How to Entertain Guests Between the Ceremony and Reception

Written by Alex Reardon
Photo: Jen Fariello Photography LLC

It’s not uncommon to have a gap of up to a few hours between the end of your wedding ceremony and the start of your reception. Engaged couples working with this timeline are often looking for creative ways to keep their wedding guests entertained while they are busy having photos taken, freshening up, or spending time with their wedding party.

Here are five of our favorite ideas for keeping guests happy and occupied between the ceremony and reception.

Provide a list of suggested outings on your wedding website.
Choose a few locations and activities to recommend to your guests. Try to include a little something for everyone, from kid-friendly spots (if children are invited to your wedding) to those elderly guests might enjoy. Scout the area for ideas—is there a pretty park, a cool cafe, an iconic landmark, or a great spot to pop in for a manicure? Take proximity into account: the closer to your ceremony site or reception venue, the better. Provide an address, phone number, and a little blurb about each recommendation. We suggest having the list live on your website by the time the invitations go out so that guests can make plans and book any necessary reservations in advance.

Create a custom map.
As an alternative to providing a list on your website, have your suggestions plotted onto a pretty map! Hire a stationery pro to design or illustrate it for you and have copies printed. Customize the design to include your wedding colors, wedding date, monogram, crest, or logo. You may choose to insert the maps into the ceremony programs, or, if you want to provide more lead time, include them in the invitations. Guests are sure to appreciate this helpful, creative touch!

Host a relaxed in-between event.
Rent out a nearby space and organize a casual activity in which all guests can partake. We love the idea of lawn games and lemonade for a warm weather wedding, or a bonfire with tea and hot cocoa if the wedding is taking place during a chillier time of year. Consider mixing in laid-back entertainment like a photo backdrop or an acoustic guitarist. It doesn’t have to be elaborate! The goal is to keep the guests gathered together, comfortable, and entertained until the reception begins.

Host an extended cocktail hour.
If you’re looking for a more formal, traditional way to entertain your guests before the reception, consider extending cocktail hour to an hour and a half or two hours. Offer a variety of hors d’oeuvre and a wide selection of beverages, including plenty of non-alcoholic options. If you’re worried about over-imbibing, consider providing a creative mocktail menu for at least the first portion of the event.

Organize a scavenger hunt.
Go all out with a big group game! Come up with a list of items to find, photos to take (bonus: ask guests to post them with the wedding hashtag), places to visit, and mini activities to check off. Consider offering a prize (or two) to fire up the friendly competition. Divide guests into teams and let the fun begin.