Drinks – how long?

There is always a period of time between getting married and sitting down for the wedding breakfast where everyone stands around chatting and drinking. This drinks reception is a key time for you to chat to your guests and to enable you to feel like you are actually at your wedding rather than just being on display. The big question is, how long do you allow for the drinks reception?

When considering about these timings it is important to think about what happens in this time and how the variations in the amount of time might affect you. This is your wedding and these timings should suit you above all others.

90-120 mins from arriving back at the venue until everyone gets called through for the wedding breakfast.

First of all i’d like to deal with two myths regarding the length of the drinks reception.

  1. “We dont want to spend too long having drinks as everyone will get bored”. Really? Satnding around with friends and family having a few drinks is boring? If they get bored in such a short period of time they dont know how to have a good time.
  2. “We dont want to spend too long having drinks as everyone will get too drunk”. Really? I cant remember the last time i saw someone who couldnt walk by the end of the drinks reception. even a relatively long one. People are going to get drunk – it’s a wedding. Credit most people with being able to pace themselves.

I hear these all the time during the organisation of the wedding and i’ve never understood it. Bottom line is that anything under an hour is too short and anything over 2 hours is probably too long. One thing – make sure you have significant canapes if you go for 90 mins or more, especially if you are having the speeches at the beginning of the wedding breakfast.

90 mins is perfect and by far the most popular amount of time.

The other thing that people go on about is how long the photos will take? I hate this. It tends to come from venues that dont know what they are talking about. It comes from the good old days where the drinks lasted as long as the photos took. These days it’s very different. At weddings where i am the photographer I get the group photos done in about 20 minutes leaving as much time as possible for everyone to go off and do something less boring instead. It’s a wedding, not a photoshoot. Having said that, beware the photographer who will spend the whole drinks reception taking photos of the two of you and all the group shots. You’ll miss your wedding. More on that in the ‘Family Photographs’ section.

In 90 mins you’ll have enough time to get around and chat to almost everyone unless you are having a cast of thousands (well, over 150 anyway). Any less than 90 mins and it will feel like the day is disappearing in front of your eyes. Bear in mind that you will have the same conversation with everyone you see. I dont want to put a downer on it but it’s just how it is in my experience. The longer your drinks, the better your conversations will be as you wont feel rushed.

At weddings that I shoot the 90 mins breaks down like this…

  • 60 mins of standing around drinking whilst everyone tells you how great you are. Result! I also get lots of time do do all this.
  • 20 mins of family photos
  • 10 mins to pop to the loo (with all the bridesmaids of course) before the call in for the wedding breakfast

The key is not to rush it. If it’s summer time and the weather is good maybe even extend it if the caterers can be flexible.