There are two parts to your wedding day event. Both of them require attention. The ceremony is the most important of the two because through it bride and groom become a legal entity - husband and wife. It is celebrated with witnesses to this important legal event. One may have a small ceremony in the courthouse or a larger than life event in the cathedral. Either way, a new family unit is created.
The other half of this special day, is the reception at which the legal union is celebrated by those witnesses to the important event. It can be the party of the year or a quiet luncheon for the couple and family members. No matter the size, here are some guidelines we've observed that work well.
*Plan to leave the reception before your guests. No - you are not being rude. How you exist may have changed. It used to be that the wedding couple left the reception, changed into their "travel clothes" then headed off to the honeymoon. Today's couples have challenged that tradition and are frequently the last to leave. We have seen some receptions where it becomes a waiting game. No one is sure who should leave and when, so no one does. We can speculate on why some feel the need to be the last to leave a party, but it can prove awkward. Be gracious and leave before your guests begin to nod off at their tables. It was a great party but someone has to leave first.
*Whatever your budget for the reception may be - do it well! Do what you can afford to do and do beautifully. Switch days, switch times, switch venues. Do whatever gives you a beautiful ceremony and reception WITHIN YOUR BUDGET. Don't try to create an event you can't afford.
*Make guests be the focal point. You are hosting it and hosting means the focus is on the guests. For their convenience and comfort, don't make them wait several hours between events. Making them wait two hours is too long. Make sure the distance and travel time between venues is comfortable.
*Manage the guest list. You don't need to have the area's largest reception. Invite people who matter to you both.