Leaving the Reception: What's an Appropriate Time?

The obvious answer is: whenever you want! But there are options.

Photo: KT Merry

Your wedding day will be gorgeous and memorable, but it will also be over in a flash. Will you and your new husband be the last to leave the reception or the first? In the old days, guests usually gathered to see the couple off, giving the bride and groom the opportunity to make a formal exit ahead of their friends and family. But as traditions change and parties grow longer and longer, the newlyweds and their younger guests are often the last people on the dance floor. Not sure which route is right for you? Take a deeper look at your two choices.


Leave early.

Whether it's to get a jump on the wedding night, to catch some sleep before an early-morning honeymoon flight, or to follow tradition, the bride and groom often slip away from the reception before guests leave. Many couples slip away even earlier so they have a chance to change into getaway clothes, then briefly returning to the reception and say a general goodbye to the gathered guests. (Don't forget that Mom and Dad should get personal goodbyes and hugs though!). The guests usually take that as a sign the wedding's come to an end, and many will soon leave too. If someone has to leave before the bride and groom, it's fine as long as they wait until the wedding cake is cut.

Stay to the end.

Two words changed the bride and groom's tradition of leaving early: after-party! For many couples, the reception only gets the night started. The after-party, which begins once the reception is over, typically goes on into the early hours. In this case, the bride and groom will often be the last to leave. But even if you're not having a post-wedding bash, it's still appropriate for the newly minted marrieds to stay to the end of their reception if they so choose. It gives them more time to chat with guests who traveled a great distance or with family members they only see at other relatives' weddings!

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