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Wedding Reception Timeline Guide

Wedding Reception Timeline Guide

June 1, 2023
Wedding Reception Timeline Guide

A well-crafted wedding reception timeline is an essential component of your planning process. With the average wedding reception lasting 4-5 hours, it’s important to create a seamless schedule that includes cocktails, dinner, toasts, and dancing. We have created a foolproof wedding reception timeline for you to follow, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable evening of celebration for both you and your guests. Feel free to adjust the timeline to suit your style, guests, and venue. Happy wedding planning!

What to Include in a Wedding Reception Timeline

1. Cocktail Hour

After the ceremony, guests will proceed to the reception area to mingle and enjoy cocktails and appetizers. During this time, the bride and groom typically take formal photos with the bridal party and family. Setting up a greeting line to welcome guests as they arrive is also a lovely touch.

2. Seating, Bridal Party Announcement

Before the introduction of the wedding party and newlyweds, your wedding coordinator will ensure that everyone is seated. Once all guests are settled, the bridal party and couple can make their grand entrance. The first dance may take place at this point, or it can be scheduled after toasts and dinner.

3. Welcome

Traditionally, the Bride’s Father welcomes the guests and expresses gratitude for their presence after the couple and bridal party have been seated. This is also an opportune moment to offer a blessing for the meal, if desired.

4. Dinner Service

If you have opted for a buffet dinner, your wedding coordinator, band leader, or DJ should coordinate the orderly dismissal of tables to avoid congestion. For plated or family-style meals, the caterer’s wait staff can serve dinner to all tables simultaneously. Some couples take advantage of this time to personally thank their guests for attending, especially if they were unable to greet everyone upon arrival.

5. Toasts (tissues ready!)

Once everyone has been served, the bride and groom may choose to address the gathering and express gratitude to their parents and guests. Traditionally, the Father of the Bride, Best Man, and Maid/Matron of Honor deliver toasts during dinner.

6. First Dance, Father and Daughter Dance, Mother and Son Dance

The bride and groom share a romantic first dance as the spotlight shines on them. Following that, the bride dances with her father, and the groom dances with his mother.

7. Let the Party Begin!

After the formal dances, the DJ or band should keep the music lively and invite all guests to join in on the dance floor. This is also the perfect time to incorporate the bouquet toss, garter toss, and any other entertainment you have planned.

8. Cake Cutting

Pause the dancing festivities for the symbolic cutting of the cake. It’s important to consider that some guests may depart after the cake cutting, so timing it accordingly will help ensure maximum participation.

9. Keep the Music Playing

After the cake cutting, get the energy back on the dance floor. Request that the DJ or band play upbeat and festive music to entice guests to return and continue dancing.

10. Last Dance

Plan the last dance approximately 15 minutes before you intend to conclude the reception. Decide whether you prefer a slow and intimate song or an upbeat and fun tune to bid farewell to the celebration.

11. Farewell

If you have arranged for a grand exit, have your wedding coordinator guide guests to the designated area. Consider providing sparklers or bubbles to add a fun element to your departure, creating fantastic photo opportunities.

And just like that, the day you have spent months planning and years dreaming of has come to an end. Cherish every moment and trust that your meticulous preparations will culminate in a beautiful evening with family and friends. 

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