Wedding receptions come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from small cocktail receptions, to backyard parties, to a seated dinner followed by dancing. Sometimes the wedding and reception are held at the same location, other times there is travel involved from one place to another. If you’re thinking about a traditional reception, including a receiving line, cocktail hour, first dances, formal dinner, toasts and speeches, cake cutting and dancing, plan on an event that will last about five hours. So how do you best structure those five hours?
Planning a timeline for your Wedding Reception will keep things moving smoothly.
Wedding Party Pictures
How you decide to do your wedding party photography plays a big role in your reception schedule. Depending on the size of your wedding party, formal pictures of your wedding party, parents and other family members, and other key shots can take over an hour. As your reception guests are waiting for you, many of today’s Brides and Grooms are opting to take care of these pictures before the wedding instead of between the wedding and the reception. While this is breaking the well-entrenched “it’s bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding” superstition, it can save a lot of time and everyone is freshly pressed and camera ready, making this a good option.
Receiving Line – Wedding Party Introductions
Receiving Lines are not as common as they once were, and are most commonly done as guests are leaving the ceremony. More commonly, the wedding party makes an entrance at the reception venue, announced as they enter. DJs and bandleaders often serve as MC’s, and can make the introductions for you as you enter the reception area.
It is likely that your guests will get to the reception venue before the wedding party for one reason or another. To keep them occupied while they wait, a cocktail hour offers a time for people to mingle informally, and have a few drinks and some light hors d’oeuvres. As the name implies, plan for an hour or so for this.
The first dance for the newly married couple generally occurs as soon as the two of you are announced, before dinner is served. Sometimes the special dances are held until right after dinner to open up the dancefloor. Following the first dance, you may choose to have the traditional father-daughter and mother-son dances, along with other special guests you want to include, or these special dances open up the dance floor following dinner. Your DJ can help you with song selection and timing of these special dances based on your plans.
Once your cocktail hour is concluded, you have been announced to your guests, and the first dances are over (if you chose to schedule them before the meal), dinner is served. If dinner is being served, the professional wait staff will keep things moving along. If you are serving a buffet, plan on the necessary time for everyone to make their way through the buffet line, as well as time to eat their meal.
Champaign Toast & Speeches
Formal toasts are generally delivered when everyone is seated (if you are having a seated dinner portion of your reception), often toward the end of dinner. They are best done when the maximum number of guests are seated, and can hear and see what is going on well. Typically, the Best Man gives his toast, followed by the Maid of Honor. Sometimes the couple responds, other times these toasts are followed by a few words from the parents or other guests. Make a plan in your schedule for when you prefer to have toasts occur, and let the key individuals giving toasts know when they are expected to be featured. Again, your DJ or bandleader can assist with getting everyone’s attention, microphones and volume.
Cutting the Wedding Cake
The Wedding Cake is generally cut during the last hour to hour and a half of the reception. Following dinner, when it is time for dessert and coffee, announce the cutting of the cake. Don’t put it off too long after dinner, as some of your guests may be ready to leave (grandparents or those with small children) and they won’t want to miss this portion of your celebration.
Getting the Party Started
After all the formalities, it’s time to take the dance floor! If you did not do parent and other special dances earlier, this will kick off the dancing in style. You can get everyone going by being the first ones out there with the wedding party. You might want to plan some entertaining activities to get the party started such as bouquet and garter tosses, games, or dances based on who traveled the furthest or has been married the longest. It is a good idea to have the dancing portion of your reception uninterrupted (dance floor activities only) so you don’t break the mood. Your DJ will have some great ideas on ways to get people up and moving.
You want your reception to be both a great time, and stress-free, so planning a detailed schedule of events will help keep it on track and things moving along smoothly. Remember that you have considerable benefit of the experience of the other professionals and vendors involved in your wedding and reception. Wedding planners, venue event managers, and your DJ are all pros at handling the planning of these elements of a wedding reception, and how the best timing might work based on your specific plans.
Featured Image of This Blog By: Suzanne Simmons Photography www.suzannesimmonsphotography.com