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When I think about my past weddings as a guest and a photographer, I’ve got a pretty solid answer to how long wedding receptions should last. The answer comes from a few different considerations from someone who’s been to over 50 weddings in the last 4 years.
How Long Wedding Receptions Should Last
4-5 hours will be your best bet for reception length. Do note that the ceremony isn’t included in this, as it’s just the reception (and cocktail hour, if you’d like to count that). Some people think that less than 4-5 hours is perfect and I really feel that even 3-4 hours would be plenty. Others might want a 6 hour reception and that’s where I do have to chime in.
When you have a reception that’s more than 4 hours, not including cocktail hour, you typically have to extend your contracted time with your venue and its staff. That means more costs to you, in addition to the cost of your planner, photographer, and videographer staying until your grand exit.
Also, more hours of open bar could mean the difference between a little playful group of guests and an over-intoxicated nightmare that’ll repeat itself in your wedding photos.
If you’re dead set on a reception longer than 5 hours, consider stopping alcohol serving about an hour before the reception ends. This will save you money and will save your guests from next-day regrets.
Want to Party Longer?
But wait, we want more dancing! It’s no secret that many wedding guests, especially those who are approaching or are in their old age, leave the reception before it’s over.
Instead of dragging on the reception and having a tiny group remaining for your sparkler exit, consider ending earlier and taking your closest friends and family members out for an after-party. That’s a perfect compromise to letting guests off the hook and being able to keep dancing until sunset with age-appropriate besties.
It truly is more than possible to have a killer reception in 4-5 hours, I promise! Your guests will have had just enough fun and you’ll avoid all of the downsides to an extended reception. Just remember, if you’re a night-owl with a party side, you can always hit up a cool new bar or lounge to truly dance the night away.