How Long Should your Wedding Reception Last?


Wedding Reception SignA couple of the questions I frequently hear couples puzzling over are “How long should the music last?” and “How many hours should the reception be?” There are plenty of traditions incorporated into most wedding receptions and based on the number of guests, dinner courses and your open bar package, the length of time you spend at the reception can vary. Here is a little more information on events commonly included in the reception:

Receiving Line

Depending on the location of your wedding ceremony and reception, the receiving line is almost always at the ceremony location. For couples who plan to take pictures after their vows, your guests will probably beat you to the reception. In this case, I recommend having the receiving line right after the ceremony.

Cocktail Hour

Kick off the reception and give yourself time to get to the wedding after your photos and enjoy your guests at the cocktail hour. Greet your guests and give them time to mingle while the event staff serves hors d’oeuvres.

First Dance

Once the DJ announces your parents, your wedding party and, of course, your grand entrance, head to the dance floor! This is a beautiful moment to celebrate the beginning of a memorable evening with family and friends.

Champagne Toast & Speeches

When everyone is seated and the first course has been served, the best man will give the champagne toast, with a response from the groom. Then it’s the maid of honor’s turn, sometimes followed by your parents and other guests.


Depending on if you have a buffet meal or sit-down style, dinner will progress differently. The dinner typically will take one hour. Once dinner is over, the dance floor will open up for the celebrations to continue!

Other Traditions

There are many other traditions that may be incorporated into your wedding, including the parents’ dances, the longevity dance and the throwing of the garter and bouquet. Many families also choose to include customs that celebrate their ethnicity, like the Hora, a Jewish wedding dance, and the kalamatiano, a Greek one.

Talk to your significant other about wedding traditions that their family follows and be sure to include some that incorporate both sides of your new family!

As a quick rule of thumb, I recommend a reception with four hours of music for up to 75 guest and five hours for 150 guests. For a wedding with 200 guests or more and multiple courses, six hours may be needed.  While four or five hours do not sound like a long time, remember what a big day it has been. If the event goes too long, it will seem to drag on. End your big night on a high note! From early hair appointments, to the wedding, photos and more, you’ve been busy. Enjoy the celebrations – they will fly by!


  1. Brian

    Really a nice post. How Long Should your Wedding Reception Last? I think it depends on how many guest you are going to attend. If the guest list is over 200 it will be a wise decision to take a whole day for wedding.
    Thanks for the post and keep sharing with us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.