How To Transition Seamlessly From Ceremony to Reception

cane chairs with white fabric

Whether you’ve chosen to hold your ceremony and reception in the same room or at different venues, a smooth transition will ensure everybody enjoys their day without any hassle. If you’re planning to hold both events in the same room, you have to come up with a way to entertain your guests while the room is being flipped. So how do you transition seamlessly from ceremony to reception?

The most effective way to transition seamlessly from ceremony to reception is to set up a post-ceremony cocktail area where guests can hang out while the room is being reorganized. Alternatively, you can have your guests sit at their tables before the ceremony.

In this article, I’ll give you a few ideas — some more conventional than others — that you may want to keep in mind if you’re having your wedding ceremony and reception in the same room. Remember: It’s all about the transition! 

How To Use the Same Chairs From Wedding to Reception

It’s perfectly possible to use the same chairs for your wedding ceremony and reception as long as you make all the necessary preparations in advance.

First of all, you have to ensure your venue can provide beautiful and comfortable dining chairs that can also be used during a wedding ceremony. You can also rent the chairs that best suit your wedding theme. 

Here are a few options worth considering:

  • White foldable resin chairs: These are perfect if you’re going for a relaxed, informal vibe. They’re great for outdoor weddings, but not so great for indoor ones.
  • Wooden chairs (foldable and otherwise): They’re ideal for rustic weddings, especially barn weddings
  • Clear chairs (a.k.a. ghost chairs): These are suitable for chic or contemporary weddings.
  • Cane back chairs: These are a common choice for vintage-inspired weddings.
  • Louis XVI chairs: Some may find them a little “pretentious,” but I say they’re absolutely perfect for an opulent wedding in a countryside villa.

All of these chairs are versatile enough to be used for a wedding ceremony as well as for a wedding reception. However, you have to make sure they match your chosen venue and its overall décor.  

Now, if you’re hosting a casual wedding and most of your guests are either family members or very close friends, you may ask them to move their chairs to the reception hall once the ceremony is over — that is, if the ceremony and reception are going to be held in different rooms. 

If the ceremony and reception are going to be held in the same room, you may simply ask your guests to move their chairs to their assigned tables. 

beach wedding table and chairs

When not to move chairs from the wedding to reception

Caveat: If you’re planning a more formal wedding, chances are many of your guests won’t like the idea of having to carry their chairs around while wearing three-piece suits and dresses. So, you may want to consider an alternative solution. 

If you’re hosting a more formal wedding, you have three options:

  • Ask your venue coordinator if their staff can move the chairs once the ceremony is over.
  • Ask some of your closest friends and family members to move the chairs, which is best if you’re on a budget.
  • Hire some people to move the chairs.

How to repurpose the same chairs from ceremony to reception

But what if you don’t want your guests to know you’re using the same chairs for both the ceremony and the reception? Here are a couple of ideas worth considering:

Chair Covers

If you’re using Parsons chairs, ask the venue coordinator whether they have spare chair covers to change the look of the chairs after the ceremony. Alternatively, you could purchase the covers yourself.

However, I don’t recommend this if you’re inviting hundreds of people as you’d end up spending quite a bit on something that you’d only use once. 

Chair Decorations

This is a much cheaper but more effective alternative to chair covers. Once the ceremony is over, have the venue staff or a few kind-hearted volunteers put or change decorations on the chairs. 

There are various things you can use to adorn your wedding chairs, such as: 

  • ribbons 
  • tulle 
  • flowers 
  • wooden signs (Mr. and Mrs. wooden signs are quite popular, or you may opt for gender-neutral versions) 
  • sashes 
  • strings of pearls and crystals

Ultimately, it all depends on your budget and — of course — your wedding theme. 

chair with flowers

How Do You Transition From Wedding Reception to the Same Room?

To transition from a wedding reception to the same room, try to go for a venue that has a separate area. This is where your guests can chat, stretch their legs and enjoy a nice glass of wine while the room is being flipped.

A cocktail hour is a great way to keep your guests entertained while the waitstaff does their job. And while you and your significant other have some wonderful pictures taken. 

But what if the venue doesn’t have an area where you can host a cocktail hour? In that case, here’s what you can have your guests do.

Have Your Guests Sit at Their Tables Before the Ceremony

Once the ceremony is over, have the waiters bring in some decorative items (e.g. candle holders, flowers, etc.) to give the room a different vibe. Make sure no food is served during the ceremony because all the attention should be on the couple. You don’t want to have to say your vows over the crunch of crudité.

Have Your Guests Stand During the Ceremony

This is a great idea for a casual/informal wedding. Have your guests gather around you. And (to make things a little more entertaining for everybody) try to incorporate them into the ceremony. For example, have them do something like making a wish, saying a prayer, singing, holding a candle, etc. 

Those who cannot stand for whatever reason (e.g. those with bad knees or injuries/health issues) should, of course, be allowed to take their seats before the ceremony. 

I went to a wonderful, intimate wedding at a hotel a few years ago for dear friends of ours where we stood for the ceremony. They had the ceremony in a hotel suite with an amazing view of the downtown river walk area. And it was so nice to be invited into their wedding ceremony in that way. It felt like were were participants in something truly special. The reception was then held downstairs in the hotel restaurant patio area.

Have Your Family Sit Close to You During the Ceremony

Have a few chairs pulled out for your immediate family while the other guests are sitting at their respective tables. Once the ceremony is over, it will take a minute to move the chairs back to their tables. If you plan everything properly, I can assure you nobody will feel left out. 

Set up separate outdoor areas

If your wedding is outdoors in the same general location, you can seamlessly transition from one activity to another by carving out different areas within the location. For example, you can have a ceremony area with chairs with a scenic view. Then have an area with lawn games and high tables for cocktail hour. Cocktail hour can distract people while the chairs are being moved from the ceremony to the reception area. Lastly, set up a tent for the reception with a dance floor. More on how to rent a tent for your wedding here.

Guests can still mill about the grounds for the duration of the wedding. But it will be clear which area is for the ceremony, versus cocktail hour, versus dinner and dancing.

swing in front of a wedding ceremony chair set up


The best way to transition seamlessly from ceremony to reception is to host a cocktail hour. During this time your guests can chill, stretch their legs, and chat. 

You may use this time to interact with your guests, have your pictures taken, and (if the ceremony and reception are going to be in the same room) wait for the room to be flipped.

If the venue you’ve selected doesn’t have a separate cocktail area, the tips listed in this article may prove useful when planning your special day. 


Jaime is the owner of Loud Bride and Coast Designs LLC. She got married in 2017 in Geneseo, NY and designed her own wedding invitations and programs for the occasion. Now, she designs bespoke wedding stationery and affordable templates for other couples. She lives in New York city with her husband and two children.

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