Nothing kills your wedding vibe more than dead space at the reception. It is crucial to keep things moving so your guests are having a good time from start to finish. The key to hosting a fabulous wedding celebration is knowing what’s supposed to happen when. To help you with your wedding planning, we have put together a handy timeline based on a traditional 5 hour reception.

Hour 0 – Cocktails Upon Arrival

After your ceremony, and while family photos are taking place, your guests will head to the reception site for cocktails. If the ceremony and reception are held at the same venue, a cocktail hour may start immediately, or slightly later if there is travel time involved. Generally speaking, cocktails will kick off your reception and will last for at least an hour. During this time guests can mingle with a few drinks and hors d’oeuvres.

Hour 1 – Introductions and First Dance

Once everyone is seated, it’s time for you to make your grand entrance. Your MC or DJ with introduce both sets of parents and the wedding party followed by you and your spouse. Now is the perfect time to have your first dance since you are already up and your guests are focused on you.


Photo Courtesy of Bows & Lavender

Hour 1.5 – Toasts and Food

Once everyone has calmed down, it is time to dig in! Your dinner will begin and your DJ will play subdued music allowing your guests to chat. It is a good idea to have each speech start as a course finishes. This serves as a good transition between the staff clearing guest plates and having the next course is being served.

Hour 2– Bust a Move

Once dinner dishes are cleared, grab your bridal party and get the party started on the dance floor. Any other fun events you have planned like a garter or bouquet toss should happen about 20 minutes apart.

Hour 3 – Cake cutting and Late Night Table

About an hour before you say goodnight to your guests, you should cut your cake and introduce your late-night table. This will give your guests ample time to have a piece of cake and some snacks!


Photo Courtesy of AGI Studio

Hour 4 – Last Dance

Your last dance (if you choose to have one) should be something fun that gets everyone up and dancing and finishes the party strong!

Hour 5– Final Goodbye

If you are having an official farewell, have your coordinator bring guests outside and give them whatever props you are using… think sparklers, bubbles, etc. If you haven’t booked your photographer for the entire reception, consider doing this earlier so you can be sure to get some awesome photos!