Ask Kevin: How Long Should My Reception Be?

December 12, 2013

Ask Kevin

Hi Kevin!

I just got engaged over Thanksgiving, and all my family was around so of course I received many questions about what my wedding plans were. One of the questions that came up was how long would my reception be, and to be honest, I have never really given that much thought because I didn’t think I really had a choice in the matter, and that whatever venue I selected would just tell me. So, it got me thinking, how long should my reception be? Are there any things that I should be aware of when I am discussing my reception length with my venue?

Thanks so much!


Antioch, CA



Hi Maria,

Congratulations on your engagement and thank you for your question! I’m sure it is something that many people overlook when they are just starting the planning process. In today’s wedding world, the options for customization are endless, and that certainly applies to your timeline as well. With that being said, we do typically see an average reception length of 4-5 hours, including cocktail hour. The most important thing to think about is that you want to your guests to leave your reception wanting more. I’m sure that you want to have a long reception, and you think that your guests will be partying until the wee hours of the morning, but in reality many of your guests will be ready to leave after you cut the cake. You always want your guests to leave your wedding thinking “Wow that was the best! I could have danced for hours more” instead of “Wow, I’m so glad that thing is finally over. It lasted forever!”.

We have found that the sweet spot for a reception is 4 hours, and I think that the best way to break that down is as follows- 1 hour for cocktails and appetizers, 1 hour for dinner, and  about 90 minutes for dancing. You’re probably doing the math in your head, and noticing that only adds up to 3.5 hours. Well, no matter how hard you try to stay on your timeline, it’s inevitable that there will be delays, so it’s always smart to leave a little cushion of time.

Hopefully that helps, and best of luck with the rest of your planning!