Creating the Reception Timeline

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At this point in the day, YOU’RE MARRIED!! YAY! Everything you planned has come to life, the love of your life is yours forever and you are surrounded by friends and family that are there to celebrate with you! This time of the night is easy. Everything pretty much flows, and there are really no rules at all.

By this time I’m working closely with the DJ and the coordinator behind the scenes to make sure everything is on time, and moving seamlessly in the order we’ve discussed prior. (At that awesome final details meeting I’m always talking about).

This order (of toasts, dances, cake cutting etc. etc. ) can really be whatever you want it to be! Every venue, every DJ, every caterer, etc. etc. has their own opinions on the best order to do all of the formal parts of your reception. In my opinion an argument can be made for or against just about every combination out there. But I’ll give you a brief overview to give you an idea of some options…

Cocktail Hour Ends: (If you or your bridal party mingled during cocktail hour, but are planning to make a special entrance, make sure everyone is on the same page and knows to meet outside the doors where you’ll be doing you entrance at a specified time). Entering late can throw a lot of the timeline off, making getting to the dance floor further away!

Entrance: Plan ahead of time who exactly is going to be introduced by the DJ. Do you want your parents to walk in? Or they can be acknowledged at their seats before the bridal party enters. It’s really up to you and what they are comfortable with. Same goes with little bridal party members. Would you like your flower girl or ring bearer introduced? Or they can just already be sitting with family inside the reception. Again, whatever you prefer and they are comfortable with. Neither way is unusual.

Welcome Toast: This is a great way to greet everyone and kick off the night. Typically done by the father of the bride it is a short toast welcoming guests, congratulating the couples, and announcing dinner.

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Dinner: If you have a specific timeframe in mind for how long dinner will take, be sure to communicate with your caterer. They will know based on your guest count how long a plated dinner will take to serve, or if you’re doing a buffet will be able to recommend either multiple buffet lines, or a double sided buffet (meaning guests walk down either side of it serving themselves). Either way, the bride, groom, bridal party, and those giving toasts should eat first!

Toasts: Once everyone has be served their meal or everyone has been through the buffet the DJ will begin toasts. Because the bride, groom, and bridal party eat first you will be finished by this time (avoiding the eating while listening toast pictures… they aren’t super flattering :) ) And the rest of your guests can listen while they finish eating. Pro Tip: Your photographers, videographers, and DJ should also eat while the bride and groom eat so they are back in plenty of time to capture the toast pictures.

Cake Cutting: After toasts all your guests will be finished eating and ready for dessert. Typically cutting the cake makes the most sense at this point in the night. That way your caterer can start cutting it into slices while guests are watching your dances.

First Dance: The bride and groom typically go first here, unless of course, you did your first dance right after your entrance into the reception.

Then Father Daughter Dance

Then Mother Son Dance

Open Dancing: At this point the DJ may do something to load the dance floor ie. telling everyone to meet the groom and his mom on the dance floor, a group photo (give your photographer a head’s up!), an anniversary dance, etc. etc.

Bouquet/Garter Toss: If you’re doing the traditional bouquet and/or garter toss you may wait until the drinks have been flowing, or you may want to do it right after formal dances that way you have all the formalities out of the way and can party the rest of the night! This is just a personal preference for you and your DJ. Many DJ’s don’t like to clear a dance floor once everyone is on it to make room for single ladies only, but many find it better after the bar has been open a while.

And there you have it! A guide to all the reception formalities and the order in which you can do them, but remember THERE ARE NO RULES! Do whatever makes you and your new husband or wife happy and just celebrate :)