Wedding Reception Order of Events to Schedule Your Wonderful Night (2023)

wedding reception timeline - thumbnail

So your big day is finally here! If you learned anything from your role as maid of honor, it’s that the wedding reception is crucial! It comes to a hot second place after the church ceremony. It also marks the final stages of the wedding itinerary. If you’re following the traditional wedding reception order of events, this is where the wedding party gets their groove on. Other guests can choose to sit back and enjoy the entertainment. This article will help you nail the wedding reception timeline.

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Cocktail Hour

Time: 1 hour

After the wedding ceremony is over, your guests are probably looking forward to the cocktail hour. Of course, the traditional wedding reception order follows a daytime reception schedule. As the bride and groom, you can choose to have the wedding ceremony and reception together or separately. However, you’ll have to stick to the former reception agenda if you’re hosting a night wedding reception.

The cocktail hour officially marks the start of the typical reception timeline and should take approximately one hour. Not to say that all wedding timelines are rigid, but having a wedding reception protocol will keep everything running smoothly. Whether you choose to have an open bar or not, ensure your wedding party itinerary is exciting. You can also have your guests queue for their refreshments or hire a catering staff. It’s best to utilize this opportunity to take wedding reception photos before sunset.

 cocktail hour

Invitation to Dinner

Time: 15 minutes

The next step in a typical wedding reception schedule is to invite your guests to the wedding dinner reception. You should hire a wedding reception MC to deal with the reception introduction and the following events. Doing so will reduce your wedding planner’s workload, leaving them stress-free to handle other pressing things. For instance, the planner should ensure every guest’s name is correctly placed for proper seating arrangements. According to typical wedding agendas, this session should take no more than 15 minutes.

invitation to dinner

Grand Entrance

Time: 10 minutes

What’s a wedding reception without a memorable grand entrance? Once your guests are seated, it’s a good time for the wedding MC to introduce the bridal party members. It’s best to come up with captivating wedding party entrance ideas to ensure your guests have a great time. Don’t stick to the traditional wedding routines. Instead, you could come up with a wedding intro dance that will blow their minds.

Following a synchronized wedding day agenda template creates a smooth sequence of activities. Since most wedding functions are timeline-based, this session shouldn’t take more than ten minutes.

First Dance

Time: 5 minutes

The first dance is the DJ’s time to shine. But first, when is the first dance at a wedding reception performed? Should you have the first dance before or after dinner? If you prefer a non-traditional reception order of events, then the dance should come after dinner. However, if you like traditional wedding events, your wedding coordinator will schedule the first dance here.

wedding reception timeline - first dance

The DJ or band typically play upbeat songs that draw the beautiful wedding party to the dance floor. Depending on the wedding ceremony reception timeline, you’ll need no more than five minutes to get the party started. Moreover, the wedding reception timeline template for DJ should agree with the wedding MC outline. However, if you want a short wedding reception, you should leave this part for the end.

Welcome Toasts

Time: 5 minutes

After a few wedding reception dances, it’s time to continue with the reception programme. Take the opportunity to thank your guests for gracing your wedding ceremony. Invite them to enjoy the meal served. You can also invite a family member, preferably one who’s part of your wedding party, to speak. After all, it’s not a big day just for you. Your wedding party and family are thrilled to see you start a new chapter of your life. Even your best man and maid of honor can’t wait to break things down for you in your new journey. If you’re strictly following the reception event timeline, this session should take about five minutes.

Welcome Toasts

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Time: 45 minutes

An evening wedding without dinner can be quite disappointing to your guests. What you need is to give them the best wedding reception ever. But how do you achieve this? By ensuring that dinner is served generously and on time. Surprise them with a buffet spread, a family-style dinner, or better still, the traditional three-course meal. It’s also vital to reward them for sparing time to attend your dinner reception. So how long should a typical dinner event last? A typical wedding dinner timeline should take approximately 45 minutes. Any longer than that and your night reception can quickly become tedious.

Wedding Party Toasts

Time: 10 minutes

Most wedding reception planners prefer it when the maid of honor and best man give their speech during dinner. Doing so significantly helps to observe the recommended time limits of the wedding agenda. It’s even better if the two are a married couple as they’ll entertain the crowd with marriage jokes. You can use this precious time to enjoy your food as the bridal party is busy mingling with your guests. However, this session should last about ten minutes. This means each speech should averagely take two to four minutes while leaving room for party announcements by the MC.

Parent Dances

Time: 10-15 minutes

After the toast comes the moment everyone has been waiting for – the father-daughter dance and mother-son dance. Parent dances are some of the most sentimental moments of the entire wedding programme. The father of the bride and groom’s mother usher their children to the podium for a dance. You can choose a slow dance song or a quick one depending on your preference. However, wedding party dance songs with faster tempos are more likely to get your guests out of their seats sooner. This session should ideally take between 10 and 15 minutes.

wedding reception timeline - parent dances

Bouquet and Garter Toss

Time: 10 minutes

After the parent dances, the next activities on the wedding reception timeline are the bouquet and garter toss. You don’t have to include the bouquet toss into your itinerary for the wedding reception. If you look at most wedding reception program samples, you’ll notice that not many of them accommodate these activities anymore. However, this session should only take ten minutes if you’re following a traditional wedding itinerary.

Bouquet and Garter Toss

Cake Cutting

Time: 10 minutes

A wedding ceremony is not complete until cake cutting is done. Typical weddings allocate about ten minutes for the cake cutting ceremony, which happens one hour to the wedding reception conclusion. By this point, the caterers should be ready to serve beverages and dessert. With the cake cut, your guests should feel free to leave whenever they are ready. This moment is another opportune time to thank your guests for attending and wish them well as they leave.

wedding reception program - cake cutting

Last Song

Time: 5 minutes

It would be best if you didn’t conclude your wedding without playing the final song. How about ending the event with a lively list of wedding dances? Although the recommended time for this session is five minutes, you can always tweak the wedding party schedule. The last song is also the perfect time to try out all the crazy dances for wedding reception. After all, what is the point of taking numerous videos of wedding speeches and reception and dancing?

wedding reception program

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Grand Exit

Time: 5 minutes

In a perfect world, your wedding day will only happen once. After taking the time to plan a wedding reception, it’s time to leave the party and go on your honeymoon. Just as you had an exceptional reception entrance order, so should you have a grand exit. Rather than exiting quietly, bring out the celebratory bells to send you off.

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Printable Wedding Reception Timeline

After all the rigorous wedding planning, you should print your wedding reception order of events on beautiful cards. What you want is to send out unique invitation cards. Not only should they look appealing, but they should also clearly capture the message you’re sending. It’s also crucial to remember to assign names to each invitation card. If you have the time and resources, you can even personalize each message.

Wedding Reception Timeline Sample 1
Wedding Reception Timeline Sample 2
Wedding Reception Timeline Sample 3

Final Thoughts!

Wedding proceedings aren’t cast in stone. The average length of the wedding ceremony and reception will vary depending on the wedding theme. Your wedding planner will follow your suggested Christian wedding reception program or any other formal wedding reception theme. So if you’ve been wondering how to plan a wedding reception, worry no more. With this detailed wedding reception timeline, your big day will be a party to end all parties!


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