Tips for Setting Your Wedding Reception Schedule

The wedding ceremony is relatively structured when compared to the reception, but that doesn’t mean that there doesn’t need to be set wedding reception timeline.

wedding reception timeline - wedding reception activities

How hard can it be, you’re thinking… a little dinner, some cake, a first dance and so on. But really, no matter how formal or informal you want your reception to be, it is actually pretty important that you plan ahead and establish a sequence of events for your reception. Your wedding guests will be expecting certain events to happen at certain times, they’re expecting to be entertained, and they’re expecting to be fed. Spending time and a little effort before the wedding to make sure your wedding reception will run smoothly can save you from a lot of confusion and unnecessary distractions on your wedding day.

Here are some reception planning hints that can make your wedding reception memorable and fun:

  • Sit down with your spouse-to-be and decide what you want to do and what you want other people to be doing at the reception. Are you going to do a bouquet toss or a series of special dances like a father-daughter dance and mother-son dance? Will there be a sit down dinner? Will there be kids?
  • Be as detailed as possible when preparing your reception timeline. Include names, times, specific locations and song titles of special dances. This will help you explain to vendors what your expectations are.
  • Put your schedule in writing and give it to all of your wedding vendors. Also, give this schedule to your wedding attendants and immediate family members so they know where they are suppose to be and when (i.e. for picture taking, formal announcements, or special dances).
  • Don’t get too hung up on the exact times when creating your reception timeline. The clock times on your schedule should act only as a guide to keep things moving in the right direction and so you can be sure that everything gets done!
  • Use the items in your itinerary as a checklist so that you don’t forget anything and as a guide to help you plan your reception just the way you want it. But on the day of your wedding, hand off this checklist to your maid of honor or your mom.
  • The order of events is up to you, but should be firmly established ahead of time. For example, some brides prefer to do their first dance with their husband very early into the reception, before dinner is served. Other brides prefer to do it after dinner, when the “real dancing begins”.
  • Traditional etiquette states that wedding guests are not suppose to begin dancing until after the bride and groom have had their first dance. So, if you want people to start dancing early in the reception, schedule your first dance right away!
  • Of course, the length of your wedding reception will determine the agenda. A two-hour cocktail reception is going to play out very differently than a five-hour sit-down dinner.
  • Remember to work in time for toasts – these can go longer than expected depending on who is doing the toasting and how many people want to toast. Consider chatting with potential toasters to let them know how long they’ll have at the podium.