Wedding Reception Forum

Reception Timeline HELP!!!!!

Hi everyone!  I'm trying to figure out the timeline for my reception - when to have dinner, first dance, father/daughter dance, cake cutting, toasts, etc.  We're having a buffet dinner but plan to have "assigned" seating.

I'm getting worried that I messed up the timing when we did the invitations!  We planned for a 2:30 wedding and a 5:00 reception.  The ceremony is about a 15 minute drive from the reception - and many guests will be from out of town, so it may take them a bit longer.  We're not having a cocktail hour because it's just NOT in the budget - guests will have to go get their own cocktails before the reception (while we're taking pictures).

My concern is...can we really do the first dance and father/daughter dance (or really much dancing at all) before it gets dark???  If we do dinner at 5 and start dancing, etc. around that too early?  We have the reception venue 'till 10, so we need to end a bit earlier anyway, but i don't want it to end TOO early!!!

HELP!!!!!!  Ideas?  Suggestions?  What are others doing or what have you done? 


Re: Reception Timeline HELP!!!!!

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    I think ceremony at 2:30 and then reception at 5 with no cocktail hour is a long stretch, how long is the ceremony ?  I would suggest doing the 1st dance, father/daughter when everyone arrives to reception and dj starts music. What exactly will guests do for 2 hours or so ? 

    Where are the guests getting cocktails from, the venue or they have to go to a bar across street ?

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    Well invites are already out.  So you are set unless you want to call everyone up or send an updated reception invite.

    I will base the following off the assumption you are locked in with your 2:30 and 5 times.

    Most receptions in my area are 5.5-6 hours long.. so 5 hours is still enough time.  I would say you need to consider about 30 minutes for introductions and speeches (plus the time it takes people to get to their seats).  Dinner will likely start at 5:30 and last an hour.  Talk to your venue about the length of dinner.  It depends on the # of courses, seated vs. buffet, # of guests, and speed of your venue's waitstaff.  This leaves dancing to start at 6:30 - which will most likely be the 3 private dances (B&G, father/daughter, mother/son) then regular dancing to start around 6:45/7.

    When you cut the cake depends on whether it is served as dessert or boxed to take home.  I usually see it cut before speeches/dinner when it is served as desert, although some venues allow this to be pushed back a course or two (if multiple courses are served).  If it is served during dancing or boxed up.. I have seen it cut after dinner.. sometimes before dancing.. sometimes after dancing started. 

    As far as your gap.  You can leave the gap as is.  Your guests may stop by the hotel bar or find something to do on their own.  You can always do a welcome bag for real cheap (include bottled water and a bag of chips) along with a card of "fun things to do" for your OOT guests.

    Depending on the crowd (ie. OOT guests are drinkers) - you may want to set up a room with some snacks and beer/wine.  You can do this for much cheaper than a venue would charge you for cocktail hour.  Spread this knowledge via word of mouth.

    Your guests are adults and can find something to do on their own.. but any help you provide them will go a long way.
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    mikekatrinamikekatrina member
    First Comment
    edited September 2010
    You can definitely work with your timing!  If you're doing a receiving line, then pictures you'll make it to the reception right at 5, it's just a matter of what your guests do for that time.  I was going to suggest the same thing as the PP, make a card with things to do in the area or create things to do at the reception hall that don't involve alcohol.  We had lawn games (crocette, bocce ball, ladder golf) set up at our reception for some pre-dinner fun.

    As for the dance and stuff, it depends a lot on how many guest you have.  Buffets actually take longer than a seated meal.  Call your reception hall/caterer and ask how long dinner will take, they'll have a good idea.  To save time you could have cake after the first dance.  It can just be a station that people walk up to and grab a piece instead of being served at the table.  I would suggest for your reception:

    5:00 dinner
    6:00 toasts (even if people are still eating)
    6:30 first dance
    7:30 cake

    That will give you a 3.5 hour dance, which is plenty long.  Good luck!">
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    Thanks!  Yes, we are pretty locked into the 2:30 and 5:00 times - way too many people to call or resend invitations, and we've already scheduled with the church and the reception site. 

    It definitely is not my preference to have so much time between the ceremony and the wedding, but I wanted to leave time for pictures and travel (reception is about 15-20 minutes from the ceremony).  I would have loved to have a cocktail hour, or even just appetizers or something, but we're talking hundreds of dollars extra and there's just no way we can do it. 

    I do plan to give out "welcome bags" with maps, etc. and will include local cocktail spots in that information (there's no bar that we can use at the reception site and we're not serving alcohol at all - too many recovering alcoholics on the guest list - so people will have to go to a bar down the street or back to their hotel.  We tried to make sure they had enough time to go to their hotel and freshen up or have a drink in between the events.

    Thanks for the advice and help!  I'm going to have to make the best of this timeframe.  Any other suggestions or ideas would be appreciated!!!

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    TALK TO YOUR DJ or BAND!  I had NO idea how I was going to fit everything in a 4 hour reception, and our DJ just outlined everything and REALLY helped us come up with a good flow.  Our reception will be a bit unique as we're just doing cake, champagne and dancing, but I would have been lost without this guy.  I think your band or dj or mc are your best resources for flow.  Hope this helps!
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    We have a gap between our ceremony and reception, because I didn't want dinner to start at like 4.  :)  Since our ceremony is outdoors in a field in the mountains, I am letting oot guests (and most guests are) know they can return to their rooms to change for dinner if they would like.  Also, I know it is going to help with guests with children having that break.  We are also doing photos outside of reception location with family and friends before dinner instead of at ceremony.  So, those available early can have photos with us since we couldn't afford to keep the photographer all night.  So, we have ceremony; Bride/Groom photos; go to reception location for photos with friends and family; reception and so on.  I wouldn't worry about cocktail hour.  Seems like your dinner starts early enough that guests won't be starving maybe just thirsty.  And drinks without alcohol aren't too expensive.  Good Luck.
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