When it comes to your wedding planning, you’ll want to pay extra attention to your cocktail hour and reception timeline! There’s a LOT that goes on at your reception, from first dances to toasts to cake cutting (or smashing, if that’s your style!). Here’s how to keep things flowing throughout the evening. This timeline is based on a wedding that starts at 4 p.m. but you can easily adjust it depending on your start time and needs! For example, if you are only offering coffee and dessert as opposed to a sit-down dinner, you’ll need less dining time. With this guide, all you’ll need to worry about is your entrance dance to your fave Sia song!
4:45-ceremony concludes. At this time, guests to proceed to the cocktail area. There, they enjoy your signature beverages. If you’ve arranged for them, they will also snag appetizers off passed trays or from stations. This is a good time to offer a small activity to get everyone mingling. With a cocktail in one hand and an appy in the other, everyone will start feeling the happy-wedding vibes.
6:00-cocktail hour finishes and everyone heads to the reception venue to take their seats. Have your seating chart near the entrance. If possible, it’s always nice to have your wedding planner or one of her staff there to greet everyone and help them find their table.
6:15-the dj introduces the bridesmaids and groomsmen and the newly-minted Mr. & Mrs.! Make sure your bridal party knows what they should do once they enter. For example, some couples have the bridal party form a line on the dance floor and clap as you and your hubby come in. Others will have them take their seats right away. Whatever you decide, give your bridal party a heads up so they know what to do. Expect to feel a rush of elation as you enter to the cheers from your closest friends and family. Dance your way on over to your Bride and Groom seats!
6:20-you and your guy go into your first dance. This is a great way to set the tone for the night. Your guests have been chilling since cocktail hour so this will be fun and romantic for them to watch.
6:30-make sure your dj knows to lower the music as your officiant or family member gives a very short welcome speech and, if applicable, blesses the food. Dinner is served!
7:00-it’s toast time! The best man goes first followed by the maid of honor. Keep your tissues handy!
7:45-organized dances. Grab your dad and head to the floor for the father-daughter dance. Then watch as your guy dances with his mom. Afterwards, all the guests are invited onto the dance floor to work off that delicious dinner!
8:30-you know everyone’s been eyeing that gorgeous buttercream concoction! Let them eat cake–as soon as you cut it. The dj will have everyone gather round for the momentous moment. Get ready for deliciousness! Most brides don’t get to sit down and eat a slice of their cake so make sure someone sets one aside for you to take to the hotel for a late-night snack!
9:00 to 10:00-it’s time to dance the night away. Hold your friends close and sing your heart out.
10:00-sendoff. You’ll be surprised at how fast your reception flies by! Savor every minute because, before you know it, you’ll be hugging everyone goodbye and heading out to your car, hand in hand with the man you love!
And keep in mind! Even if something goes a little off plan or not quite according to schedule, that’s okay! The best memories are made from spontaneous fun.