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Wedding Reception Schedule Sample for Your Big Day

ImageHereby we have listed the most popular order of major events for a wedding reception. You can rearrange these events any way that you like. Use this as a sample and make a schedule that works best for you and your guests.

NB! Do not forget that the schedule should be shared with the caterer, venue and photographer and videographer about a week prior to your event so that changes can be discussed and worked out to make sure all runs smoothly.


Description of Event

Time of Event

Notes (if applicable)

Arrival of DJ / Set-Up

04:30 PM

We arrive 90 minutes prior to start of event on a normal wedding.  Your DJ should always arrive at least 60 minutes prior.  A sound check should be done with your officiate at least 30 minutes prior to wedding.

Arrival of Guests –

Background Music

05:40 PM

Guest normally start arriving 10-15 minutes prior, so you will want music playing 20 minutes prior.  As a DJ we normally play a mix of classical and new age style music, but you can choose any style you wish.  If you are using a quartet, harpist, piano player, they should go over music selections with you ahead of time.

Wedding / BP Processional / Bridal March

06:00 PM

Normally the bride and groom will choose a song for the wedding party entrance and a song for the bridal march.  You can go with the standard classical bridal march or you can choose something special for you!  Sometimes the bride and groom will choose to do a unity candle or sand ceremony song. Non-denominational ceremonies are normally 15-20 minutes long, but usually end up starting a few minutes late.

Recessional – Start Reception / Cocktail Hour

06:30 PM

As you leave your musician or DJ should play the recessional song of your choice!  While you are taking pictures your DJ or wedding coordinator should verify all schedules are still coordinated.  While your guests are having cocktails and appetizers.  Our normal music mix for this time is a mix of crooners (Martin / Sinatra/ Como/ Mathis) with mellow classics  and smooth jazz.  Once again your DJ or band should work with you in planning to choose music to fit your desires.

Arrival of Wedding Party

07:15 PM

We give 45 minutes for photos and then another 10 minutes to get guests seated and the wedding party briefed on how the intro is being done and what order they are being introduced in.

Grand Introduction

07:25 PM

This should be done in accordance with how you desire it.  If you want elegant intros or high energy sports type intros or something in between your master of ceremonies (DJ, band leader, etc) should coordinate it to fulfill your desires.  We normally play a background song for the wedding party and a different song for the bride and groom.  If you do not desire a high energy intro we will do a love story which is a history of the bride and groom with music clips interspersed to add some fun!  Make sure the DJ knows exactly how you want to be addressed when being introduced to your guests!

First Dance

07:30 PM

You are already on the dance floor and have everyone’s attention.  This is a perfect time to do your first dance.  Since you have already danced, your guests will not feel awkward if they want to dance to a song during dinner since the first dance has already been completed.  This also cuts down on the number of dance your guest must play spectator to after dinner is complete.

Blessing / Meal Served

07:35 PM

If you want to say grace prior to your meal, let your master of ceremonies or DJ know who will give it so they can introduce them.  Your DJ should coordinate with one another as to who will release tables and how it should be done.  Ask your DJ if they have any special things they do to interact with the crowd and release tables.

Best Man’s Toast

08:05 PM

Traditionally the toast are prior to the meal.  We have found they work better if you pour the champagne / cider / wine as soon as the last guest has their main course served.  Normally the wedding party is finished eating and can now do toasts.  Everyone else can eat their meal while listening and easily raise glasses at the appropriate time.  This has a couple of effects. Your guests start eating a few minutes earlier while you do not waste any time while everyone waits for toasts to be finished, thus completing dinner a few minutes earlier.  Also, your toast beverage will be nice and cold.  If you do your toast immediately most caterers will pour the drinks before the guests are seated and you end up having it sit 15-20 minutes until you get to toasts.  Once again it is your event and you dictate when it happens, theses are just some ideas to think about.

Other Toast

08:10 PM

Normally the maid of honor and one or more parents will want to give a toast as well.  You want to let people make toasts, but be aware that if you open it to all guests you could spend a long time listening to a multitude of people stumbling through saying the exact same thing.  I have seen toasts stretch to past an hour when the bride and groom insisted that everyone be allowed to speak that wanted to.

Father – Bride Dance

08:15 PM

Pick a song that says what you want to convey to your father, or let him pick a song with a message to you.  Your guests could still be eating while you are doing this.

Mother – Groom Dance

08:20 PM

Pick a song that says what you want to convey to your mother, or let her pick a song with a message to you.  Your guests could still be eating while you are doing this.  As the song is winding down this is a good time to invite all your guests to join in for a few slow songs.  They have been though a cocktail hour and dinner and you want them to get moving so everyone is awake and ready to move on with the party.

Open Dance 3 slow 3-4 fast

08:25 PM

Play a few slow songs and then mix into some classic oldies like The Twist or Twist & Shout or In the Mood.  Get people moving,  if they are partying let it go for just a little while.  If they are not reacting then go back into events

Wedding Party Dedication (as part of open dance)

08:40 PM

Rather than doing a wedding party dance with a floor filled with people who are there with other dates you may want to dedicate a song to the wedding party and just let everyone dance with their actual date for the night.

Cake Cutting

08:50 PM

Some DJ’s will run this event.  But you might prefer to announce it and let your photographer run it as they see fit so they get the pictures exactly as they desire.

Honeymoon or Money Dance Songs

09:00 PM

Many names – Apron Dance, Dollar Dance, Honeymoon Dance, Money Dance, etc…  About half of our brides and grooms want one if these.  The idea is to give each person the ability to spend 15-20 seconds alone with the bride or groom to share their thoughts and give them their private best wishes.  This is an opportunity to tactfully and maybe while having some fun, raise some money for the bride and groom for their honeymoon by accepting donations in return for the dances.  Many couples choose to substitute for this and have an elimination or reverse elimination dance where we recognize couples that have been married a long time.  many times the bride and groom present the couple married the longest with flowers or a gift.  Speak to your DJ about your personal tastes and desires.

Bouquet Toss / Teddy Bear Toss

09:10 PM

Some couples are doing the elimination dance mentioned above instead of the entire bouquet garter sequence.  Most still do the traditional bouquet toss.  Choose a song for background music to get the ladies going. Ask your DJ about it and he will discuss details with you.

Remove Garter/ Garter Toss / Garter On

09:20 PM

This should be one of your most fun times of your reception.  Have a good time and enjoy yourself.  If you don’t laugh your DJ did not handle this well.  Choose a separate song for removing garter and for throwing it to the guys.  Work with your DJ to make sure that having the gentleman who caught the garter put it back on the leg of the girl who caught the bouquet is what you want to do.  Most DJ’s will have some twists you can do on this.  The key is to handle it appropriately for your event and have a good time.

Open Dancing – Party Time

09:30 PM

Discuss with your DJ if you have any other ethnic, religious or traditional events you need to do before it is party time, otherwise turn up the volume a little, hit the dance lights, and party it up on the dance floor.  A good DJ or band will normally work through several sets of music of various tastes so that all your guests hear something they will like and get a chance to hit the dance floor.

Reception Ends

12:00 AM

Pack up your gifts, make sure you are square with all your vendors and head off to the honeymoon!

If you are using a wedding coordinator they will coordinate your vendors to make sure all goes smoothly.  If you are not, most professional DJ services will take care of that for you.

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November 7, 2008 - Posted by | Wedding Planning and Budget | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] A good DJ or band will normally work through several sets of music of various tastes so that all your guests hear something they will like and get a chance to hit the dance floor. Reception Ends More […]

    Pingback by » Wedding Reception Schedule Sample for Your Big Day | November 7, 2008


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