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Wedding Reception Timeline

Great Advice for a Great Reception!

A fun and stress-free wedding reception is a well-planned and well-executed wedding reception. A step-by-step time table of events, and an experienced DJ / Event Director to oversee them, will keep your party going.

Create a Timetable: Evening wedding receptions typically begin at 6 p.m. and conclude at midnight.  Here’s an EXAMPLE:

  • 6:00 – 7:00 Guests arrive. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres are served.
  • 7:00 – 7:15 Guests are seated.
    • Bridal Party is introduced into the room.
    • Bride and Groom enjoy their “Grand Entrance”.
    • Cake is cut.
    • Bridal party is seated.
  • 7:15 – 7:30 Toasts are made.  Grace is said.
  • 7:30 – 8:40 Dinner is served.
  • 8:40 – 8:59 Dinner is cleared while Bride & Groom visit with guests.
    • Guests are free to stretch, visit restrooms; go outside, call home, etc.
    • DJ gathers bridal party for the dances.
  • 8:59 – 9:00 Quick Special Introductions (usually grandparents)
  • 9:00 – 9:15 Bridal dances
  • 9:15 – 9:45 Dance & party music
  • 9:45 – 10:00  (Optional) Bouquet & garter toss, Anniversary Dance
  • 10:00 – 11:45 Dance & Party Music
  • 11:45 – 11:55 Last Call at the Bar
  • 11:55 – 12:00 Last Song

Special Considerations Regarding Your Timeline …

Your Hall

If you have invited out-of-town guests, and there is more than an hour between the ceremony and the reception, ask your reception hall what time it will open its doors and if you’ll be charged for asking staff to open early for your visiting guests. Remember to share opening and closing times with your vendors, too.

Bridal Dance Alternative

Occasionally, the bride and groom will choose to do their bridal dance immediately upon being introduced into the hall.  Due to time restraints, this has become fashionable in New York City where wedding receptions generally last 3-4 hours.  However, in Michigan, Chicagoland and most of the Midwest, where wedding receptions are much longer, it is best for the bride and groom to enjoy their first dance after dinner, thus inviting other guests to join the party immediately following.

Cake Cutting

Most couples have found that the best time to cut their wedding cake is immediately after their grand entrance into the room.  If the cake will be served as a dessert course, it should always be cut right away.  If cake will be made available on buffet tables for self-service, although not recommended, it can be cut after dinner.

Speeches and Toasts

Once the Bridal Party is seated at the head table, toasts should begin immediately.  Speeches which accompany toasts should be kept between 2-5 minutes.  It is VERY IMPORTANT to do all speeches, toasts and blessing consecutively.  It is very difficult to interrupt your guests’ table conversations multiple times.

Traditional Order of toasts, speeches & grace:

  • Father (or mother) of the Bride (IF he/she so desires)
  • Father (or mother) of the Groom (IF he/she so desires),Best Man
  • Maid or Matron of Honor (increasingly popular)
  • Anyone else who wishes to toast or give a speech (Remember, less is best!)
  • Bride and Groom (IF they want to thank their guests, etc.)
  • Grace  (Always last.  Usually said by clergy, parent or grandparent)
Bridal Dances

Avoid the temptation of having too many “formal” dances.  If you want to share a special dance with your grandmother, for example, it is best to do it while guests can also dance.  Remember, your guests’ attention will wander if asked to watch the newlyweds dance with everyone special to them.

Traditional Order of Dances:

  • Bride & Groom
  • Bridal Party (Including parents, flower girls, etc.)
  • Father – Daughter Dance
  • Mother – Son Dance
  • Everybody Dance  (All of your guests are invited to join for a slow dance.)

Remember to use this timeline and considerations listed here as examples.  Tap into the knowledge of wedding professionals to help guide you toward a timeline that works best for your wedding reception.

Want a perfectly executed and fun wedding reception? Mike Staff Productions’ award-winning DJs will make it happen. Contact Mike Staff Productions today.