How do you transition from ceremony to reception when they're in the same space?

TS31
Photo by Wild About You Photography
I'm getting married at an art gallery. The ceremony and reception are going to be in the same space. In fact, I'm going to have the guests sit at their tables and we will be married on the dance floor.

Do you have any ideas on how to break it up and make the beginning of the reception more official? -Ansley

We sure do! Here are some options…

  • Don't immediately join the guests at the reception, but rather take a break to go have your photos taken, or just spend some time together yichud-style. Then when you get back, WOO-HOO party time.
  • Have the DJ announce that the reception is starting and kick it off with a special group dance.
  • Create a separate post-ceremony mingling place, something like a drink, gaming, or s'more station, which will draw your guests out of their seats to start mingling.
  • Think about NOT having your guests sit at their assigned seats for the ceremony. You could have everyone gather and either stand or sit around you while you get married, then take their seats post-ceremony for the reception.
  • Make a decor change — have someone bring in the centerpieces, your wedding cake, or other special decor items that you didn't want to block your guests' view of the ceremony. Just the addition of a few festive items can change the vibe completely.
  • Play Minglo with your guests until it's time to dine and/or dance!

Now let's hive-mind it: What other ways can you transition between ceremony and reception when they're held at the same place?

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  1. Our ceremony and reception were in the same place – granted it was an airplane hanger – but we did the "ooh look over here, now back over here" oldspice thing. We set up the bar at the other side of the building so after the ceremony everyone moved over there for drinks and snacks while the caterers rearranged the ceremony stuff to set up for the reception. We disappeared for awhile too then did a "grand entrance" back through that same side to draw people back to the tables.

    5 agree
  2. My brother did a wedding and then a reception in a hotel ballroom. He moved his guests to a cocktail hour in another room (some places do hallways; I like Sarah's idea of back of room if you only have the one room) while photos were done and then everyone sat back down after the decor was switched out.

    1 agrees
  3. I went to a lovely wedding a couple of years ago at our local VFW hall. They had an archway thing where they stood to get hitched, then after the brief ceremony and signing the papers, they went outside for a smoke and a few minutes alone, while we mingled. Everyone sat at tables to watch them get married, and we just kept our places for the reception. It was one of the coolest weddings I've ever been to.

    2 agree
  4. Is having the guests leave the area between the two events (for cocktails, say) an option? That was what my cousins did, but they wed at hotels and had an area to do that in.

    • Just to mix it up a bit…do you really want to make them two separate elements? Or is that just how you think you have to do it because that's how it's always been done. Another option could be to really blend the two elements into one. Doing wedding speeches? Why not replace a ceremony reading with a speech from your best man? Or have your father/daughter dance when you are being given away? I wish I'd realized that we could have done this at our own wedding!

      2 agree
  5. My cousin's wedding was in a barn. Big, open space. The initial plan was to have the ceremony, then open the bar while the newlyweds went outside for pictures, which would probably be the simplest way to separate the ceremony and reception. Things went a little different, though. 🙂 On that day it was crazy hot and humid. A huge storm rolled through, knocking out the power and stopping air circulation, so they opted to open the bar beforehand while the venue owners tried to get a generator going. They ended up basically having the ceremony by candlelight, the guitar player wearing a headlamp that an aunt had in her purse (three sons all Boy Scouts). After the ceremony, they still went outside for pictures (storm had passed, taking the ungodly heat with it!). The headlamp was passed to the bartender, caterers brought in the food, and mingling commenced. Shortly thereafter, the generator was hooked up and partying began. The generator didn't have enough juice to power the well, though, leading the groom to describe the bathroom situation as, "If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, wait 'til you get back to the hotel."

    2 agree
  6. At my cousin's wedding (the ceremony was outside), instead of the usual «you may kiss the bride» they asked everyone to join the newly weds to kiss them! It ended up with everyone cheering talking being happy, etc. The reception was few meters away and we had a craft beers degustation before the diner. We will have our ceremony and reception in the same room, and we will start the reception by inviting our guest to join us for a drink in another room.

  7. In a break with what [most of] our families are used to, we're having a civil ceremony at a local hotel. The way that their weddings work is that the ceremony is held in a smaller function room, post-ceremony stuff (tea/coffee, chocolate fountain, etc.) are just off the hotel reception area and main bar, and the reception "proper" is in the main ballroom. This way there's no risk of people sneaking off to a pub en route from the ceremony because there's one right across the lobby, and quite a few out-of-town guests have already booked rooms at the hotel so there's 50% less risk of someone taking a wrong turn somewhere on the day and needing me to direct them over the phone. 😉

  8. We are trying to figure this out, ourselves. Our whole day will be at a lodge in a local park, with really just the dinner inside. Lawn games and lounging areas will supplement the typical dancing, since we are trying for a picnic vibe. July in Ohio can have extremely volatile weather, though, so my hope is that the heat isn't crippling, storms are short, and I can at least do a quick photo shoot under the porte cochere entrance to the lodge. Of course, our grand exit on our motorcycles may have to be altered, as well. I hope to end the ceremony by inviting the guests to take a picture, or best one of us in a quick game.

  9. My sisters wedding was in the same space. She had all the tables off to the side, and the chairs arranged in traditional rows. After the ceremony she had designated a few people to start moving chairs and tables and everyone pitched in. She hid in a back room with the wedding party and then they were announced for reception entrances.

    My wedding was at the same venue, but a different space. We set up the receiving line between ceremony and reception places, to keep the traffic flowing smoothly

  10. Our ceremony and reception are going to be in a barn. I really like the idea of having guests sit at our round tables meant for the reception during our vows and ceremony, and then have help bringing in decorations and center pieces afterwards to help people feel/see the transition. My sister says that could be funky for some, as they will have to turn their chairs around to watch the ceremony. Does asking some of the guests who may have their backs to where we’ll be standing seem like a lot?

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