What’s the Typical Timeline for a Wedding Reception?

Some couples like to keep their reception quick and perfunctory—saying their hellos, celebrating with family and friends, then getting on with things! Others prefer to party until the break of dawn. In our experience, the average length of a wedding reception is about four hours. Of course, that’s entirely up to your preference!

Understanding the Order of Events

Whether you have a short reception or a long one, there’s a basic order of events you’ll want to plan for. None of this is mandatory, but this is what’s typical:

1.      Cocktail hour. Usually, the cocktail hour kicks off as soon as the ceremony is over—potentially before the bride and groom actually arrive, especially if they are taking pictures. Guests should feel welcome to start partying, enjoying some appetizers and drinks.

2.      Introductions. When the bride, groom, and full wedding party arrive, you can have the DJ or reception MC welcome them into the reception.

3.      First dances. Next, it’s typical for the bride and groom to have their first dance together. This may be followed by a father-daughter dance and a mother-son dance.

4.      Toasts and speeches. From there, you might schedule a champagne toast and some quick speeches. Often, the Best Man and Maid/Matron of Honor will both give toasts. You may also wish to greet your guests with a quick thank-you. And sometimes, the parents of the bride or groom may also want to deliver brief remarks.

5.      Dinner. Following toasts and speeches, dinner may be served! Hopefully, you’ll get to dinner within 30 to 45 minutes of your guests arriving for the reception.

6.      Cake cutting. The last formal event is cutting the cake, then serving dessert and coffee. Beyond that, you and your guests should simply feel free to celebrate together!

Planning for Everything

None of this is set in stone, and you should absolutely feel free to customize your order of events however you like. With that said, this quick rundown should provide you with a basic sense of what you should plan for.

If you’re ready to book a venue or hire a catering team to make your reception a smash success, we invite you to contact us today. Reach out to Mosteller Events at your next convenience!