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Wedding Receptions are the party held after the Wedding Ceremony. From Dances to Speeches and Grand Send-Offs, we're covering the Basic Order of Events.
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Wedding Reception Timeline Templates, Checklist, Order of Events. Traditional Dances & Toasts and Who Speaks First.

Wedding Receptions are the party held after the completion of a marriage ceremony. It is for those who have attended the wedding, hence the name reception: the couple receives society, in the form of family and friends, for the first time as a married couple.

What do you do at a wedding reception?

The reception is where the party begins through a timeline of events. It is preceded by Cocktail Hour, which we call Project Block 7, 8 & 9. In The Project Block System, our first Reception Block is called Project Block 10, or Reception Seating. This Project escorts guests to their seat post cocktail hour in preparation for dinner service. To initiate this transition of guests leaving the cocktail hour and finding their seats, we announce the couple into the reception.

Announcing the Couple

Once you are finished with post-ceremony and family pictures, you’ll be announced into your own reception. Your guests officially “receive you” as a married couple, thus joining you for a reception. Once you two are announced you’ll make your way to the food. You’ll either go straight to your head table and be served or break open the buffet line. More on all that in Project Block 12.

READ | How to Coordinate Dinner Service & Catering | Project Block 12

Order of Events

Wedding Receptions can function in a TON of different orders of events. Your reception is a combination of a few Project Blocks including P10, P12, P13, P14, P15 in the timeline. Inside your reception, you have these Projects on display or running: P11, P17, P18, P20, P21, P22, P23 all at once. Finally, wedding receptions end with P24 and P25. If you’re totally confused by all of this, don’t worry, all of this is explained in our Wedding Planning ECourse, The Project Block System. I have an entire workshop dedicated to Wedding Day timelines too if you’re only here for that. You may want to check it out:

WORKSHOP | Wedding Reception Timelines

In this workshop I explain how those Project Blocks listed above can be maneuvered into a timeline that suits your specific wedding needs. I provide a download template for options as well.

Basic Order Template

In general, this is how most Wedding Receptions function:

  1. Cocktail Hour. After the ceremony, the couple, their families, and the wedding party head off with the photographer
  2. Announcement: The newlyweds, parents, and the wedding party make their grand entrance to the reception.
  3. Dinner
  4. Toasts
  5. Cake Cutting
  6. First Dance
  7. Dancing
  8. Bouquets & Garter Tosses

Is it necessary to have a wedding reception?

A reception is not at all required, and technically, a dinner with family members after would technically be your reception. It doesn’t have to be a big fancy party. Even a pot-luck style BBQ at a family member’s house after works.

Who speaks first at a Reception?

Traditionally the father of the bride is the first to speak in the wedding speech order, especially if he, as one of the bride’s parents, has provided money toward the wedding. The father of the bride welcomes guests and thanks them for coming. Toasts and Speeches are all a part of Project Block 15:

READ: How to Coordinate Head Tables & Speeches | Project Block 15

Do the groom’s parents speak?

The groom’s parents (most often the father) should give a short speech after the bride’s parent(s). It is important to thank everyone for their participation and emotional support of their son and his soon-to-be bride. The speech can be short and directed mostly to the newlyweds.

How long does a wedding reception last?

Most wedding receptions last four to five hours, plenty of time for cocktails, dinner, toasts and, of course, dancing! Your typical wedding reception runs:

  • 1 hour for dinner
  • 1 hour for speeches, toasts, cake & traditional dances
  • 2 hours for dancing

What is a formal wedding reception?

If the invite says “formal attire” or “black tie optional attire” … This means that a tuxedo isn’t required, but the event is still formal enough for one to be appropriate. Male guests should wear a tuxedo or formal dark suit and tie.

How do you end a wedding reception?

Great question, and of course we have a Project Block for that! Project Block 24 is officially your grand send-off. You can sneak out or run through a tunnel of sparklers. Your guests then exit with Project Block 25 after you. The remainder of your evening can look like this:

  1. Last Dance
  2. Performance by the Bride & Groom
  3. Late Night Snack Delivery
  4. Grand Exit. The grand exit is one of the most classic ways to end your reception, and for good reason.
  5. Surprise Fireworks Display. If you want to take your reception end to the next level, a fireworks display is the way to go!
  6. After-Party at a Bar.

READ: How to Coordinate the Grand Send-Off | Project Block 24

There are many ways to run your Wedding Reception. The main thing to remember is to be flexible. So long as all the the Project Blocks happen throughout the night, the order of which is not so much important. Your Wedding Coordinator is the person to be in charge of this concept. Not rushing you through your own wedding, but managing, maneuvering and adjusting to make sure everything flows and feels fun.


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