Steve Gerrard Photography

You’ve said your wedding vows and now you’re ready to get the party started. While you may be focused on dinner and dancing, there are actually a lot more moments that you’ll want to pencil in to your wedding reception timeline. No, you don’t have to stick rigidly to this wedding reception order of events, but it’s good to have an idea of how things will play out so that you and your wedding suppliers aren’t playing a guessing game on on your wedding day.

Here’s how to plan your wedding reception timeline.

Cocktail Hour
If you’re hosting your wedding ceremony and wedding reception back to back, there is usually a cocktail hour in between to bridge the two events. During this time the guests will mix, mingle and eat canapés while the happy couple freshens up and prepares for the evening ahead. Keep in mind that while it is called a cocktail hour, you should probably save the extremely boozy beverages and shots for after the toasts (feel free to serve wine, mimosas, beer or light mixed drinks, though!).

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Grand Entrance
Once the cocktail hour has wrapped, the guests will be ushered into the main reception space and find their seats. After everyone is finished shuffling about, the newlyweds and wedding party will make their entrances. You can personalize this moment as much as you want, some couples like to dance in to their favourite pump up jam, while others like to keep it simple and just stroll in.

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First Dance
Now it’s time for you and your new spouse to take a spin around the dance floor. Some couples like to share their first dance immediately after entering their venue, while others like to wait until after dinner is served. There’s no right or wrong time for this moment in your wedding reception timeline, it’ll be magical no matter when it happens.

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Welcome Speech
After your guests have finished cheering for your performance, it’s time to give them a formal welcome. You don’t have to spend hours penning the perfect speech, a quick thank-you and a few kind words will go a long way here. If your parents are helping to host your wedding, they may want give the speech, instead.

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Dinner
You probably put a lot of hard work and dedication into choosing the menu for your big day, and now it’s time to reap the benefits. While you may be tempted to spend this time going table to table and talking to your guests, don’t forget to enjoy your own meals. You’ll need plenty of fuel if you plan on dancing until dawn.

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Speeches
Schedule your speeches in your wedding reception timeline for when your guests are seated so that you don’t have to call them back from the dance floor to hear your nearest and dearest speak. This could be before the first course is served, while your guests are eating or after their plates have been cleared. The father usually takes the mic first, followed by the groom (sometimes with the bride), best man,  maid of honour and occasionally other VIPs.

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Father-Daughter & Mother-Son Dances
Before your guests get too rowdy, enjoy a sentimental moment with your parents on the dance floor. They’re the ones who brought you into this world, so the least you can do is thank them with a little waltzing. While these dances are traditionally done to different songs, nowadays it’s not unusual to can combine father-daughter and mother-son dances.

Time to party
Now that you’ve gotten most of the formalities out of the way, it’s time to really let loose and enjoy your wedding reception. Ask your DJ or band to turn up the music and invite all of your guests out onto the dance floor to bust a move. Don’t forget to hit the bar to sample your signature cocktails!

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Cake Cutting
You’ve burnt off about 1000 calories with your fancy footwork, so it’s time to dig into your wedding cake. Ask your emcee to announce the cake cutting and then make your way to the dessert table for the big moment. If you plan on following the tradition of saving part of your wedding cake for your first anniversary, you’ll want to steer clear of the top tier with that knife.

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Bouquet Toss & Garter Toss
These his and hers events usually happen back to back at the tail end of the wedding reception timeline. First the bride will throw her bouquet (or a dummy bouquet) to the single ladies in the audience, then the groom will slide off his bride’s garter and throw it to the eligible bachelors. They don’t take much time, so they can share a song or each get their own track.

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Last Call
The party is almost over - but not quite! You’ll want to let your guests know exactly when the bar will stop serving so that they can get their final cocktails. Ask your emcee make an announcement one hour before the bar closes to ensure that no one is disappointed.

Last Dance
We’ve finally reached the end of the wedding reception timeline, the grand finale of your wedding. Yes, it’s sad, but you want to go out with a bang, not a fizzle, so ask everyone to join you on the dance floor for one last hurrah. You’ll want to choose a celebratory song that everyone can move and groove to for maximum fun. P.S. the party doesn’t actually need to end here - you can always hit a local pub, club or bar for a cheeky after party.

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Breakdown
Once all of your guests have exited the reception venue with their wedding favours (if you're gifting these), the cleaning crew will come in to put away your wedding centrepieces, pack up any uneaten treats and de-weddingify the space. You’ll want to make arrangements for the things you want to hold onto (i.e. top tier of your cake, extra flowers and decor, food, gifts and cards) well before breakdown begins. If you’re worried not all of your goods will make it to your destination, ask a trusted member of your wedding party to hang back for a few moments to coordinate.

Steve Gerrard Photography

Pictured here: Felicity and Guy's backyard wedding in Hurley, Berkshire; captured by Steve Gerrard Photography.

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