A Sample Wedding Reception Timeline
Traditionally, for a Saturday evening wedding reception, you will book your catering location from six to eleven in the evening. The first hour will typically be devoted to the cocktail hour before the next four hours are for the fun festivities - dinner, dancing, drinks and cake!
How To Pace Your Wedding Reception Perfectly
Whether you are having an evening or afternoon reception, here is a wonderful timeline you can adapt for any time of the day.
Here is how to time an evening wedding reception to ensure everyone has a blast! This is based on a 5 p.m. ceremony and a full seated dinner. Of course your ceremony may start a bit earlier and you may have an hour between the ceremony and the cocktail hour to allow for guests to travel to the reception location. Your event day coordinator will know exactly when each activity begins so you need not worry about it but if you're having a backyard or DIY wedding here's what you need to know.
4 p.m. to 5 p.m. | 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. - Ceremony occurs. Plan the ceremony to end about an hour before the cocktail hour begins if your guests require time to travel to the reception location. This also gives you about two hours to take photos.
6 p.m to 6:50 p.m. - Cocktail hour. At 6:50 p.m. Guests should begin to move into the area where dinner will be served. During this time you will be taking some of your wedding photographs, then heading to the bridal suite to grab a bit to eat and freshen up for your appearance.
7 p.m. the DJ or Band leader announces the bridal party and the couple.
7:10 p.m. Host welcomes everyone, the bride and groom have their first dance
7:15 p.m. The first course of the meal is served.
7:25 p.m. The Best Man and Maid of Honor make toasts to the couple. Light dancing and socializing begins!
8 p.m. The main course is served
8:20 p.m. The father/daughter and mother/son dances.
8:25 p.m. Dancing begins!
9:30 p.m. The wedding cake is cut, champagne and/or coffee is served.
9:45 p.m. The bouquet and garter toss
10:30 p.m. The last dances are announced
10:45 p.m. The newlyweds make their grand exit.
11 p.m. The festivities wind down, the rest of the guests leave.
These are just general guidelines to make your wedding reception go as smoothly as possible. Depending on your wishes, you may choose to have your first dance and father/daughter / mother/son dances when you first arrive. Feel free to make your own timeline and tweak it so that your wedding reception is exactly as you wish it to be!
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