Distance between wedding ceremony and reception: How far away is too far?

Posted by
GenCJ-0789I've found the perfect reception venue after many sleepless nights! We are having a big ceremony at our church with afternoon tea to follow, and are then having a “smallish” reception with 50 people, mostly family.

I've realized, though, that the place where I would love to have the reception is over half an hour away from the church. I'm guessing this would be a big drive, especially for the out-of-towners (and there are a lot).

What do you think? How important is location in your venue search? I don't want to be “that wedding we went to where we had to drive so far to have dinner!” But do you settle for a venue you don't really like for the sake of convenience to your guests? -Anonymous

The answer to this will largely depend on where your wedding is taking place. If it's in a big city, half-an-hour can be a relatively close distance! Again, time and distance is all relative, but it does beg the question: How far is too far between ceremony and reception venues?

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Comments on Distance between wedding ceremony and reception: How far away is too far?

  1. We had a distance of about that and even worse, it was an evening reception with drinking. I think especially since yours is in the afternoon and won’t be a boozy party, that will be just fine. Assuming folks have to drive to get to your church, that is–if the church is walking distance from the hotel and then they have to drive to the reception, they’ll get confused. But it sounds like that’s not the case.

  2. A friend had a church wedding in her local village, then a larger reception about 40 mins drive away. No one minded, as it was an easy trip, and it mentioned on the invite that there was a bit of distance so we were all prepared. If it’s lovely, it’s worth it!

    One thing worth thinking of is where people will stay – it might be easier to stay near the church the night before, and at the venue/hotel the night after

  3. If you build it, they will come. People will drive for booze! No worries!!! Just have directions printed out, on the back of the program and force people to take those babies you spent hours on!!! Because I’m always amazed there are always people without a GPS, could you imagine?

  4. One way to mitigate the concern, if you have the money for it, is to hire a coach service to take the guests from the ceremony to the reception and back (if that’s where their cars will be). If you are concerned about people wanting to leave whenever is right for them instead of having to wait for everyone, you might want to set up an early departure coach and a later departure coach.

    We’re hiring a coach service to take people from the hotel to the venue because we’re getting married in a part of the city that would be difficult for out-of-town guests to navigate, especially the older folks. Lots of oddly placed streets with tiny signage and cars parked all over the place makes driving in that neighborhood a challenge, so we’re trying to make it easy for everyone. We’ll probably have an early and late departure back to the hotel, as well.

    • My Brother got married recently at a location that was a bit of a drive from where everyone was staying. The distance wasn’t bad, but the road was winding, narrow, and harrowing. They had shuttles pick up guests at the hotel (even if you weren’t staying the night) in 10 minute intervals and were very clear on what time the last pick up would be. This guaranteed everyone got there on time and the wedding wouldn’t be delayed. I think the shuttles took a lot of stress off the guests and gave them a chance to socialize beforehand. Plus it also helped with the whole drunk driving thing afterwards…

  5. I think anything more than 20 to 30 minutes is ridiculous. When my MIL’s neighbor’s niece got married, she had the wedding at the parish church, but expected everyone to go to the reception 75 minutes away, and it was in another state, north of a major city!

    I’ve found I’ve had the most enjoyment at weddings where the wedding and reception are held at the same location. I know this is not possible with most churches, but try to keep the commute down.

  6. I grew up in a rural area where a 30 min drive to get anywhere was pretty much the norm. I’ve attended several weddings where there was a gap between the ceremony and the reception to allow for travel. Get a block of hotel rooms near the reception venue as people are more willing to travel to something than to travel home from something (people are strange). Make sure you allot time for travel, and make sure both addresses are on the invite.

  7. If you’re going to have a large gap between the service and the reception to account for travel distance, keep in mind the natural gap that tends to occur for pictures. At most weddings I’ve been to, the bride and groom show up at the reception (what seems like) an hour after everyone else. That’s probably going to seem even longer if lots of time is reserved (and needed) for traveling. So if you’re going to need more travel time, you may want to think about doing most of the wedding pictures before the wedding.

    • I went to a wedding that had this problem. A 30 min drive in city rush hour traffic, followed by the bride and groom showing up over an hour later. That meant that there were two hours between the end of the reception and the first service of food. Made me cranky.

  8. As many others have said, it largely depends on the people you are inviting. I personally don’t think 30 minutes is that far. I would suggest having accommodations near the reception site for an easy end of the night.

    Do take into consideration what time the ceremony ends, travel time, and the reception start. I helped cater a wedding where the ceremony ended nearly 3 hours before the reception started and guests were allowed into the venue. The ceremony was about an hour away, but it was such an awkward length of time for guests: not enough time to go do something or relax at the (out of the way) hotel, too long to kill with a coffee break.

  9. I just went through this situation. The wedding was on top of a mountain, the reception was back in town 40 minutes away. I gave two hours between wedding and reception, which was mostly photo and travel time.

    Problem is, people from sea level drank during that time, IN the mountains, and then got so wasted they couldn’t MAKE the reception.

    In the end, it was worth it because I would rather have people right by their hotels and not drunk driving 40 minutes from the reception back to town. I highly recommend keeping your reception at/near your hotel.

  10. I’m having my church ceremony at my parents’ parish church in Sugar Land, and the reception downtown in Houston. We’re also having everyone from out of town stay in downtown, so that it minimizes the amount of people driving after the reception. It’s about a 35 minute drive on a good day, and I hmmed and hawed over it a lot, but no one’s going to be drinking at the ceremony, and there’s no other church I’d want to get married at. In the end, if someone doesn’t like it, they’ll deal with it.

    • Had to comment because SL is my hometown! SL – Houston is definitely not a bad drive. I commuted from SL to Rice every day for a semester and it was no big! I’m sure you’ll have a lovely wedding, and you’re right – people will deal! 🙂

      • Had to comment because I also went to Rice! I agree that it’s not too bad to have to work your way from SL in to the downtown area, there are worse parts of town to try and navigate.

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