Your church is only available in the early afternoon, but you want an evening reception. You need time to take photographs after the wedding ceremony, but you don’t want to show up super late for dinner. Whatever the reason, your wedding reception might not be scheduled immediately after your ceremony. Unfortunately, this provides a problem for your out-of-town guests who need to figure out what to do between the wedding ceremony and reception. Here are five suggestions for ways you can take the burden off your guests and help them fill the time gap.
Provide a list of your favorite local places.
Sit down with your fiancé and list out all your favorite local establishments and attractions that are nearby the reception hall and would be appropriate for your dressed-up guests to visit. Include the best places to get inexpensive appetizers, have a drink, enjoy a scenic view, or grab a cup of coffee. Post your list on your wedding website or include a small postcard with your invitations so your guests can make their plans ahead of time.
Hold a pre-reception gathering.
Ask a family member or friend to host a pre-reception gathering at his or her house, perhaps as a wedding gift to you. If you offer drinks, light snacks, a bathroom, some music or games, and plenty of space to sit and relax, your guests should be refreshed and ready to party when it’s time to head to the reception. As space will likely be limited, you might extend invitations only to those guests who made a day trip in from out of town, leaving them with neither a local house nor a hotel room. Send emails or make phone calls to these guests ahead of time to let them know they’re invited.
Host a cocktail hour.
Allowing your guests to arrive at the reception venue early for a cocktail hour is a great way to fill the time between the wedding ceremony and reception. Offer drinks, a few hors d’oeuvres, and a little mood music in the background. This will likely involve substantial expense to you – the cost of renting the hall longer, booking the DJ for extra time, and opening the bar earlier – but it is probably the most convenient option for your guests. Indicate on your invitation that your reception will begin with a cocktail hour.
Reserve space in your hotel.
For those guests who are staying in your hotel block but may not want to go to their separate rooms, find out if you can reserve a conference room for the time between the wedding ceremony and reception. Stock the room with games, drinks, and snacks, just offering people a chance to relax together before heading to the reception hall. Place a small card in guests’ hotel rooms or gift bags to let them know the space will be available to them between the wedding ceremony and reception. Be sure to work out with the hotel management ahead of time any necessary measures to leave the space accessible to guests.
Give guests coupons for local establishments.
If you give them notice and the promise of an influx of customers, local restaurants or bars might be willing to give you a supply of coupons or gift certificates to their establishments. Include the coupons in the wedding invitation envelopes or gift bags. If you are not able to get coupons from the businesses themselves, you could search online for discounts and keep a list of updated links on your wedding website.
No matter which of these options you choose, your out-of-town guests will appreciate your attempt to keep them occupied between the wedding ceremony and reception. Just remember not to over-stress about details such as these, because things have a way of coming together in the end. If you indicate on the invitation that the reception does not start immediately after the ceremony, your guests will certainly find their way to your venue at the appropriate time to celebrate your marriage and dance the night away!
More wedding advice from this author:
How to Make Out of Town Wedding Guests Feel Welcome
Eight Unexpected Expenses to Include In Your Wedding Budget
Everyone and Their Brother: Six Guidelines for Cutting Your Wedding Guest List