Figuring out the best timeline for a wedding reception can be super tricky! There are so many events and seemingly small details scattered throughout the day that the average person has no idea even goes into a wedding! After helping plan and host over 550 weddings, I have developed some awesome tips to designing the perfect timeline for your big day.
Take these tips with a grain of salt and always trust your professional wedding planner to design the perfect plan for you. However, if you are a DIY bride, these few hints can be a total game changer for your dream wedding. (;
Brace yourselves and maybe hit the restroom or grab a lite snack, this is gonna be a long one...
After your guests have made their way to your reception, it's always awesome to announce the arrival of the bridal party and the epic couple of the millennium aka YOU!
Getting everyones attention and have a fun upbeat song to bring your bridesmaids and groomsmen into the party with style as the DJ announces their names giving them a few seconds of the limelight leading up to you and your new Husband/Wife in all your amazing glory!
I usually like to do the first dance and parent dances directly following grand introduction, then go into dinner afterwards. This way we still retain all the guests attention from the grand intro during the dances and avoid background noise and conversation with clanking plates and such from people still eating if we were to wait until after dinner to do them. Your guests aren't trying to be rude, but it is certainly a huge distraction from a very important moment in the night.
Then, to jar everyone out of the “dinner mood” I use the anniversary dance. Let me explain. First we brings everyone in a relationship out to the dance floor. During the dance we call out increments of time. If they have been together for that amount of time or longer, they can continue dancing, if not, we ask them to step off the dance floor and we dwindle it down to the longest running couple where we share in an amazing round of applause for their tremendous effort and perhaps even ask them for some helpful hints/survival tips for the other couples.
Naturally this song is terrible right before open dancing because we don't want to "yoyo" everyone on and off the floor which is why I love to use it right before cake cutting and toasts so it's a nice transition to point peoples attention towards the cake table.
*I only advise not to do the anniversary dance if there has been a recent death or divorce in the family that will bring on some painful emotions. Otherwise, It's an amazing addition to any wedding timeline!
Cake and Toasts
Cake is always better done before toasts in my opinion. This way we can cut the cake and then divert attention from the cake to the toasts. By doing this, we give the staff much longer time to start cutting up the cake and prepping it for the guests to enjoy instead of having them run to the table like wolves and swarming the staff making them feel rushed to cut. Not to mention giving the bar plenty of time to pour champaign toasts if they have that in the budget.
Bouquet and Garter Toss
After kicking off open dancing, I like to treat the Bouquet and Garter Toss kind of as an intermission in the dancing. I keep an eye out on the floor and if I notice people are getting tired and we are thinning out on the floor. Then would be a good time to do the tosses to let people catch their breath, grab a drink, and revitalize back to the floor afterwards with a good crowd pleaser! It’s much better than sticking to a specific time and killing the vibe of a full dance floor.
Last Dances (Yes, Two Of Them!)
Finally, I like to always have 2 last dances. The first featuring all the guests should be an upbeat song. Slow dances exclude a lot of guests that are single or just not wanting to slow dance, so something upbeat and exciting is great to get everyone on the floor. Once that is over, we announce for everyone to head outside and prep for the grand exit.
While everyone heads outside, we then have the couple share their last dance completely alone in the building (along with DJ & Photog). Giving them a moments peace to share with just each other to end their perfect day together and soak up the emotions. Their day often flies by so quickly, it’s nice to let them slow down and realize what has happened and share a nice dance and private talk to wind it all down. The photographer has a chance to get some amazing last photos of the couple as well (;
The secret last dance also gives the staff plenty of time to wrangle up the umm...incapacitated.... guests and line everyone up and pass out sparklers or glow sticks, etc.
Telling everyone that the couple wants to share their last dance alone also helps to rush the guests out of the building with all their personal belongings which is a great way to get those lingerers that tend to stand around and talk inside and endangering you of getting charged extra for going over on time.
I know everyone has their own ideas of the best format for timeline, and this is just mine. lol
So in closing, this format is my ideal layout for a perfect wedding reception timeline:
Group Last Dance
Secret Last Dance
If there are any planners out there reading this, let me know what you think or if you do it a different way for a specific reason that I am unaware of, please share! I’ve only ever known to think like a DJ and I am sure there’s stuff I’m not thinking about.
- DJ Jeff