What is the order of events at a wedding reception and the Basic Timeline? 

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By Eivan’s Wedding Team  article author

The order of events at a traditional wedding reception is commonly based on a four hour wedding celebration. This isn’t set in stone; it’s simply what has been happening in most traditional weddings.  How long a wedding party lasts is largely dependent on your kind of party.  It is a simple cocktail wedding reception or a complete seated dinner.  

If you are not comfortable with the basic timeline, you can change it to suit your style and personalized timeline.  Here, we lay down a basic traditional wedding reception from beginning to the end.   

clear glass bottle on table

Cocktail hour – (45 minutes) – After the wedding ceremony, guests will head to the reception area as they mingle with each other.  Cocktails and appetizers are served at this point creating a fun filled atmosphere. Most newlyweds do not attend the cocktail hour as they choose to sneak away for their wedding photo shoot or to catch some air before the wedding reception begins.  Others choose to take formal photos with the bridal party and family and line up to welcome their wedding guests to the reception.

Guests seated ready for food and entertainment – (15 minutes)- Your MC/DJ will welcome your guests officially and get them all seated before the party starts. Also, keep in mind that based on your number of guests, it may take longer or shorter time to have them all seated.

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Wedding party entrance – (10 minutes). The MC/DJ will announce the couple and the bridal party arrival.  This is a fun time for the bridal team and close family members to enter the reception hall with a funny dance that gets the guests elated and ready for the couple’s grand entrance.  

Bride and groom grand entrance – (10 minutes).  The couple walks in to the reception for the first time as a married couple.  They will dance to their favorite song and show off some skills.  The newlyweds are left allowed to have a shining moment since it’s their big day.

man in white suit kissing woman in white long sleeve shirt

Firsts dance – (10 minutes).   After making the grand entrance, with all eyes on you – the couple, it’s the perfect time to have your first dance as a married couple. Whether your dance is slow and intimate or upbeat – it’s your moment to shine.

Welcome speech – (10 minutes).  With the first dance completed the couple seats at the head table.  The opening speech is conducted mostly by the father of the groom followed by those who already planned to give their speeches.   In some cases, it’s also an excellent time for the grace to be said that will commence meal time.

cooked food in black bowl

Dinner – (1 hour) – It’s time to enjoy a meal together with your guests!  Most couples will take time to enjoy their meal at the head table before mingling with their guests.  Allow yourself at least 3 minutes per table to get to mingle with all the children.

man in black suit jacket holding clear wine glass

Toasts – (15 minutes).   While your guests are finishing up their meal, it’s a great time to call out the toasts.  The best man and maid of honor starts the toasts and then anyone else may follow with their own toast requests.  It is also a great time for the couple to thank their guests for coming before the dancing starts.

man in black suit jacket kissing woman in blue tube dress

Family dances – (15 minutes).  This is the perfect time to open the dance floor with the parents from both sides and the couple.  For some, the dance floor is opened by the bride and her father’s dance.  Your MC/DJ will direct the guests at this point, calling upon the family members one by one.  This prepares the guests with most of them excited and already dancing out of their seats waiting for the dance floor to be opened for everyone.

Dance floor opened to the guests – (25 minutes).  Finally, the groove is on!  Your DJ will start off the dance session with some upbeat songs that will get everyone moving.  You will have chosen your songs well in advance to allow the DJ classify them between the high energy and slow jams to keep the guests well entertained. You may also do other fun activities you may have planned as surprise to your guests.

woman in white sleeveless dress holding white flower

Cake cutting, dessert sharing, garter and bouquet toss – (20 minutes).  The cake cutting ceremony is the epitome of every wedding ceremony.  You will cut your cake as the DJ plays some slow to mid tempo songs.  It is also the best time for your guests to enjoy dessert. Cake cutting is followed by garter toss and bouquet toss – if you are keeping to the wedding traditions.   

grayscale photo of bride and groom dancing

Last song – (5 minutes).   Take a last dance as you prepare for your grand exit.  

Grand exit – (10 minutes).   After the last dance, it’s time to make your grand exit to your getaway car.  Have your DJ play your favorite exit song that will usher you in the honeymoon mood.    

The timeline ends here!   

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