You’ve said, “I Do” and now you’re husband and wife…TIME TO CELEBRATE! When it comes to the flow of the reception, many brides and grooms do not even know where to start. You want to throw a fabulous party for your guests, but you’re not quite sure how to balance the special heart-felt moments of the evening without losing the momentum of the party or the duration of the evening.

As a wedding planner, I think this is one of the most important steps of planning. So many aspects have to be taken into  consideration and the options are endless. Consulting with your wedding planner will allow you to work through different scenarios of the day and work through any pitfalls such as inclement weather. They will also help you make sure you haven’t left out any important events and that the flow of the evening will create the celebratory atmosphere you’re envisioning.

Below is an example of a well thought out timeline. You’re welcome to use it as a template and then tweak it according to your own needs!

Timeline Assumptions:
5 Hour Reception (including cocktail hour)
Plated Dinner
Live band to play for a total of 4 hours and requires one 30 minute break
Toasts by Maid of Honor (MOH) and Best Man (MB)
Grand Exit with Sparklers

6:00PM | Cocktail Hour
Guests mingle and enjoy a beverage and hors d’oeuvres while wedding party takes pictures. Band plays appropriate music from iPod playlist or music provided by bride/groom.

7:00PM | Band Begins 

7:00PM | Introductions of Wedding Party & Bride/Groom First Dance
This is a very exciting moment as your guests anxiously wait to see your first introduction as bride and groom! Emotions are running and you have everyone’s attention. This is the perfect time to ease into your first dance.
Depending on the space, I usually direct the wedding party to make their way to the dance floor as their announced and line up in front of the band. This way they are in perfect position to watch you enter and dance through your first dance. It also allows the photographer to capture beautiful pictures of you dancing while also capturing the emotions on the faces of your wedding party.
7:10PM | Father/Daughter & Mother/Son Dances
Again, you have everyone’s attention and emotions are running high, which makes for a great time to dance with your parents. Music for the father/daughter and mother/son dances are typically slow and with heart-felt lyrics. I like putting these dances towards the beginning of the evening before the music kicks into party mode.
7:15PM | Welcome Speech and Blessing
Typically the host of the evening will say a few words, which may include:
  • Welcome guests
  • Thanking them for traveling and being part of your special day
  • How beautiful the bride looks and how lucky they are to have found each other
  • Finish with a heart-felt congratulations to the bride and groom…CHEERS!
7:20PM | Dinner Served, Band plays light music appropriate for dinner
If you’re having a seated dinner with 3 courses, this is a great time to walk around to each table and speak to each guests individually. Just make sure you take the time to eat!!
8:30PM | Band plays upbeat dancing music

9:15PM | (Band 30 minute break) Toasts by MOH and BM, Cake Cutting
Make good use of the 30 minutes that the band will not be playing. Everyone will need a break from boogying and will appreciate the down time being used to sit back, relax and enjoy the comical toasts. When the show is over, the band will play prerecorded music until their break is over.
If you want to serve your cake earlier, consider cutting the cake upon conclusion of dinner and saving only the toasts for the band break. 
*This is also a great time to feed and hydrate your band members
9:45PM | (Band break ends) DANCING!

11:50PM | Last Song

11:55PM | Guests Gather for Sparkler Send-off
Your band leader and wedding coordinator will be very useful in herding guests to the appropriate location for your grand exit! I suggest closing the bar after the last dance so guests do not get side tracked on their way out and to avoid the risk of juggling a lit sparkler with a cocktail. Yikes!

12:00PM | Reception Ends

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