How Long Is Dinner At A Wedding And When To Have It

The answer to how long is dinner at a wedding can be an hour, but it can also take longer or shorter. We will also discuss when to have dinner at weddings and how long each course should take. 

And if you’re curious about the type of dinner to have, we’ve included different wedding dinner setups to help you decide on your caterer. You can also read how long do wedding receptions last so that you can plan your after-ceremony timeline effectively. 


Exactly How Long Is Dinner At A Wedding

A wedding dinner typically takes 30 to 60 minutes, depending on how long your reception is and the type you’ll serve. Wedding dinners can even stretch up to two hours or longer, mainly if you focus on entertaining your guests with the food compared to other receptions with multiple shows and entertainers. 

The number of guests, the format of the meal, and the duration you booked the reception venue are your top three considerations when deciding how long should your wedding dinner be. Of course, you want the guests to appreciate each course; some might also eat slowly. 

You also want to consider the breaks between courses to have a smooth reception timeline. For example, remember that toasts are included between the wedding dinner courses


When to have dinner at the wedding reception?

Guest eat dinner during the wedding reception. It’s common for the reception at weddings to happen in the evening so that everyone can party until 10 to 11 pm, sometimes until midnight, especially at weekend weddings. 


When Should Dinner Be Served At A Wedding?

The dinner is served at the wedding reception after the wedding’s first dance. Remember that the typical timeline for the reception in most weddings goes like these:

  1. Cocktail hour
  2. First dance
  3. Dinner 
  4. Speech
  5. Cake-cutting
  6. Send-off

The following is a basic structure of a wedding reception, but keep in mind that couples vary in traditions and are free to customize their timeline. For example, the dinner might take more than an hour, and the breaks are used for toasts, speeches, performances, or even some of the dances like the parent-child dances. 

Wedding tosses such as the bouquet and garter toss should also be included in your reception timeline. And as for the duration of the wedding dinner, identify the type of dinner you want for the wedding as well as some setups will take longer than others. 


What Time Should Dinner Be At Wedding?

Wedding dinners usually happen around 5 or 6 pm, depending on when the reception venue is available, the caterer has prepared everything, and of course, when your wedding ceremony will be finished. Discuss the reception timeline with the venue and caterer, so the guests won’t need to wait too long, or you risk having them hangry

An hour before the wedding reception starts is called the cocktail hour, so use this as the time to prepare everything and have the guests eat dinner after the first dance. Depending on the type of dinner and meal course, it may also happen before dancing rather than becoming the main event that takes most of the reception timeline. 


How Long Does A 3 Course Dinner Take?

If you have a three-course dinner at your wedding, expect it will take two hours to finish. But, of course, larger receptions with more guests might take longer, and the server will need around 10 minutes after each course before starting the next one. 


What are the wedding dinner styles?

  • Sit-down dinner

The most common type of wedding dinner is the sit-down dinner, where the wedding serves a plated meal to the guests. It’s a formal dinner with an appetizer, entree, and dessert. 

  • Family style dinner

For intimate weddings or if you want a more engaging dinner, have a family-style meal at your reception. You’ll have large portions of food on banquet tables that the guests can share.

  • Buffet dinner

A fantastic way to save on server costs and meals is by having a buffet dinner at the reception. This also allows you to showcase a wide range of cuisines. 

  • Station dinner

An alternative to a buffer dinner reception is to have stations. Staff will assist in serving guests as they choose among the various food stations. 


How Long Is Each Course At A Wedding?

Thirty minutes per course should be sufficient for a wedding meal. But, of course, this depends on the dishes you want to serve, and having more guests mean that the course might take longer to finish. 

You also want to give your servers time to prepare for the next course. Usually, servers wait around 10 minutes before starting the next course. 


What Is The Order Of A 5 Course Meal?

The menu for a 5-course meal starts with the hors d’oeuvres, appetizers, salad, main entree, and finally, the dessert. Most weddings usually only serve the main entree and dessert, but they may have appetizers with the drinks during cocktail hour.

Here are how many different appetizers for a wedding to help you plan your meals.



Was this guide helpful? To recap how long is dinner at a wedding it can be anywhere from half an hour to over two hours. 

The type of meal, the number of guests, and the general reception timeline will dictate how long you’ll have the wedding dinner.

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