Hero Image
planning advice

Don’t Miss a Thing: Wedding Reception Timeline

Everyone will tell you the same thing: Your wedding day goes by fast, but your wedding night goes by even faster! How do you make your wedding reception a night to remember? Planning every element - minute by minute, hour by hour. It may sound like a tedious exercise that takes all the fun out of the moment, but it’s actually the opposite. You’ve got your wedding venue only for a short time, so creating a timeline is essential to ensure you fit in every special detail.

We put together this wedding reception timeline to help you plan your magical night:

Cocktail Hour - 1 hour
Cocktail hour takes place in the hour after the ceremony right before the reception begins. It’s a great opportunity for your photographer to capture guests mingling and sipping on your signature cocktails. Typically, you and your wedding party are snapping your group shots at this time, which is a good argument for having more than one wedding photographer at your event!

Guests Seated in Reception Hall - 20-30 minutes
Of course, this time will depend on how many guests you have at your wedding. Guests will find their table assignment at your presumably Pinterest-perfect display, then take their seats in the statement-making reception hall.

Wedding Party + Bride and Groom Entrances - 10 minutes
This is the big moment your guests have been waiting for. After all, the party doesn’t start until you and your wedding party are in the house!

Bride/Groom Dance + Family Dances - 10 minutes
From your first dance as husband and wife to the father of the bride and mother to the groom dances, 10 minutes is an ample amount of time. If you’re planning a more elaborate, choreographed number that involves your whole wedding party, budget your time accordingly.

Welcome Speeches/Toasts - 30 minutes
Usually this moment spotlights the mother and father of the bride, mother and father of the groom, best man and maid of honor. Even the chattiest of speeches and longer toasts can fit well within this timeframe!

Dinner is Served- 1 hour
All those tastings paid off! Sit back and enjoy your meal with your guests. You’ll need fuel to party the night away. Once you’ve eaten, it’s a good time to make the rounds and mingle with your guests. They’ll appreciate the personal time if you can swing it.

Have Your Cake (and eat it, too!) - 15-20 minutes
Sometimes this slips under the radar. If you want your guests to be spectators of your cake cutting, be sure to have your DJ or bandleader make an announcement so everybody can gather and watch you two cut into the sweet life ahead.

Open Dance Floor - 3-4 hours
Time to dance the night away! Swap your heels for flats or flip flops and bust out your best moves alongside your guests.

Night Photo Session - 20-30 minutes
Sneak outside with your wedding photographer for a quick night session under the stars. There’s something so romantic and mysterious about evening shots when the moon is casting a luminous glow.

Grand Exit - 10-15 minutes
Some brides and grooms like to go quietly into the night, but others prefer a more dramatic exit. For a grand sendoff, cue the sparklers or dash off into a decked-out car.

And just like that, it’s time to call it a night.

Hero Image

The engagement photos of your dreams.