Setting Up Your Schedule

You may have been planning this party since grade school, but unless you and your guests are embarking on a weeklong destination celebration (see 10 Tips for Planning a Destination Wedding if you are), you're going to have to show a little discretion when planning your reception schedule. You'll have to balance the events and cater to everyone in the crowd, so make sure the father/daughter dance occurs before 8:00 p.m., as that's about as late as your 88-year-old grandma is going to stay. Luckily, tradition has already dictated the majority of your schedule for you, so all you need to do is organize the time frame of your events.

Most reception schedules look something like this, assuming your wedding ceremony ended around 3:30 in the afternoon:

  • 4:00 p.m. - guests arrive at the reception site/cocktail hour begins
  • 5:00 p.m. - introduction of the bridal party and the bride and groom
  • 5:15 p.m. - guests are seated
  • 5:30 p.m. - champagne toasts from father of the bride, best man and maid of honor
  • 6:00 p.m. - prayer/blessing or announcement of dinner/buffet opening
  • 6:10 p.m. - dinner is served
  • 7:00 p.m. - first dance
  • 7:05 p.m. - father/daughter and mother/son dances.
  • 7:10 p.m. - bridal party enters the dance floor
  • 7:15 p.m. - dance floor opens to everyone
  • 8:10 p.m. - cake-cutting ceremony
  • 8:45 p.m. - bouquet and garter toss
  • 9:00 p.m. - send-off for the newlyweds