The Ultimate Wedding Reception Planning Checklist for 2023


Have you been searching for the perfect wedding reception checklist to endure your wedding date goes off without a hitch? The wedding reception doesn’t end after you tie the knot. In order to create the perfect wedding atmosphere, you must have solid planning and all of your details covered. With everything you need to remember, it’s ideal to put together the ultimate reception checklist for your big day. 

10-12 Months Before

Approximately one year before the wedding is when you should focus on starting to plan the reception. When searching for a venue, you are going to want to start looking at least 12 months in advance. Many places start to fill their dates one year ahead of time.

Set The Date

If you are working with less time, you’ll want to be flexible with your date. You should also take a few other factors into consideration when choosing your ideal wedding date. Are there any other holidays, events, family weddings, and seasonal things that could prevent your guests from attending? 

Find Your Wedding Planner

While a wedding planner is not necessary, it certainly helps when it comes time to plan a wedding reception. They can go over your entire wedding reception checklist before even booking a venue. Wedding planners often offer a variety of packages to fit into any sized budget. 

Create Your Guest List

Start by putting everyone on your guest list that you and your future spouse can think of. Don’t forget to consult with the parents of the bride and groom for guests they would like to invite. Then it’s time to narrow your list based on budget, venue, and reception structure. 

Set Your Budget

You might be surprised as to what percentage of your wedding budget goes where. You should set aside approximately 60% of your overall budget for your reception food, drinks, decor, and entertainment. Be sure to keep this number in mind when moving on to the other expenses on your checklist. 

Visit Potential Venues

There is a lot to consider when searching for the perfect wedding venue. Does it fit the overall aesthetic of your wedding reception? Is there enough space to comfortably host dinner, dancing, and a cocktail hour? Is it handicapped accessible for older guests? Is there room for funny wedding reception games?

Plan The Food and Beverages for Your Wedding Reception

Overwhelmed with ideas for wedding reception food and beverage? Unsure where to start? Some venues provide the food and beverages while others you will need to cater in one of both of these. If catered, you should attend a tasting event before finalizing a menu and service details with them. 

Create A Wedding Website

This is a new tactic that couples are using to ensure everyone gets the correct information for their wedding ceremony. Before the official date announcement, put together a website that will host all of the wedding details. Include the date, location, time, dinner options, and any other necessary information. 

6-9 Months Before

6-9 months before the wedding is where you can start to send out invites and plan the fun stuff! Now is the time to design your evening and find ideas for the best wedding reception songs and games. Be sure to send out save the date cards now followed by formal invites.   

Book Your Photographer/Videographer

Just as with wedding venues, wedding photographers and videographers book quickly, especially during peak wedding season. Before booking your wedding photographer you should already have your venue picked. You should also have an idea of your theme and colors, guest list, and basic timeline for your big day. 

Choose Dressed and Accessories

Time to go shopping! The bride and bridesmaids should have their dresses picked out at this point. It can take some time for dresses to come in and any necessary alterations to be made before the wedding. This is also the time to pick out any additional outfits and accessories. 

Design Your Decor

If you are a creative couple/bride, this part is going to be really fun! If you haven’t already, pick your wedding reception colors and incorporate those into your flowers and table centerpieces. Be sure to stick with a centralized theme throughout the wedding and ceremony to create consistency. 

Book a Florist

Now is the time to hire your florist, make a list of everyone who will receive bouquets, corsages, and boutonnieres. Finalize this number with your florist along with delivery time, location, and any setup details. The coordinator or wedding planner will oversee this task the day of the ceremony. 

Book The Wedding Cake

Because finding the best one is the fun part, search for and attend a few wedding cake tastings! After you have finalized your flavors and design, place your order with the cake vendor. Be sure to confirm final headcount, time of delivery and location, and floral arrangements for the cake. 

Make Meal Choices

You should finalize meal choices before sending out invitations so guests can pick their preference. Finalize the meal options from the caterer or venue if you are providing a meal choice to guests. If you are having a buffet style, then include that information on the wedding invites as well. 

Wedding Reception Music

The music for the wedding isn’t limited to the reception, you must also consider the processional and cocktail hour. Hire your band or DJ and compile a list of must have wedding reception songs and excluded songs. Include songs for the grand march, first couple dance, and so on. 

Order your invitations

The wedding invitations include the invite, RSVP card, reception and registry information, and stamped return envelope. Be sure to match the invitations and save the date cards to your wedding theme. Include the RSVP deadline to ensure you can get a final count for items on the wedding reception checklist.   

3-5 Months Before

It’s time to start making final decisions and nailing down any final design details. Place any remaining large orders and finalize arrangements with additional vendors. Don’t forget about any last-minute details like an end of night send off for the bride and groom. 

Order tuxedos

It’s recommended that tuxes are ordered no later than 2 months before the ceremony. It’s important to be sure the guys are fitted well before the pickup date in case they need alterations. At this time the guys can also consider additional accessories or outfits for the reception. 

Book Transportation

If you are holding the wedding ceremony and reception in one location, this will not be necessary. However, book a shuttle or bus if you are hosting the event at two different venues. Book this early and provide this information on your wedding website and to your DJ and photographer. 

Finalize Wedding Reception Games

Wedding reception games are a great way to get guests interacting with one another and can involve kids and adults. A great game to start with is a scavenger hunt based around the couple’s interests. Try and weave in the family’s culture and traditions as much as possible. 

Send Out Your Invites

Be sure to use some kind of tracking system to manage your invites and RSVPs, a simple spreadsheets works fine. You can make notes on travel, food preferences, and other special accommodations. Invites are generally sent out 3-4 months in advance of your wedding date. 

Place Decor Order

You should place any orders for wedding reception decor no later than three months before your wedding date. This will ensure that everything gets shipped on time and you have enough time to put everything together. If planning any DIY projects or decor for your wedding, you should also complete those. 

Choose Wedding Favors

Jot down some best wedding favor ideas that are on point with your theme and your budget. This can be anything from personalized candy to small trinkets to leave at guests’ tables. Wedding favors can be placed at each table setting or set on a separate table for guests to grab.  

Plan Your End of Night Send-Off

Come up with some ideas for your final wedding send off (like the traditional “just married” cans behind the car). Once you have settled on a send off idea, put together a shopping list for all your necessary items. Be sure to coordinate these plans with the DJ and venue. 

Plan Your Seating Chart

It’s best to wait to receive your RSVPs before starting to plan out your seating chart. Start with an idea of where you are going to place everyone but wait to finalize until guests have RSVPed. Take family members and the wedding venue layout into consideration when arranging your seating. 

Assign and Write Toasts

It’s customary for the maid of honor, best man, and parents to toast to the newlyweds. Ask each of them if they plan to give a toast and provide them with necessary guidelines. It’s also common for the couple to address guests that thank them for attending their ceremony.

Touch Base With Vendors

Once all of your vendor orders are set, be sure to touch base with them to finalize any last details. Speak with your venue and wedding planner about special requests or cues to help everything run smoothly. This could include food, photography, drinks, musical cues, and so on.    

Complete Any DIY Projects

DIY wedding projects are a fun one to cross off the wedding checklist. Gather up your friends and have a crafting party to finish up your DIY projects. Be sure to store them in a safe place until the big day and add any last-minute touches.

3-5 Weeks Before 

Now is the time to check in with all of your vendors and put together a timeline for the wedding reception. If you are working with a wedding planner, they will most likely handle this. This will put less stress on the couple and ensure they are not overloaded.

Confirm RSVPs

Be sure to confirm with your venue when they need a final headcount and relay that to guests. If there are people that you haven’t heard from, reach out to them and politely ask them if they are planning to attend. This will also help to finalize your seating arrangements.

Create A Reception Schedule

With either the help of your wedding venue contact or your wedding planner, put together a wedding reception schedule. This will ensure that all vendors are on the same page and nothing is overlooked on your wedding reception checklist. Also, vendors will have everything they need come the big day.

Check In With Your Photographer

If you haven’t already, put together a list of different pictures you would like taken (or a inspirational Pinterest board). You can provide your photographer with a list of different images you would like captured. This will ensure that your team’s ready to capture the best moments of the wedding.

1-2 Weeks Before

You should already have this, but make sure all vendor information is in one place, like a wedding planning binder. This is the time you should be checking in with your vendors for final details and headcount. Double (and triple) check to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Chat With The Bridal Party

Have a chat with all the guys and girls involved in the wedding about the transition from ceremony to reception. This might involve taking pictures, wardrobe changes, makeup and hair touch ups, or a wedding party toast. If possible, start a group chat to keep everyone on the same page.

Confirm The Guest Count and Seating Chart

Get in touch with your venue to confirm your final guest headcount and seating chart. Be sure you have a plan laid out with the venue for handling last-minute changes. It’s a good idea to have one central contact person for the venue to keep communication consistent.

Assign A Contact Person

The bride and groom should not have to deal with last-minute details. They should be stress free and enjoy their ceremony. This is why it is important to assign a contact person or coordinator. Unless you have a wedding planner, assign an organized and responsible person to handle vendor questions.

1 Day Before The Wedding

It’s getting down to the wire now! Any out of town guests are starting to arrive and the rehearsal dinner is underway. It’s officially time for the celebration to begin. The bride and groom should be handing off any last-minute tasks to their planner or coordinator so they can relax.

Check In With Your Vendors

Have one last sit down with your planner or coordinator to cover all the last-minute details. If you are not using a planner then be sure to do one last-minute check with all of your vendors. Make a list of any last-minute questions to ask your vendors.

Pamper Yourself

Now is the time to get into the traditional wedding mode and take care of yourself. While the guys might spend their night having a few beverages, the girls can be getting pampered. Book an evening at a spa or host in in-house spa night for your ladies.

The Day Of The Wedding

The big day is finally here! All of the details on your wedding reception checklist should be handled by your wedding team. This might include your planner, coordinator, vendors, parents, and wedding party. Be sure to schedule some down time in the morning to regroup and start the day stress-free.

Leave Yourself Plenty of Time

When initially planning your day, be sure to add in enough buffer time for hair, makeup, travel, and anything else. Keep in mind that photos almost always take longer than expected, so be aware of timing. You don’t want to rush around, nothing happens without the bride and groom present.


This should go without saying, but don’t forget to have fun and celebrate. Don’t even look at your to-do list and enjoy everything that you have worked so hard to plan. Leave the stressing to your planner or coordinator, it’s time to soak up all the attention.

While this wedding reception checklist might not be all inclusive, depending on traditions and preferences. It serves as a great starting point for nailing down all the wedding planning details. 

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