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Creating Your Wedding Reception Timeline

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Everything for your wedding day is sorted, except for the wedding reception timeline.  While the same military precision as the rest of the day isn’t required, if you don’t have a wedding reception order of events, then it can mean things can take a lot longer until everyone gets on the dance floor.

Wedding reception tables and chairs outside on sunny day.

How to Set Your Wedding Reception Timeline

Timewise, your wedding reception will most likely last longer than any other part of your day. However, that doesn’t mean you can choose not to make a plan of how it should work. While it’s unlikely your first dance will be forgotten, you may still miss some essentials out. Remember, having a plan is always best.

Just like with other areas of your day, there is a traditional wedding reception timeline you may wish to follow. It details what happens during a five-hour reception:

  • 00:00 – cocktail hour – while the wedding party is taking photos, guests are enjoying an hour of cocktails at your reception venue.
  • 01:00 – wedding party arrives – your guests are invited to take their seats, your wedding party arrives and then with a big fanfare, so does the happy couple. Strange as it may sounds, now is the time of your first dance, followed closely by the welcome speech.
  • 02:00 – dinner – it’s now time to eat dinner. You may wish to spend some time visiting each table and talking with your guests too.
  • 03:00 – toasts – now it’s time for everyone to do their toasts including the best man speech and thanking the guests for coming.
  • 03:30 – dancing – open up the floor for family first, followed by the remainder of your guests.
  • 04:00 – cake cutting – gather everyone around to watch you cut your wedding cake. This is a signal for some guests that it is now appropriate for them to leave, so some may.
  • 04:15 – keep dancing – party like it’s 1999 out on the dance floor.
  • 05:00 – goodbye time – toss your bouquet and leave on your honeymoon!

Of course, like with anything wedding related, just because it’s traditional doesn’t mean you need to follow it. To create your own timetable, we suggest writing down all of the activities that are important to you and allocate them a specific time. Give this list to your MC or bridesmaid who can help you stick to a schedule.

If you need more help with the timeline for your entire wedding day, check out our post on creating your wedding day timeline here.

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