Planning the timeline of your wedding reception

Wedding reception is one of the biggest parts of your wedding night; make sure you plan it strategically. While there is flexibility as to how a reception can be organized, it’s important to be practical. We’ve gathered some helpful tips you should consider when planning your reception timeline:

  • Get a Wedding Planner

If this is definitely an over the budget idea, at least hire a day-of wedding coordinator. You want someone to help you set your timeline and keep everything on schedule that day. He or she can deal with any DJ, musicians, photographer, catering and bar staff complications.

  • Your First Dance

Depending on the time frame and length of the reception you’re offering, the first dance may be done right at the beginning or after dinner. If you’re having a late evening or short cocktail reception, you may want the first dance to happen as early as possible in your timeline. If you’re having a served meal or buffet, waiting until after dinner makes more sense. 

  • Speeches

If you’re having a seated dinner, it’s better to schedule speeches in-between courses. To avoid any surprisingly long ones, discuss your wishes beforehand with those involved and fix that time to your timeline. Agreeing to a 5-minute top length is good idea.

The first two toasts in the wedding reception timeline are considered welcome toasts typically offered by the parents or a family member of the bride and groom. An opportune time to begin is right before the appetizer course, when the champagne is being served. Tell the banquet hall not to clear any dishes until each speech has been finished so there’s no competing noise.

  • Cake cutting

For a seated dinner and buffet, the cake cutting takes place after food service is complete. For a hors d’oeuvres reception, the cake cutting usually takes place near the end of the night, followed by bouquet toss (if desired).

  • Hit the dance floor

Now it’s time to move and groove! Start off the dance session with an upbeat song to get everyone in the mood and moving.

If you are self-coordinating your reception timeline, remember that the key for it to run smoothly is planning ahead. Also, overestimating is always better than underestimating. Allow enough time in between your scheduled activities for the unexpected.


  • Ashton Gardens | Planning the right timeline for your wedding reception | | December 5, 2018
  • Kristi Kellogg | How to plan your wedding day and reception timeline | | October 30, 2017