What Are The Order Of Events For A Wedding Reception? (Timelines)

When it’s coming up to your special wedding day, the key thing that’s on your mind might be the organization of the wedding ceremony itself.

However, it’s important not to forget the wedding reception that’s held afterwards, because this party is almost as important as the marriage ceremony itself!

With that being said, there are a lot of elements to the wedding reception, and it’s an event that often lasts for many hours.

You’ll want to get it correct so that you can have the ultimate party with those you love, so you’ll need to know the order of events and typical timeline for the reception.

Thankfully, we’ve got the answers! In our useful guide below, we’ve got a complete breakdown of the order of events for a wedding reception, along with an example timeline that you can use for inspiration. 

Remember that the order of events for a wedding reception is not set in stone, so feel free to adjust it to your liking and preferences to make it a unique and memorable celebration.

If you want to know who gets introduced first at the wedding reception, which order the toasts should be done in, and answers to other such questions, you’ve come to the right place. Read on!

A Typical Order Of Events For A Wedding Reception

The order of events for a wedding reception can technically be carried out in whatever sequence that the happy couple wants.

With that being said, that can be a lot to arrange, so it’s often easier to stick with the typical order of events that most people will follow. 

Clearly laid out, we’ve got the average order of events listed below. We’ve used “bride” and “groom” for our examples, but you can use whichever terms apply to your wedding.

  1. The wedding guests are taken from the cocktail hour (the party warm up, essentially) and moved to the venue for the wedding reception.
  2. The introductions are often done in this order: bride’s parents, groom’s parents, ring bearer and flower girl, the wedding party, the maid of honor and best man, the bride and groom.
  3. The first dance happens.
  4. The parents dance (this can either be done now, or after the main course of dinner is served. The choice is up to you!)
  5. A welcome toast is given (either by the groom’s parents, bride’s parents, the bride and groom themselves, or a combination).
  6. The blessing is given.
  7. The salads are served up.
  8. The best man gives his speech.
  9. The maid (or matron) of honor gives their toast.
  10. The main course of dinner is served.
  11. The cake is cut.
  12. (Optional) The bouquet of flowers or the garter are tossed to the crowd.
  13. The dancing begins!
  14. The dancing ends.
  15. Big, beautiful exit for the couple (glow sticks, confetti, and so on. Whatever you want!)

An Example Timeline For The Wedding Reception

An Example Timeline For The Wedding Reception

As you’ve seen, there are a lot of different events going on during the wedding reception.

This can be overwhelming to organize, even when we’ve given you a good order to follow, so we’re going to provide you with an example timeline to help you even further!

The best days take about 4 or 5 hours.

  • 5 pm: Cocktail Hour
  • 6 pm: Guests get seated at the venue
  • 6:15 pm: Introductions are done
  • 6:20 pm: The first dance happens
  • 6:25 pm: Welcome toast & blessing
  • 6:26 pm: Salads handed out
  • 6:35 pm: Best man speech, maid of honor toast
  • 6:45 pm: Dinner is served! 
  • 7:35 pm: The parent dances happen
  • 7:45 pm: The cake is cut
  • 7: 55 pm: General dancing begins! An anniversary dance should come at the start of it, if you’re doing one.
  • 9:55 pm: The last song. 

Essential: Organizing Your Photography And Videos First

Before we get into the key events of the wedding reception in detail, it’s important to cover the photography and video-making first.

You need to make sure that you’ve organized these elements before the reception begins, so that the events can be captured properly for you to look back on.

Whether you’ve got photographers, videographers, or both, you will need to tell them the order of events beforehand. 

This is especially true for the wedding reception introductions, because each group (including you, the happy couple) might choose to do special, funny entrances.

In these cases, the photographers and videographers will need to know where to be to best capture each one. 

What Order Should You Do The Wedding Reception Introductions?

You can choose to do the wedding reception introductions in any order you want, but there is a typical one that most people follow.

It’s a good one to choose, too, because it builds up to the bride and groom, who should always come in last.

It’s typical that the wedding DJ will be the one making the introductions, since they have the microphone and lead or announce some of the key events at the wedding reception.

The typical order that the introductions come in is as follows.

If there are grandparents present, they should be introduced first, but they don’t necessarily have to stand or enter in an exciting way. If they prefer, they can just stay seated!

Order of Introductions After Grandparents:

  1. The bride’s parents.
  2. The groom’s parents.
  3. The ring bearers and flower girls.
  4. The groomsmen and bridesmaids (these should be paired in the reverse to the order they left the marriage ceremony in).
  5. The maid of honor and the best man.
  6. The happy couple: the bride and groom!

How To Create Memorable And Exciting Wedding Reception Introductions

How To Create Memorable And Exciting Wedding Reception Introductions

It’s up to everyone involved whether they simply enter when introduced or jazz things up a bit, but it’s often the case that a more creative introduction at the wedding reception will prove memorable in the future and make the event extra special. 

Picking The Best Music

A key way that the wedding reception introductions can be made memorable is in their choice of music.

When the introductions take place, there will often be at least two pieces of specially selected music that are played by the DJ. However, there can be more.

When there are only two pieces of music played, it’ll be the case that it’s one song for all the wedding party introductions and then a different song for the bride and groom’s introduction. 

With that being said, you can have a special song picked out for each and every couple that gets an introduction.

This may take time, but it helps to make the event even more exciting and personal, with each pair being introduced to a song that suits them.

Choosing songs that suit the people is essential to a successful introduction.

For example, when picking out the song for the bride and groom, you’ll want to choose a piece of music that’s got a very personal connection to them – perhaps it was one of the songs playing the night they first met?

On the other hand, you can choose to pick songs that reflect the personalities of each wedding party pair.

For example, if the maid of honor is known to love dancing (and she can’t wait for the dancing later!), then playing “I’m In The Mood For Dancing” by The Nolans would be a great entrance. 

Another example would be if the father of the groom is involved in the church, then “Son of A Preacher Man” by Dusty Springfield would be a pretty funny choice!

Picking Moves

Of course, you can also make the introductions more memorable by pulling funny moves or poses.

It might be best not to do full on dancing, so you can save it for the first dance, but it’s entirely up to each introduction pair!

Mixing It Up

You can also change up the sequence of introductions however you want, in order to make it more memorable, as well as switching up the groupings. 

For example, you could have it so that all the parents and grandparents come in as one group, rather than divided by family.

This is quite a sweet idea, because it emphasizes the idea of unity and the two families coming together which has just been seen in the marriage. 

Ensure Everybody Knows The Introduction Order

It’s essential that you get everybody on the same page when it comes to the order of the introductions at the wedding reception.

You will have very carefully selected the order and all the pairings, so it’s important that it’s carried out properly. 

As a result, you should print out a clear list of the introduction order, with all the names displayed and put in their pairs.

You can then pass the printed order around, so everybody can familiarize themselves with it. 

You may also want to include the chosen songs next to each chosen group, so that the wedding party groups aren;t surprised when they’re introduced.

What Order Should You Do The Wedding Reception Speeches?

Though the introductions at the wedding party are very important, they’re not as important as the speeches that are going to be made.

These are the chance for people very close to the bride and groom to tell the happy couple how much they care about them, wish them well for the future, and perhaps even crack a few jokes to get the audience laughing. 

You can pick the order yourself, but here is the average order that people pick for the speeches and toasts at the wedding reception.

  1. Introduction toast is delivered by the parents of the bride, the parents of the groom, or both. Ask in advance both sets of parents if they would like to say something and welcome everybody.
  2. A blessing is given.
  3. Once the salads have been dished out, the best man gives his speech.
  4. Straight after the best man’s speech, the maid or matron honor gives their toast.

Serving Dinner In Between

It’s important that you have the maid or matron of honor’s toast delivered straight after the best man’s speech.

Some people choose to serve the dinner between the two acts, but this can create a lot of issues.

For example, some people might finish dinner sooner than others, and then they will get restless and begin moving around the venue doing things.

On top of this, not every table will be served its dinner at the same time anyway, so everybody will be out of sync.

If dinners are being finished at different times, and people are moving around, then it makes it very difficult for the maid or matron of honor to deliver their toast in the best possible circumstances. 

You don’t want to be rushing everybody back into their seats, and you don’t want the maid of matron honor speaking to a half-empty audience.

You want the toast to have the same reception that the best man’s speech had, in order to make sure there’s a whole audience lovingly toasting with her, so it’s best to deliver it straight after.

What Order Should You Do The Wedding Reception Dances?

What Order Should You Do The Wedding Reception Dances

Dancing is another big part of the wedding reception, so it’s another key aspect that you will want to get right when planning and arranging its order.

Of course, you can do the dances in any order you wish, but there is an average sequence of dances that a lot of weddings follow that works very well.

We’ve got it laid out clearly below.

  1. The first dance is typically done once the introductions are finished, which means the first dance happens right after the happy couple has made their entrance.
  2. Next comes the father-daughter dance. You can have this either straight after the first dance, or you can put it after dinner instead.
  3. It’s then followed by the mother-son dance. 
  4. After that, you can have any other special pairings for dancing. For example, you might have children dancing together, the grandparents dancing, and so on.
  5. If you’re not doing the bouquet throw at the wedding, you might be having the anniversary dance instead. This is a dance where the DJ invites all the married couples to dance, so that the dancefloor becomes a celebration of the longevity of love, which bodes well for the happy couple. We go into it in more detail in a bit.
  6. The anniversary dance isn’t the only optional extra dance you can do, because it can be followed by the money dance. This is a tradition that some follow where guests either offer money to dance with the newlyweds or instead shower them with money. 
  7. Finally, it all ends with the last dance. You can do this two different ways, which we’ll go into now.

What Should You Do For The Last Dance?

When it comes to the last dance of the wedding reception, you can either go intimate or go loud.

Whichever one you pick is completely up to the happy couple, and every couple will have their own preference.

As you can imagine, the intimate last dance involves only the bride and groom dancing together. It can be very romantic and sweet when done this way.

As they dance, all the guests circle around the newlyweds. You can use either a slow, subdued song or a big, boisterous one.

With the boisterous, the guests might clap and sing along. With the slower songs, they might simply watch quietly with smiles on their faces.

On the other hand, you can have a big blow out for the last dance. This means getting everybody onto the dancefloor, filling it with guests and all having a massive dance together.

You can all sing your hearts out to a punchy, fun song, celebrating the love of the happy couple.

What Is The Anniversary Dance? 

We mentioned the anniversary dance earlier, but there’s a little more to it than we outlined. 

The standard anniversary dance sees the DJ inviting all married couples onto the dancefloor.

However, as time passes, the DJ removes couples from the floor based on how long they’ve been married.

This means that by the end of the song only the longest-married couple will be left dancing, and everyone can see the beauty and length of love.

On the other hand, you could throw a reverse-anniversary dance.

As you can imagine, this begins with only recently-married couples being invited to dance, then as the song continues the DJ will invite couples that have been married for longer. 

When Should You Do The Special Dance Events? 

As you will have seen from our example order of wedding reception events, the dances come about halfway through the day. 

This early point in time is the best point to hold dances, with all the special dances events being held one after another, leaving only the general dancing to the end of the day. 

If you leave the special dancing events until too late in the day, then older people like the grandparents may be too exhausted to take part, or other problems might arise. 

Final Thoughts

There you have it! The wedding reception is important to any wedding, so make sure it goes smoothly with our tips and example timeline.

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