Reception Timeline?
Has anyone made a timeline for their reception, or written down the order of events that will take place? I know everything that normally takes place at a reception, but for some reason I never even thought about what order they would take place and when! In what order are you ladies doing things???

Married: 08/09/2009
Posted On: Jul 7, 2009 at 7:56 AM • Vendors are allowed • Add to My WatchlistFlag As Inappropriate2 likes

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Jul 07, 2009 at 9:33 AM • Flag As Inappropriate
What is the start time and end time for your event, and I can put together a tentative timeline for you. We have many brides that have NO idea of the timeline, and then when we meet to go over music, we put together a timeline for them.

Ok, so let's say your ceremony is at 5pm, and your reception ends at 11pm.

4:30pm - guests arrive, music is played
5pm - Ceremony
5:30pm to 6:30pm - Pictures, guests mingle
6:30pm - Grand Entrance
6:35pm to 7:30pm - Dinner
7:35pm - Toasts, followed by cake cutting
7:45pm - First Dance
7:50pm - Father/Daughter Dance
7:55pm - Mother/Son Dance
8pm - Garter Removal and Toss (this leads into the "fun" part of the reception, the dancing!)
8:05pm - Bouquet Toss (let the song finish out after the bouquet is caught.....the girls are already on the floor, and will start dancing. This helps get people out on the floor and excited for the dancing portion)
8:10pm - Open Dancing
10:55pm - Last Dance
11pm - Grand Exit


Janice Trowbridge Photography
Jul 07, 2009 at 4:18 PM • Flag As Inappropriate
I have worked many weddings and have never seen a timeline like you just proposed. I love it. Having the toasts and cake before the first dances and then going into garter and bouquet works much better than the traditional way of doing it. Your timeline doesn't break the party up once it has started. Plus, as a photographer, you timeline would be more conducive to light set up and flow. Brilliant! I hope more people follow your suggested timeline. Planners tend to like to do cake, garter and bouquet later in the reception because they fear doing it early will make guest leave but I think breaking the party in full swing to do those events is what makes them leave.
Jul 08, 2009 at 9:16 AM • Flag As Inappropriate
Thanks! Yes, that's why we do it that way. We always suggest cutting the cake right after dinner so that there is time to serve it. We suggest the toasts with the cake cutting instead of during dinner because it's harder to get everybody's attention during dinner. That's when they're sitting down to eat and visiting with each other, and it's harder to get them to "be quiet!" Haha! We've also found that doing the "formal dances" (first dance, daddy/daughter dance, etc) right after the cake cutting is best while we have everybody's attention.....same with the garter and bouquet toss, and it leads into the "fun" part. Once the fun dancing and party gets started, if the "flow" is stopped, people that are on the floor dancing realize they're tired, and tend to leave. BUT if the fun dancing is continuous and uninterrupted, people stay longer and usually want us to stay longer than planned!

Married: 08/09/2009
Jul 08, 2009 at 10:23 AM • Flag As Inappropriate
Well I met with my DJ yesterday and his timeline for everything seemed a lot different from things I had read onliine. The one thing that sticks out in my mind is that on his timeline he had: the entrance/announcement, the toast, then the cake cutting, then dinner... Maybe it's me, but this seemed a little odd. Especially the cake cutting BEFORE dinner?!?! He said that since the cake is being used for dessert, my venue will need all this time to cut the cake in time. Has anyone ever heard of such a thing? Anyway, he is going to email the timeline all typed up, and I can make changes at any time after that up until the wedding, so I am just waiting to hear from more of you! Thank you so much for the timeline and advice you two have given me already!! By the way, my wedding starts at 3pm...reception to start at approx 3:30-3:45. Thanks again!

Married: 10/04/2009
Reviews: 3
Jul 08, 2009 at 10:55 AM • Flag As Inappropriate
Thank you, thank you, thank you for this timeline. It is absolutely fantastic. I have been racking my brain trying to figure out how to fit everything in and still have plenty of time for dancing. I will definitely use this timeline for my reception, with the minor change of having our first dance right after we walk in, since we have to walk across the dance floor anyway to get to our table. Thanks again!

Married: 10/24/2009
Reviews: 2
Jul 08, 2009 at 10:57 AM • Flag As Inappropriate
Cake cutting before dinner IS weird. I mean, I understand the point of giving the venue time to cut it, but come on! Isn't that taking it a bit too far? As far as I'm concerned, the order should go roughly as follows: grand entrance, possibly first dance here, dinner, toasts (during or after), first dance (if not before), special dances (father/daughter, etc), open dancing, cake cutting, dancing, garter/bouquet toss, dancing, grand exit. I think you could even interchange the cake cutting & bouquet tossing. From what I've heard, you want to cut the cake as late in the evening as practical because people tend to leave right afterward. Hope this helps! Good luck!

Married: 07/25/2009
Jul 08, 2009 at 12:26 PM • Flag As Inappropriate
Thanks for the post. the timeline from squakbox is so great!!!!


studio G occasions
Jul 08, 2009 at 12:32 PM • Flag As Inappropriate
While the amount of time for each event can vary and a professional timeline is much more detailed, the general flow of events is fairly standard on the west coast. (Plus it works well if you are on a limited time with your photographer) East coast weddings sometimes put the first dance before dinner, and I have seen the bouqet/garter pushed until the end.
Jul 08, 2009 at 10:34 PM • Flag As Inappropriate
Cutting the cake before dinner is common if it is being served for dessert, BUT NOT REQUIRED.

A lot of the order of events is based on what the venue/caterer wants, but a lot of times they want it that way to keep their labor cost down. So do what you feel is best. Chances are, your contact with the venue/caterer doesn't specify how many hours the staff will be there for, only that they'll do the job. So don't worry what they tell you, do it your way. In Chicagoland for years the formal dances were always after dessert. Lately (last 5 years or so) the first dance has been happening more and more BEFORE dinner, after introductions. Toasts are interspersed throughout.

First rule is there is no wrong way, only right and wrong for you.

The Wedding Dance Specialists

The Wedding Dance Specialists
Jul 12, 2009 at 1:44 PM • Flag As Inappropriate
We definitely recommend doing the first dance right after the Grand Entrance Introductions of the Bridal Party. It starts the whole night off with a bang and if you have prepared an elegant first dance with some formal instruction, your first dance becomes a great topic for discussion among guests at dinner. Since you have the guests attention at that point, we recommend a couple of welcome speeches perhaps by your parents. That way you minimize the interruptions during dinner. Additional speeches by the bridal party or even by the bride and groom can be given during the cake cutting to make that event more memorable, entertaining and give you some interesting photo ops too!

Married: 12/05/2009
Reviews: 5
Jul 12, 2009 at 3:28 PM • Flag As Inappropriate
I found this time line for the wedding day that might be helpful....I know that you wanted something for the reception but this may help

they have a wedding time line template that is great!

Married: 06/21/2009
Reviews: 1
Jul 23, 2009 at 7:24 PM • Flag As Inappropriate
If you are looking for a wedding planner

Married: 08/12/2012
May 07, 2010 at 5:02 PM • Flag As Inappropriate
What a fantastic timeline! Thank you so much! I've been struggling to put together a timeline that doesn't seem to drag. I'm going to follow your model for my wedding in September.

Married: 06/24/2011
Apr 30, 2011 at 7:29 PM • Flag As Inappropriate
Ok so I am at a loss with my timeline. We are having a wedding and reception at the same place at a lake. We are doing a buffet as well. i want to do pictures after the ceremony and there is no alcohol. I am worried that a long reception isn't realistic because everyone is saying that you need alcohol for people to dance. Can someone help me with a timeline? Would a cocktail hour be unrealistic if we are having a buffet and no alcohol? Please help


The Wildwood
Sep 30, 2012 at 4:30 PM • Flag As Inappropriate
This is the exact order of events we follow for the 100 wedding we have here each year. It is such a successful one because it gives you mixing and mingling time during dinner and during dancing with only one interruption of the toast, cc, 1st dance activities.

Some have requested to have their 1st dance after being announced, this works if you dance floor is already open but we usually use all our space for dining then clear a table or two for dancing later on. The cake then is cut while your guests are being entertained with the few scheduled dances with bride/father and groom/mom.

Happy Planning everyone and please keep us in mind if you are searching for an intimate venue in North Texas at an affordable price! Cheers!!

Married: 01/05/2013
Oct 05, 2012 at 11:07 AM • Flag As Inappropriate
My wedding is going to start at 12noon. we will actually be having a light lunch/heavy ouderves instead of dinner. And we are not doing a bouquet/garter toss...instead we are having dance company do a there any suggestions there?

Married: 02/16/2014
Reviews: 1
Dec 16, 2013 at 6:04 AM • Flag As Inappropriate
I'm desperate and need to get a timeline done
my wedding coming fast and no clue what order everything should go in
my ceremony starts at 6pm
and reception as of now ends at 11pm might add an hour if its in our budget
please help this bride to be
thanks a bunch

Married: 05/31/2014
Reviews: 2
May 05, 2014 at 4:02 PM • Flag As Inappropriate
i would love to get a Time line for my wedding, it is on May 31st from Reception should start around 7pm - 12 Midnight.

I would love your help so that i can get an idea of when things should be done and to distribute this to the other vendors for the night
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