How long is a wedding reception supposed to be?
Typically, a wedding reception runs about 4 to 5 hours. You have plenty of time for cocktails, dinner, chatting, toasts, dancing, and other wedding activities. Note that the ceremony is not included in this timeline.
How to Create a Wedding Reception Timeline
Create a wedding reception timeline for a fun-filled and smooth evening of celebration for everyone. We have crafted a 5-hour wedding reception timeline. But you can adjust the timeline to accommodate your venue, budget, and preferences.
6:00 PM – Cocktail Hour
After the wedding ceremony, guests head to the reception venue and enjoy cocktails and appetizers. And everyone is in the mood to party and mingle. The newlywed couple usually uses this time to take formal photos with family and wedding parties.
7:00 PM – Guests Enter Reception and Grand Entrance
The wedding coordinator ensures all guests are seated. Then, the wedding party and newlyweds can make their grand entrance.
7:15 PM – Welcome Speech
Whoever hosts the wedding gives the welcome speech. The father of the bride traditionally welcomes and thanks the guests for attending. It is also a great time to bless the meal.
7:20 PM – First Course
The first course is usually served after the welcome toast for a seated dinner. As guests are already seated, they can start enjoying the meal.
7:35 PM – Wedding Party Toasts
Wedding party members give their toasts between courses. The best man usually gives the first speech, followed by the maid of honor.
7:55 PM – Entrees Served
It’s time to enjoy the main course. The DJ or band plays conversation-friendly background music while the wait staff makes the rounds for a seated meal. But for a buffet, the coordinator or emcee usually dictates how the rotation works by calling each table for the food lineup.
8:15 PM – First Dance, Father and Bride Dance, Mother and Groom Dance
The newlywed couple hits the dance floor first with romantic music. Next are the father and daughter dance and the mother and son dance.
9:45 PM – More Dancing
The band or DJ keeps the music playing once the formal dances are complete. All guests are invited onto the dance floor to have a good time.
10:15 PM – Cake Cutting and Thank-You Speech
Take a brief break in the dancing for the cutting of the cake. The couple can give a short thank-you speech to the guests and everyone who helped them throughout the journey.
10:30 PM – Bouquet and Garter Toss
The bouquet and garter toss typically occur after the cake cutting if the couple wants to follow the tradition.
10:45 PM – Last Dance
Schedule a last dance around 15 minutes before wrapping up the reception. You can opt for a fast and festive tune.
11:00 PM – Reception Ends, and Send-Off
The wedding coordinator assists everyone onto the step outdoors or into the foyer so the couple can make their grand exit. Family and friends can toss confetti, light sparklers, or blow bubbles to cheer for the successful celebration and the couple’s future together.
Can I Extend the Wedding Reception?
If you’re having a wedding with a large guest count or your guests love to party, you can extend your wedding reception. This also allows for more dancing, toasts, and speech. But solidify a plan to keep everyone entertained throughout your wedding reception timeline.
Remember, there’s no hard and fast rule for how long a reception should be, so customize it to fit your vision and preferences.