3 Sample Wedding Reception Timelines

While starting and ending your wedding on time is absolutely critical (you don’t want guests to get restless or your venue to charge extra!), everything in between is flexible. However, it’s important to outline the flow of the day so you know exactly where everyone should be and when.

WeddingReceptionTimelines, 3 Sample Wedding Reception Timelines

Here are three different reception timelines you can use to help shape your own.

Seated-Dinner Reception

WeddingReception, 3 Sample Wedding Reception Timelines, sit down dinner timeline

Photo by Marvelous Things Photography 

5:00 p.m. Guests move from the ceremony to the reception area.

5:15 p.m. Cocktail hour begins.

6:00 p.m. Guests move from the cocktail hour to the reception area.

6:15 p.m. The bridal party is introduced and then the newlyweds make their entrance and either have their first dance or take a seat.

6:25 p.m. Dinner service begins.

6:35 p.m. While guests are eating, speakers make short toasts.

7:00 p.m. Mother-son, father-daughter, and other pre-determined dances take place.

7:15 p.m. Dance floor opens for guests.

8:00 p.m. Cut the cake (or open the dessert bar).

8:15 p.m. Guests are served dessert.

8:20 p.m. Newlyweds make a short thank-you speech while guests enjoy dessert.

8:45 p.m. Toss the bouquet or just get back to dancing!

9:30 p.m. Announce last call.

9:55 p.m. The last dance.

11:00 p.m. Break down and clean up.

Brunch Wedding

Brunch Wedding, 3 Sample Wedding Reception Timelines

Photo by Katie McGihon

11:00 a.m. Guests move from the ceremony to the reception location and mingle, play games, etc.

11:15 a.m. The newlyweds make their entrance and either have their first dance or take a seat.

11:20 a.m. Brunch service begins

11:35 a.m. While guests are eating, speakers make short toasts.

11:50 a.m. Mother-son, father-daughter and other pre-determined dances take place.

Noon Dance floor opens.

12:45 p.m. Cut the cake (or open the dessert bar).

1:00 p.m. Guests sit for dessert.

1:05 p.m. Newlyweds make a short thank-you speech while guests enjoy dessert.

1:10 p.m. Toss the bouquet or just get back to dancing!

1:55 p.m. Last dance.

Late-Night Cocktail Party

CocktailParty

Photo by Orange Owl Photo 

9:05 p.m. Hors d’oeuvres are passed; food stations open.

9:15 p.m. The newlyweds are introduced and start greeting guests.

9:35 p.m. While guests are eating, speakers make short toasts.

9:45 p.m. First dance, mother-son, father-daughter, and other pre-determined dances take place; food service pauses.

9:55 p.m. Dance floor opens; food service continues.

10:20 p.m. Cut the cake (or open the dessert bar); newlyweds make a thank-you speech.

11:30 p.m.  Last call is announced.

11:55 p.m. Last dance.

Of course, you can always mix up the order of the reception events to suit your preferences or family traditions! Some couples prefer to get the first dance and father-daughter/mother-son dances out of the way before dinner begins. Likewise, some couples prefer to to have toasts between courses, rather than while guests are eating. And keep in mind that the cake cutting traditionally signals the formal end of the reception; we suggest doing it earlier rather than later if you have a lot of older guests who may not be night owls.

Share these timelines with your spouse-to-be and wedding planner or on-site coordinator to figure out what will work best for your big day!

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