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How to Build the Reception Timeline

By Bustld Pro Team | Feb 01 2019




It may not sound like a big deal but having a set timeline for your wedding reception will help things move much smoother. This way, you can give a heads up to anyone involved – like your best man and maid of honor who have to give toasts – so they know when to be prepared. It will also help make sure on wedding day you don’t forget about anything! So, what should your wedding reception timeline look like? Let’s go through it!

 

First things first, set the parameters for the evening. What time will the event start and end? Typically, venue rentals include a five hour event time and that would be made up of a one hour long cocktail hour and a four hour reception. Four hours is the perfect amount of time – any shorter and it will fly by (it will already fly by no matter what), any longer and you may have guests leaving early. Check with your venueon the end time, usually there is some sort of ending time requirement so it’s best to know that time first and then work up from there. 

 

So, for example, let’s say access to your venue ends at 12 p.m., your vendors will likely need at least an hour for breakdown, so your reception must end by 11 p.m. That puts your reception from 7-11 p.m., with cocktail hour 6-7 p.m.. Consider all the “big moments” you might want to include throughout the night. That would be things like introductions, toasts, cake cuttingfirst dances and so on. Once you’ve decided on what you will or won’t be doing throughout the night, you can get to building a timeline. 

 

That being said, you can certainly switch up the order of the reception items. A few ideas to consider:

 

Option One: 

  • Cocktail Hour
  • Introductions
  • First Dance
  • Toasts + Blessing
  • Dinner
  • Cake Cutting* 

*Can also happen after some open dancing

  • Parent Dances
  • Open Dance Floor**

**If you plan to do a bouquet toss, garter removal/toss, shoe game, special songs, dollar dance, etc. It would happen during the open dance floor time, either right away if you want to get it out of the way and enjoy dancing the rest of the night, or about half way through. Just be careful not to clear the dance floor too close to the ending time, otherwise it’ll be hard to regain the dance floor momentum!

  • Last Song
  • Grand Exit

 

Option Two:

  • Cocktail Hour
  • Introductions
  • First Dance + Parent Dances
  • Welcome + Blessing
  • Dinner
  • Toasts
  • Cake Cutting*
  • Open Dance Floor**
  • Last Song
  • Grand Exit

 

Option Three: 

  • Cocktail Hour
  • Introductions
  • Cake Cutting
  • Welcome + Toasts + Blessing
  • Dinner
  • First Dance + Parent Dances
  • Open Dance Floor**
  • Last Song
  • Grand Exit

 

A general idea of a timeline could be:

6:00 Cocktail Hour

7:00 Introductions

7:10 First Dance + Parent Dances

7:20 Welcome Toast and Blessing

7:25 Dinner*

*The length of dinner will be dependent on the type of service – buffet vs. stations vs. plated– and your guest count

8:30 Toasts

8:35 Cake Cutting

8:40 Open Dance Floor**

9:30 Late Night Snack

10:45 Last Song

11:00 Grand Exit

 

Remember, you can adjust to best fit your dinner style, guest preferences and time limits. 

 

Feeling a little overwhelmed at the thought of building your wedding timeline? Consider hiring a planner or coordinator by clicking HERE.

 

Photo Credit: Three Region Photography & Lifestyle


     

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