There is only so much time a venue will give you for your reception. In this block of time you will need to include time for set-up and breakdown of the entire event. If you are having the ceremony at the same location, you may get an extra hour or so, but most of the time you will be racing against the clock at the end of the night so that you are not charged overtime.

Here are some of the things you should think about when deciding to add that extra hour to your venue’s allotted time.

  1. How much decor do you have? If you have a lot of decor elements you will need to give your florist and designer time to set it up properly. In their scope of work or contract they should let you know how much time they need. If you have a lot of DIY elements and you expect your family and friends to help, make sure you have plenty of time so they are not stressed out with helping and having to get ready for the main event.
  2. Are you “flipping” the room? If you are having the ceremony in the same space as the reception, your planner and venue staff will have to flip the room. This may involve moving chairs, tables, and other large decor elements. Typically this is done while cocktail hour is going on in another space, but depending on question #1, you may need more time.
  3. What kind of dinner service are you having? Your food choices and table design will have an effect on time. It can take up to two hours for 150 guests to get through the buffet line and eat. Work with your caterer to streamline your dinner service. Just don’t want to rush your guests through their meal just to stay on track with your timeline.
  4. Are you having several Special Dances? If you are having more than the usual First Dance, and two parent dances, then you will want to factor in more time.  Also, if you know your guests are going to want to party down, you will want to also have plenty of time for them to have fun too.
  5. Do you have a lot of drinkers? This is probably the most difficult areas to work around. You want your guests to have a great time, but sometimes, they they go overboard. If you have a lot of liberal drinkers, you don’t want to give them too much time to get so hammered they lose control. Breaking glassware, obnoxious behavior and vomiting, are all things you want to avoid. Plus, if people start to feel like they should leave, you won’t have enough people for a spectacular Grand Exit. Factor in enough time so everyone leaves on a positive vibe.
  6. What about the other vendors? If you add an hour to your venue contract, make sure you have included additional time in your other vendor contracts to make sure everyone ends at the same time. There is no sense in adding more time to your venue if your DJ or band picks up and leaves because their contracted time is over.

For most weddings, a four hour reception is ideal. With larger weddings with buffets, you may want to consider adding an hour so everyone has time to eat. Always take your guests into consideration and if in doubt, go ahead and add more time. You might regret it if you have to end the fun too early, and you can always cut it short if you need to.