours can be too long. In addition, the couple themselves will eventually feel exhausted, especially if the wedding day starts early in the preparations and ceremony. 

Your guests might also be unable to maximize the extended reception time because they’ll be tired. If you have many senior guests and children, they’re likely to go home early. 

Furthermore, the wedding day might not be practical for celebrating all night long. If it’s a Sunday or weekday wedding where the guests will have responsibilities the following day, having a long wedding reception wouldn’t be practical.


Sample Wedding Reception Timeline

You’ll understand how long should a wedding reception last much better if you know what typically happens in a reception. You can also use the sample timeline below for your wedding:

  1. Cocktail hour: one hour 
  2. Guests can have 15 to 20 mins to settle into their seats
  3. Wedding party entrance: 5 to 10 mins
  4. Newlyweds introduction: 5 to 10 mins
  5. First dance: 5 to 10 mins
  6. Welcome speech: 5 to 10 mins
  7. Dinner: one hour
  8. Toasts: 30 mins
  9. Parent-child dances: 10 to 15 mins
  10. Wedding tosses: 10 to 15 mins
  11. Free dancing: 30 to 45 mins
  12. Cake-cutting: 30 mins
  13. Photo sessions: 20 mins
  14. Partying: 30 to 45 mins
  15. Wedding grand exit: 10 to 15 mins

Feel free to modify the lengths of each element or customize the reception with the traditions you want to include. 



And that’s it! To recap how long do wedding receptions last, most couples have them for four hours. 

Some bigger celebrations with more elements can also take six hours, but anything longer might be impractical. Regardless, settle the reception timeline with your wedding coordinator and venue coordinator to ensure that you’ll book the proper schedule for the venue. 

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