3 Tips for Structuring your Reception | Friday Chatter

It’s FRIIIIDAY!! This week absolutely flew by for me, and I am so ready for another gorgeous wedding weekend! I’m heading down to second shoot a wedding in Virginia with a sweet friend of mine, and I cannot wait! Are you up to anything fun?

We have been diving into lots of timeline strategy items here on the blog, and today the party continues with planning tips for the timing of your reception! I’m bringing you three tips to help get your planning started with a little bonus at the end, just in case you get stuck! From traditions, to food to vendor timelines, we’re chatting about it all!

Eat BEFORE your guests:

I have had so many couples let me know that they really wish they had time to ENJOY their meal on their wedding day. When your reception begins, odds are, you will want to visit with your guests, and even if you are sitting down to enjoy your meal, chances are good that guests will come up to wish you well! It is one of the sweetest parts of your day, but it can be hard to enjoy if you are a little hangry. Something to help? I have had couples opt to eat BEFORE their reception even begins, and I am definitely going to start recommending this to all of my couples, time & catering team permitting. That way, by the time your reception begins, you’re full, you’re happy and you can enjoy your reception and the company of your guests without rushing through your meal. If it isn’t possible for you to eat before your reception, I always recommend eating as soon as your dinner service begins while also having your catering team save another meal or some of your late night snacks for you in a to-go container for after your reception.

Do your traditions first:

This is going to be my longest point, but it is important! Your traditions include events like bridal party speeches, cake cutting, first dances, parent dances, your blessing, garter toss, bouquet toss… the works. I always recommend that my couples take care of these first thing. After entrances, go right into your formal dances, after dances come speeches, after speeches, dinner can begin and when your guests are just about to wrap up dinner, you can cut the cake! You can also use your bouquet and garter toss to open up the dance floor if you opt to include these traditions on your day. The reason I recommend this? When your reception begins, your guests are in their seats, waiting for dinner and they are captive. It is typically easier to get the crowd to quiet down for speeches and it is much less likely that you will have to ask people to return to their seats. Then, once the scheduled portion of the night is complete, you are free to party and enjoy–you won’t have to worry about getting anything else done!!

Additionally, if you have any older guests or guests with young children, oftentimes, they will wait until your cake has been cut to say their goodbyes. This is simply tradition, and by no means is it rude if they leave beforehand. However, I always think that it is super sweet of my couples to take these individuals needs into account (and as a bonus, you have even more time during your reception to grab a slice of cake or two!!). Those that are able to stay to be by your side throughout the night will stay and those that may not last through the night can leave, guilt-free, when your cake is cut early!

Sync up with all of your vendors:

When planning your reception, it is so important that you are on the same page with all of your vendors and that they are all operating on the same timeline. Well before your wedding, I typically recommend reaching out to your catering team to see how long they recommend for dinner service and if they have any specific timing requirements. From there, check in with your DJ to see what timeline is possible for them and what they recommend for the best party. From there, make sure your creative team is in the loop.

A quick tip from a photographer? It is so important to consider the length of coverage you have opted for while planning your reception timeline. That way, you can ensure that your photographer will be present for all of the larger moments during your reception and won’t have to worry about any additional coverage.

Stuck on planning? See below for my recommended reception timeline! 

15 Minutes: Guests Enter and take their seats

5-10 Minutes: Family & Bridal Party Introductions
Factor in the size of your bridal party & number of family members being introduced!)

5 Minutes: Bride and Groom First Dance

10 Minutes: Father/Bride & Mother/Groom Dances

3-8 Minutes Each: Speeches by Best Man and Maid of Honor

1-3 Minutes: Blessing

Dinner | The timing of your dinner will vary. Please confirm the length of your dinner service with your catering team!

5-10 Minutes: Cake Cutting

5 Minutes: Bouquet Toss

5 Minutes: Garter Removal

Open Dancing

10-15 Minutes: Staging Special Exit | These often take much longer to set up than they take to actually happen!

1-2 Minutes: Couple’s Exit

* Please note that these are not hard and fast rules. Your timing may vary, and that is okay! Always consider the size of your bridal party and amount of guests when laying out your reception timeline. 

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