Reception Ideas

Casual Reception Timeline Ideas

I'm looking for casual wedding reception timeline ideas.

I'll be having a buffet and I want to do first dance & speeches. I don't like the organized shuffle to get food or an organized seating chart.

Is there a way to do it so that people are not ordered to get food and then sit down. Can it be a casual natural step? 

I went to a wedding in Seattle where they order was as follows but did not include speeches. Any other interesting order of events or tips/tricks for no seating chart?

Cocktail Hour

First Dance

Father Daughter Dance/Mother-Son Dance 

Invite everyone on the dance floor

Buffet opens & open seating 

Re: Casual Reception Timeline Ideas

  • MesmrEweMesmrEwe
    Knottie Warrior 2500 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
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    Follow that order if you liked how they did it!  I'd say go ahead and get things started during the cocktail hour after giving people a chance to arrive (let them know if possible).  Just make sure your key players who wouldn't be seated at the head table if you're doing one know to go ahead and get in line for the buffet (Also - people are going to wait for you to start the buffet, so just do it!)
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  • ILoveBeachMusicILoveBeachMusic Indiana
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary 5 Answers
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    I know people on here have recommended to plan on extra seating if you don't have a seating chart. That is because people will leave empty seats at tables in order to accommodate groups they want to sit in. I believe I have seen 10% more as a a recommendation. So if you have 100 guests have 110 seats available.
    MesmrEwe
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston
    10000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers
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    It's ok for a few people to give short toasts, but don't call them "speeches" and none should be longer than about 2-3 minutes. 

    Wedding guests just don't like to sit through too much "business" at receptions where they're supposed to pay attention but not participate. Remember, the purpose of your wedding reception is to thank your guests for attending your wedding. Don't have too big an agenda of pre-programmed "watch only" activities.
    InLoveInQueensMairePoppy
  • MobKazMobKaz Chicago suburbs
    Eighth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
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    MesmrEwe said:
    Follow that order if you liked how they did it!  I'd say go ahead and get things started during the cocktail hour after giving people a chance to arrive (let them know if possible).  Just make sure your key players who wouldn't be seated at the head table if you're doing one know to go ahead and get in line for the buffet (Also - people are going to wait for you to start the buffet, so just do it!)
    Depending on the time of the wedding, I would never expect some of those events to occur during a cocktail hour.  I have often had to miss a good portion of a cocktail hour, and would be frustrated to have missed some of the more traditional reception events.

    One of the more traditional/expected speeches/toasts is typically the "Welcome/Thanks for coming" "opener.  It seems more formal in nature and I would expect for it to occur when all invited guests are in attendance and you have their attention.  I'm not sure how that would play out during a cocktail hour.

    In regard to tables, do you plan to have reserved seats for immediate family and the bridal party?  If I attended an open seating reception, I would more than likely "stake out" my place as soon as I arrived at the cocktail party.  That seems a little counter intuitive for encouraging guests to mingle.  However, I have never attended a wedding that did not have formal seating arrangements.

    Please do begin the plating line or no guest will start!
    ahoyweddingInLoveInQueensMairePoppy
  • STARMOON44STARMOON44
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    MobKaz said:
    MesmrEwe said:
    Follow that order if you liked how they did it!  I'd say go ahead and get things started during the cocktail hour after giving people a chance to arrive (let them know if possible).  Just make sure your key players who wouldn't be seated at the head table if you're doing one know to go ahead and get in line for the buffet (Also - people are going to wait for you to start the buffet, so just do it!)
    Depending on the time of the wedding, I would never expect some of those events to occur during a cocktail hour.  I have often had to miss a good portion of a cocktail hour, and would be frustrated to have missed some of the more traditional reception events.

    One of the more traditional/expected speeches/toasts is typically the "Welcome/Thanks for coming" "opener.  It seems more formal in nature and I would expect for it to occur when all invited guests are in attendance and you have their attention.  I'm not sure how that would play out during a cocktail hour.

    In regard to tables, do you plan to have reserved seats for immediate family and the bridal party?  If I attended an open seating reception, I would more than likely "stake out" my place as soon as I arrived at the cocktail party.  That seems a little counter intuitive for encouraging guests to mingle.  However, I have never attended a wedding that did not have formal seating arrangements.

    Please do begin the plating line or no guest will start!
    A cocktail hour is part of the reception. The couple doesn’t need to plan around you showing up late. 
  • MobKazMobKaz Chicago suburbs
    Eighth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    member
    MobKaz said:
    MesmrEwe said:
    Follow that order if you liked how they did it!  I'd say go ahead and get things started during the cocktail hour after giving people a chance to arrive (let them know if possible).  Just make sure your key players who wouldn't be seated at the head table if you're doing one know to go ahead and get in line for the buffet (Also - people are going to wait for you to start the buffet, so just do it!)
    Depending on the time of the wedding, I would never expect some of those events to occur during a cocktail hour.  I have often had to miss a good portion of a cocktail hour, and would be frustrated to have missed some of the more traditional reception events.

    One of the more traditional/expected speeches/toasts is typically the "Welcome/Thanks for coming" "opener.  It seems more formal in nature and I would expect for it to occur when all invited guests are in attendance and you have their attention.  I'm not sure how that would play out during a cocktail hour.

    In regard to tables, do you plan to have reserved seats for immediate family and the bridal party?  If I attended an open seating reception, I would more than likely "stake out" my place as soon as I arrived at the cocktail party.  That seems a little counter intuitive for encouraging guests to mingle.  However, I have never attended a wedding that did not have formal seating arrangements.

    Please do begin the plating line or no guest will start!
    A cocktail hour is part of the reception. The couple doesn’t need to plan around you showing up late. 
    I didn't ask them or this bride to do so.  I suggested that the things she wants to include during the cocktail hour are unexpected/atypical from my experience, and that I would be frustrated to miss them. 
  • STARMOON44STARMOON44
    Knottie Warrior 2500 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    member
    MobKaz said:
    MobKaz said:
    MesmrEwe said:
    Follow that order if you liked how they did it!  I'd say go ahead and get things started during the cocktail hour after giving people a chance to arrive (let them know if possible).  Just make sure your key players who wouldn't be seated at the head table if you're doing one know to go ahead and get in line for the buffet (Also - people are going to wait for you to start the buffet, so just do it!)
    Depending on the time of the wedding, I would never expect some of those events to occur during a cocktail hour.  I have often had to miss a good portion of a cocktail hour, and would be frustrated to have missed some of the more traditional reception events.

    One of the more traditional/expected speeches/toasts is typically the "Welcome/Thanks for coming" "opener.  It seems more formal in nature and I would expect for it to occur when all invited guests are in attendance and you have their attention.  I'm not sure how that would play out during a cocktail hour.

    In regard to tables, do you plan to have reserved seats for immediate family and the bridal party?  If I attended an open seating reception, I would more than likely "stake out" my place as soon as I arrived at the cocktail party.  That seems a little counter intuitive for encouraging guests to mingle.  However, I have never attended a wedding that did not have formal seating arrangements.

    Please do begin the plating line or no guest will start!
    A cocktail hour is part of the reception. The couple doesn’t need to plan around you showing up late. 
    I didn't ask them or this bride to do so.  I suggested that the things she wants to include during the cocktail hour are unexpected/atypical from my experience, and that I would be frustrated to miss them. 
    Yeah but if you’re frustrated to miss them because, as you also said, you often just show up late, I really don’t think anyone needs to care about that. 
  • MobKazMobKaz Chicago suburbs
    Eighth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    member
    edited May 7
    MobKaz said:
    MobKaz said:
    MesmrEwe said:
    Follow that order if you liked how they did it!  I'd say go ahead and get things started during the cocktail hour after giving people a chance to arrive (let them know if possible).  Just make sure your key players who wouldn't be seated at the head table if you're doing one know to go ahead and get in line for the buffet (Also - people are going to wait for you to start the buffet, so just do it!)
    Depending on the time of the wedding, I would never expect some of those events to occur during a cocktail hour.  I have often had to miss a good portion of a cocktail hour, and would be frustrated to have missed some of the more traditional reception events.

    One of the more traditional/expected speeches/toasts is typically the "Welcome/Thanks for coming" "opener.  It seems more formal in nature and I would expect for it to occur when all invited guests are in attendance and you have their attention.  I'm not sure how that would play out during a cocktail hour.

    In regard to tables, do you plan to have reserved seats for immediate family and the bridal party?  If I attended an open seating reception, I would more than likely "stake out" my place as soon as I arrived at the cocktail party.  That seems a little counter intuitive for encouraging guests to mingle.  However, I have never attended a wedding that did not have formal seating arrangements.

    Please do begin the plating line or no guest will start!
    A cocktail hour is part of the reception. The couple doesn’t need to plan around you showing up late. 
    I didn't ask them or this bride to do so.  I suggested that the things she wants to include during the cocktail hour are unexpected/atypical from my experience, and that I would be frustrated to miss them. 
    Yeah but if you’re frustrated to miss them because, as you also said, you often just show up late, I really don’t think anyone needs to care about that. 
    I don't often "just show up late".  I said I have often HAD to miss a good portion, and it was for reasons I could not control. 

    My point to the OP, because she asked about her timeline, was to offer an experience.  Unless I misinterpreted @MesmrEwe's response, she alluded to a similar concern......."Follow that order if you liked how they did it!  I'd say go ahead and get things started during the cocktail hour after giving people a chance to arrive (let them know if possible)."  (Apologies to you, @MesmrEwe if I did misinterpret your comment.)

    The toasts and dances are not typically a part of the cocktail hour.  ETA......The presence of the bride and groom is also not always expected/typical.  This is often the time the bridal couple takes their photographs.
    ahoywedding
  • MesmrEweMesmrEwe
    Knottie Warrior 2500 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    member
    edited May 7
    MobKaz said:
    MobKaz said:
    MobKaz said:
    MesmrEwe said:
    Follow that order if you liked how they did it!  I'd say go ahead and get things started during the cocktail hour after giving people a chance to arrive (let them know if possible).  Just make sure your key players who wouldn't be seated at the head table if you're doing one know to go ahead and get in line for the buffet (Also - people are going to wait for you to start the buffet, so just do it!)
    Depending on the time of the wedding, I would never expect some of those events to occur during a cocktail hour.  I have often had to miss a good portion of a cocktail hour, and would be frustrated to have missed some of the more traditional reception events.

    One of the more traditional/expected speeches/toasts is typically the "Welcome/Thanks for coming" "opener.  It seems more formal in nature and I would expect for it to occur when all invited guests are in attendance and you have their attention.  I'm not sure how that would play out during a cocktail hour.

    In regard to tables, do you plan to have reserved seats for immediate family and the bridal party?  If I attended an open seating reception, I would more than likely "stake out" my place as soon as I arrived at the cocktail party.  That seems a little counter intuitive for encouraging guests to mingle.  However, I have never attended a wedding that did not have formal seating arrangements.

    Please do begin the plating line or no guest will start!
    A cocktail hour is part of the reception. The couple doesn’t need to plan around you showing up late. 
    I didn't ask them or this bride to do so.  I suggested that the things she wants to include during the cocktail hour are unexpected/atypical from my experience, and that I would be frustrated to miss them. 
    Yeah but if you’re frustrated to miss them because, as you also said, you often just show up late, I really don’t think anyone needs to care about that. 
    I don't often "just show up late".  I said I have often HAD to miss a good portion, and it was for reasons I could not control. 

    My point to the OP, because she asked about her timeline, was to offer an experience.  Unless I misinterpreted @MesmrEwe's response, she alluded to a similar concern......."Follow that order if you liked how they did it!  I'd say go ahead and get things started during the cocktail hour after giving people a chance to arrive (let them know if possible)."  (Apologies to you, @MesmrEwe if I did misinterpret your comment.)

    The toasts and dances are not typically a part of the cocktail hour.
    IMO - I thought you were positively adding to what I mentioned.. especially about the why letting guests know that's how you're/OP going to do it is important (With an invitation I got to a wedding that involves travel OOT coming up, the couple gave us the timeline which as a guest I appreciate having instead of assuming - because typically I'm that guest who tends to skip most of cocktail hour).
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    MobKazahoywedding
  • This order seems pretty great and since you don't want an ordered seating and you mainly want people to be free and roaming around, buffet also seems like an excellent idea.
    I'd say just stick to this routine and you will be just fine.
  • What @MesmrEwe and @MobKaz were saying. If you like the order of events at that wedding, then follow that. But I would definitely make sure you call out the schedule, since it will likely be different from what most of your guests have experienced at previous weddings. It's not a bad thing, but you'd probably want them to be there for the toasts and dances. 

    If you're not assigning seats, you may still want to assign seats for your WP and families. Be sure to have plenty of extra seats (think 20% min) so that guests don't stake out their spots early and stay there all night. Groups of people typically won't sit with strangers to "fill up" a table, so there will be more empty seats than there would be if you did a seating chart. 
    MobKaz
  • I may be inferring OPs timeline wrong but I took it as the cocktail hour happens, than after that happens (meaning an hour later) the first dance happens, than the parent dances, etc.  Not that the dances are happening during the cocktail hour.

    OP, if what I wrote above is correct, that is basically how my wedding was set up.  We didn't want a super strict or formal timeline because we have always hated being in the middle of having a good time only to be interrupted because the couple wants to do a dance or cut the cake or throw the bouquet.  Nothing kills a party more than copious interruptions.

    I think open seating is fine, but prepare to have extra seating available because like a PP said people won't generally fill in random empty seats.  Think about a high school cafeteria.  Those that know each other will congregate at tables and those that don't know them won't fill in the empty seats but rather head to another empty table.

    But for the buffet, you really need someone at the venue to tell tables when they can get up to get their food.  This isn't about being non-casual but rather it is about eliminating the possibility of an extremely long line.  If you just let everyone get up and get their food at once people could be standing in line for a while.

    And for speeches/toasts, I would say they usually happen towards the end of when people are eating.  That way everyone is sitting and can finish their dinner while still being able to listen to a speech.
    ahoyweddingshort+sassy
  • MobKazMobKaz Chicago suburbs
    Eighth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    member
    I'm looking for casual wedding reception timeline ideas.

    I'll be having a buffet and I want to do first dance & speeches. I don't like the organized shuffle to get food or an organized seating chart.

    Is there a way to do it so that people are not ordered to get food and then sit down. Can it be a casual natural step? 

    I went to a wedding in Seattle where they order was as follows but did not include speeches. Any other interesting order of events or tips/tricks for no seating chart?

    Cocktail Hour

    First Dance

    Father Daughter Dance/Mother-Son Dance 

    Invite everyone on the dance floor

    Buffet opens & open seating 
    @freckles0716 said, "I may be inferring OPs timeline wrong but I took it as the cocktail hour happens, than after that happens (meaning an hour later) the first dance happens, than the parent dances, etc.  Not that the dances are happening during the cocktail hour."

    Interesting.  So now that makes me wonder about seating, regardless of designated or open seating.

    In many receptions I have attended, the cocktail hour is in a different space than the dinner.  In some cases, the dining room was closed during cocktail hour. 

    OP, will your guests have an opportunity to be seated/find seats prior to the buffet opening?  It would be very awkward to stand during these dances and toasts.
  • MairePoppyMairePoppy Connecticut
    Moderator Eighth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its
    mod
    I think a lot depends on how many guests you have. For a smaller wedding, assigned seating probably isn't necessary, but you will need some extra tables or spots so you're not splitting up couples or households. 

    If it's a large wedding, assigned tables are a courtesy to your guests. It ensures that they will be seated with people they know. I look forward to weddings as a chance to celebrate the couple, but also a chance to catch up with friends or family members. If H and I don't know anyone else at the wedding, I'm happy the hosts have been considerate to assign us to a table where they think we will have something in common with the table mates.

    Calling tables to the buffet helps avoid long lines. If you just have the food set out and say the buffet is open, do you think everyone might stop what they're doing and get in line? 

                
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