How to Make a Schedule for Your Wedding Reception

Planning a wedding reception is not a walk in the park. However, it is also not a hard nut to crack if you know the right steps to take. 

Every wedding reception has its distinction, but one thing is common to them all. They all have a procedural plan which they follow, though the schedule for each wedding reception may be different. 

Whatever schedule you would be using for your wedding reception, keep your wedding planners, photographers, caterers, decorators, and other team members aware of your decision. 

A wedding reception is one of the most important and interesting parts of a wedding. A standard wedding reception requires a lot of preparation and planning. 

It is the time to spend an enjoyable moment with your guests. Hence, the need to make a schedule for your wedding reception. Below is the list of activities that your wedding reception must entail and the time at which they should occur.

  1. Cocktail Hour

Cocktail hour begins immediately after the wedding ceremony, signifying the commencement of the wedding reception. However, how immediately the cocktail hour begins depends on two things. 

If the wedding ceremony and the reception are held at the same place, then it begins immediately after the wedding ceremony. 

But, if they are held at different places, it begins a few minutes after the ceremony has ended, so that the guests would have arrived at the reception venue. 

During the cocktail hour, guests enjoy beer, wine, beverages, and appetizers. Most wedding guests love cocktail hour. 

A standard cocktail hour lasts for sixty minutes. However, you can decide to elongate it or shorten it. Find out how you can plan your cocktail hour below. 

A 30-minute Cocktail Hour

Most wedding cocktail hours last for one hour. However, some situations could make it longer or shorter. 

You can decide to make your cocktail hour shortened by thirty minutes if your wedding reception is outdoors and the weather is too hot or too cold. 

It wouldn’t be a nice idea to have your guests exposed to unfavorable weather conditions for a long time. 

More Than One-Hour Cocktail Hour

Many reasons make couples extend their cocktail hour beyond the normal one hour. If your guests will be traveling, you may need to extend your cocktail hour by an additional fifteen minutes. 

Also, extending your cocktail hour by some minutes will allow your photographer to take more pictures of you without leaving your guests getting bored while waiting for you. 

Why Should There Be a Cocktail Hour?

  • It puts your guests in a celebratory mood.
  • It gets guests to mingle with one another. 
  1. Invitation of Guests to Take Their Seats

After the cocktail hour, it’s time to get to the real deal. The wedding reception process can only begin when guests are seated. 

Within ten to fifteen minutes, guests are invited to take their seats. This is usually done by the event coordinator or the Master of Ceremony. 

This may exceed the 15-minute standard time depending on the number of guests that are available at your wedding reception. 

  1. The Wedding Entrance

After the guests are seated, the next highlight is to announce the arrival of the newest couple to the guests. This indicates that the reception has officially begun. 

The grand dance lasts for ten minutes or more in some cases. There are different ways you can do a grand entrance. Here are a few ideas for you.

  • You can choose to do a grand entrance with your close relatives. Just play some good music that befits the moment. 
  • You can do a grand dance with just the maid of honor and the best man.
  • Entertain your guests with some dance steps as you step into the hall with your partner. 
  1. Couple’s First Dance

Keep the intensity of the celebration mood high by having your first dance immediately after your grand entrance. This is a very special moment. 

You might have taken dance lessons in preparation for your big day or might have chosen not to. If you didn’t, it is not a big deal. 

In most wedding receptions, this takes about five to ten minutes. Here are some ballroom dances that you can consider doing as your first dance with your bride or groom.

  • Tango
  • Waltz
  • Foxtrot
  • Salsa
  • Swing
  • Samba
  • Jive
  • Viennese Waltz
  • Quickstep and others.
  1. Welcome Toast

After your first dance with your bride or groom, the next on the list is the welcome toast. The welcome toast is the first toast at the reception, and it is often made by any of the couple’s parents. 

In most cases, the bride’s father makes the welcome toast. However, you and your partner can decide who makes the welcome toast. 

The welcome toast often combines a toast and a welcome message to the guests, thanking the guests for showing up. Most wedding receptions use five to ten minutes for this part. 

  1. Meal Service

This section lasts for forty-five minutes or more, depending on the type of meal service style you have selected. There are various styles of meal service. Have a look at the list below.

  • Plated Sit-down Dinner

This is the most common meal service style at wedding receptions. It’s a formal dinner-arrangement where all guests are assigned specific seats at a table.

There are two courses in this style of meal service, which include an appetizer and a main course. The appetizer is most of the time the same for everybody, but the main course may be different.

You can decide to serve everyone the same main course meal or choose from the menu. Lastly, your guests can also indicate their choice meal before D-Day alongside the submission of RSVP.

This plated sit-down method is a methodical meal service style that allows things to run as planned.

  • Family-Style Dinner

This meal service style entails that the guests sit around a table and the meal components move from one guest to another. This is not as formal as a plated sit-down dinner. 

It makes the reception meal look like a casual setting. However, you may not want to consider this method because it is quite expensive. 

  • Self-Service Style

You can decide to use the self-serve station at your wedding reception. These stations have tables mainly dedicated to certain types of dishes. 

You would also need staff to be at these stations. This type of meal service style allows free interaction among guests, as they pick from the different options of available meals. 

However, you may consider this style of meal service to be somewhat costly. Rental costs and staff ratios may make it a bit expensive. 

  • Buffet-Style Meal Service

With this type of meal service, your guests have the opportunity to make their choices from a wide variety of food options. However, you must ensure that the place is well-arranged to give your guests a smooth experience.

This meal service style is visually appealing and also allows your guests to eat as much as they want, but a buffet is considered to be an expensive meal style. 

The varieties of food available come at a cost. With this meal service style, you would spend more money. 

  1. Change of Outfits

It’s not an unusual sight for a bride or groom to change looks before the wedding reception ends. This is not necessary but you can decide to change outfits and spice up your looks while the dinner is on.

Depending on your choice, you can switch to traditional attire or a simple and classy outfit. However, don’t waste so much time on this. 

  1. The Party Toast

As the guests are enjoying their meal courses, the chief bridesmaid and best man are invited to say a few words. A good wedding toast must be emotional and also humorous. With this, you will keep your guests engaged. 

This doesn’t take more than ten minutes. Encourage the toasters to keep their toasts short, emotional, and humorous. 

  1. Family Dance

This is the dance that precedes the main dance at the wedding reception. Begin the dancing portion of your party with the mother & groom and father & bride dances. Ten to fifteen minutes is enough for this.

You may decide to add some uniqueness to your family dance. You can decide to have your grandparents, siblings, or step-parents dance with you.

  1. Open Dance Floor

Immediately after the last parent dance, tell your DJ to tune in to some high-energy songs that befit the moment to get your guests to join you on the dance floor. You can decide to have this for twenty to thirty minutes. 

  1. Garter and Bouquet Toss

After the dance, the couple’s toss comes up. You may decide to skip this part. However, if you choose to observe it, make it fun and unique. Make sure you don’t spend too much time on this. Ten minutes is enough. 

A traditional toss involves the bride tossing her wedding bouquet into a crowd of female guests who are not married yet and the groom tossing his new bride’s garter into a group of unmarried male guests. Whoever catches any of the two objects is believed to be the next to get married. 

You can decide to make your own more fun and simple by giving both the garter and the bouquet to the oldest couples present at your wedding reception, or break the flower into bits and give it to each of your family members. There are many ways you can observe your toss. Do it your way! 

  1. Cut the Cake

This is an activity that must be placed towards the end of the wedding reception. The wedding cake cutting signifies to guests that it’s okay to start leaving the venue. Don’t schedule it too early so that the wedding reception won’t end before it should officially ends. 

You can use this time to say a few words of appreciation to your guests if you are yet to do so. All these should not take more than ten minutes. 

  1. Photo Session

Don’t forget to include this part in your wedding reception. Before you have your couple’s last dance, while the cake is being served, you can quickly have some nice romantic shots with your partner. Ensure you schedule this with your photographer.

  1. Last Dance

Before the reception is brought to a halt, you can have a short dance with your partner that would not exceed five minutes. This signals that the reception is coming to an end. 

  1. Grand Exit

Yay! It’s time to go on a honeymoon. After the last dance, be ready to depart from the reception. You can make this as simple as possible or do it in a high style. The choice is yours. 

After the couple’s exit, the guests should also start departing from the reception in ones and twos. However, you can allow the DJ to play some music for a few minutes after your departure. 

Take Away

There you have it! A list of important activities that your wedding reception schedule must include. We believe that this will be a guide to making a schedule for your wedding reception. 

However, ensure that your team of planners, photographers, caterers, and other important members are aware of your decision. Also, be careful of the time you assign to each activity. 

You wouldn’t want to keep your guests for too long, and you wouldn’t want to have a quick and unenjoyable wedding reception. 

Add some uniqueness to your wedding reception plan. There’s no penalty for doing your wedding reception in a unique style. 


How long should a Wedding Reception last?

A wedding reception lasts for about four to five hours. However, you can decide to have an extended reception. It depends on your choice. 

What next after a Wedding Reception?

After a wedding reception comes the honeymoon or an After-party. Recently, most couples postpone their honeymoon and move to another venue to keep the excitement going. 

This is called an after-party. It takes place after the wedding reception at the same venue or another venue. However, you are not under any obligation to host an after-party but it’s fun if you do so.

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