Pros and Cons of an Afternoon Wedding

tea cup with heart and bouquet pen on top of a notebook
Afternoon tea anyone?

The afternoon wedding is not as new as you think. Watch any movie from the 1960’s about weddings and you’ll be surprised to find a ton of examples of afternoon weddings. This retro trend is making a comeback as the last few years have been full of more casual, smaller micro weddings and cake and punch receptions. If you’d like to give the afternoon wedding a try, here are all of the pros and cons you should consider before you commit.

In general, the pros and cons of an afternoon wedding are:

  • Pro – cheaper venue packages
  • Con – fewer venues offer Saturday afternoon packages
  • Pro – timing might work better for a church ceremony
  • Con – less time to get ready in the morning and take pictures
  • Pro – save money on food and alcohol
  • Con – shorter wedding duration
  • Pro – more casual, relaxed vibe
  • Con – might not “feel” like a true wedding
  • Pro – earlier end time if you’re not a night owl
  • Con – judgement from traditionalists
  • Pro – more time after to spend with your new spouse
  • Con – guests might be looking for something to do after the wedding
  • Pro – great light for photography
  • Con – no nighttime pictures
  • Pro – save on other expenses like photography and DJ

Keep reading for a more detailed analysis of these benefits and drawbacks.

Pros of an afternoon wedding

The pros of an afternoon wedding are abundant. The vibe is more tea party than drunken rave. More festive than fussy. More about the marriage and less about the partying. If that sounds like your couple personality, you’ll love the pros of having a wedding in the afternoon instead of the evening.

Cheaper venue packages

Many venues offer a cheaper package for afternoon tea or brunch weddings. This is because it’s an underutilized time for the venue that’s harder to sell and the weddings tend to be more casual, smaller affairs. As such they require less staff, less food, less alcohol, and less fuss.

Don’t get me wrong, you can still have an over the top extravagant wedding in the afternoon. I mean you could use the savings to go nuts and splurge on florals and the dress. But it’s much easier to cut some costs with this option if you’d like to.

You can check out my free budget guide if you sign up for my newsletter. It automatically calculates what you should spend where based on your budget and guest count and helps you stay on track. It’s like the fairy godmother of numbers.

Timing might work better for a church ceremony

This is going to depend entirely on your religion and what services they offer. But often one of the major cons of a church ceremony is how early in the day they are performed. You usually have a huge gap of 2-3 hours between the ceremony ending and the cocktail hour starting. So if you can plan your reception for immediately following the ceremony by having it in the afternoon, it might help your timeline flow a little bit better.

I have more details on how to create a wedding timeline and how much time everything takes here.

Save money on food and alcohol

People tend to drink fewer shots at 2 pm. Just a fact.

You’ll typically save a lot of money on both food and alcohol by having your wedding earlier in the day. Here’s why.

First, depending on the length of the reception and the time of day, you can opt out of serving a full meal altogether. For example you could host a cake and punch reception that’s just dessert and drinks for 1-2 hours after the ceremony. Or you could host an appetizer-only cocktail reception. Even if you decide to serve lunch, sandwiches and mimosas are a lot less expensive options than the traditional dinner fare of steak and fish.

Second, as I mentioned above, even with a full bar option people will drink less during the day. So your open bar pricing is usually cheaper. Or you can get away with creating a limited bar more easily during the day since your guests won’t mind as much.

Third, afternoon receptions are typically shorter than an evening wedding reception. So even by serving the same level of food and alcohol, you’ll save money by having fewer hours of service associated with it.

More casual, relaxed vibe

Afternoon weddings are typically less formal events. If you hate formal, traditional weddings and want something that’s more fun, less stuffy, an afternoon wedding is for you. There’s a ton of inspiration on the web of tea party weddings, retro cake and punch receptions, kentucky derby or garden themed events to draw from. If you can envision yourself hosting such an event, then this is a great choice.

Earlier end time

I’m not much of a night owl. I think by 10 pm at my own wedding I was too tired (and drunk) to party anymore. If that sounds like you and you’d like to be in bed with your new spouse by 9:30 pm then consider having a wedding that starts and ends earlier.

Typically afternoon weddings start around noon with the ceremony and end by 3 or 4 pm. Giving you ample time to pack everything up and relax for the evening.

More time after to spend with your new spouse

With that earlier end time comes a wide open evening to spend with JUST your new spouse if you want to. Many couples complain that the worst part of their weddings is that they feel like they barely see or talk to their new husband or wife. Or they don’t even have time to eat anything. What a luxury that would be to keep the socializing with friends and family to a dedicated chunk of 2-3 hours of time, then have the entire evening to yourselves?

You could celebrate your marriage with a fancy private dinner or treat yourselves to room service. Honestly, this sounds like a dream to start your honeymooning immediately after the wedding and just relax after all the stress of planning and getting married in front of an audience of guests.

Great light for photography

Yes, it’s true you’ll miss that golden hour lighting, but the rest of your photographs will take place during the day. Meaning everything from the ceremony to the cake cutting and dancing can feature natural light if the ceremony and reception are outdoors.

Save on other expenses like photography and DJ

In addition to the venue discount, other vendors might provide similarly reduced-cost services because it’s a time that’s not as popular to book weddings and the length of time for their service is shorter overall. See if you can strike up a deal with your photographer for a smaller package based on 4-5 hours of service and photos instead of 8-10+ hours that traditional weddings require. And you can skip the DJ or band altogether if you want to remove the dancing element or just use a spotify playlist.

Cons of an afternoon wedding

Now there are a few cons that should be considered before you book up a wedding like this.

Fewer venues offer Saturday afternoon packages

If you have your heart set on a Saturday wedding, you may find that many venues don’t offer afternoon packages on Saturdays. Fridays and Sundays are more common. This is because Saturday evening is the most popular time to book and a lot of venues don’t have the capacity to offer two weddings on the same day. They either don’t have time to clean up and reset in between the two or they are allowing their evening weddings earlier access to the property to get ready or set up decor.

You can find the occasional exception to this where the venue offers both a Saturday afternoon and evening time. You’ll definitely have a hard cut off time and limited use of the space before and afterwords unless the property is massive enough to have two totally separate spaces for weddings and allows them to overlap.

If you’re concerned about a Friday or Sunday wedding, check out these articles for additional pros and cons:

Pros and cons of a Friday wedding

Pros and cons of a Sunday wedding

Less time to get ready in the morning and take pictures

An earlier wedding means and earlier start time. Hair and makeup, getting ready, and any pre-wedding photos will all need to happen in the few precious hours in the morning. This may be a deal breaker if you and your wedding party doesn’t want to get up at 6 am to start preparing.

Shorter wedding duration

A shorter wedding duration is a pro for many reasons like cost, but it can also be a major con. A lot of the traditional wedding activities like a cocktail hour, sit-down full course meal, dancing, bouquet toss, etc. will need to be shortened or eliminated to fit into a three to four hour window. You may be disappointed when your wedding day seems to go by in a quicker flash than others’.

bride looking into the camera at sunset standing in front of water and city skyline
Bride at golden hour

Might not “feel” like a true wedding

To expand on this “time flies” con, you may find that it doesn’t even feel like a real wedding. This is not a concern if you’ve always envisioned a smaller, less traditional event or have dreams of a 60’s tea-party. But if you’ve always imagined the magic of a more traditional wedding, an afternoon might feel a little underwhelming with the cost-saving approaches mentioned in this article.

In that case, I would say combine the best of both worlds by splurging to make your afternoon wedding a more fantastic affair. You can even throw an after party to keep things going late into the night and include all of the wedding tradition moments your want to.

Judgement from traditionalists

Not going to lie, you are going to get some raised eyebrows from people when you talk about having a daytime wedding. Some of the older generation will remember similar weddings from their youth. But if they had an evening wedding, they may feel like you’re breaking with tradition. Or that you’re doing a disservice to your guests somehow.

If the judgement is coming from close friends or family (especially if they’re threatening to withhold funds based on your choices) involve them in your vision by sharing articles like this one, Pinterest boards with photos from brunch or tea party weddings, and the cost savings so they get a better picture of what an afternoon wedding looks like and why it’s so fun!

When the judgement is coming from anyone else, just ignore the haters. If they decline your invitation, you don’t want them at your wedding anyway.

Guests might be looking for something to do after the wedding

When the party gets going, some guest might not want to stop. Especially if you’re having a destination wedding, your guests might be left feeling with a sense of “now what?” Make sure you have a plan for what guests can do after the wedding is over. Encourage them on your website or programs to head to some of your favorite local spots for more food and drinks, a touristy destination, or just to relax by the hotel pool.

You can also throw a post-wedding event to keep the party going. If your parents were planning to throw a farewell brunch the day after your wedding, maybe it’s moved up to a pizza night back at the house. Or maybe you let everyone know you’re heading to a certain bar afterwords (and drinks are available for purchase.) A lot of your guests will gladly join you and some will decline and return home or to the hotel to rest.

No nighttime pictures

Depending on your vision, you may not have a concern about night photography. But if you imagined a sparkler send off or fireworks, you may be in for a major compromise. You can pay your photographer for enough hours to cover some evening or night time shots of just the two of you if you have something special in mind. But it will be many hours after your wedding is over so you may find that it’s not worth it.

In conclusion

Afternoon weddings are a great idea for couples who want a more relaxed, smaller-scale wedding. Perfect for a retro cake and punch reception, tea-party, or garden-inspired wedding, having your wedding earlier in the day might be just what you were envisioning. While the major pro is saving money on everything from the venue to the photographer, you may find that the cons do not justify the pros. If you’ll find yourself missing out on all the dancing, pomp and circumstance of a sit-down five-course meal, or those golden hour photos, then stick with a more traditional evening wedding.


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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