Creating a flow to your wedding reception does not happen by accident. In my opinion the top three things to consider when we talk about the flow of your day are: Communication, Communication, and Flexibility.
It does not matter who is orchestrating, wearing the watch, or overseeing your day; It just has to be someone. Your wedding planner, Day of Coordinator, or DJ should be able to do this for you.
So what is “Wedding Reception Flow”? In short, it is making sure everything that is supposed to happen does happen without awkward delay. We do not want to give your wedding guests an excuse to start looking for their keys!
Communication is KEY to a successful wedding reception. Your wedding professional should sit down with you early in the process and discuss your wants and your wishes for the day. What is early? When you meet or book your professional. They should also sit down with you 1-2 weeks out and walk through your day in detail (e.g. Specific songs you want played, pronunciation of your wedding party names for introductions, name of the photographer, when you are wanting to cut the cake and what song do you want played during the cake cutting, etc.) Your wedding professional should have an open line for you to communicate your wishes, from the time you meet until the last song of the night.
The person wearing the watch needs to be flexible and able to make changes in real time! Life happens! Dinner may not be ready–What should you do? It is time for the blessing and the person giving the blessing is nowhere to be found (awkward)–Now what?
Your Day of Coordinator, whoever it may be, needs to understand the timeline yet be able to make adjustments along the way to keep your wedding moving forward and your guests’ car keys in their pocket.
I have created a timeline for you that is tried and true. I have also provided you with my thoughts along the way. That being said, this is your day and not mine!
If I was to sit down with you in person I would share my thoughts with you; but, at the end of the day, it is all about you, your wants, and your wishes.
You will notice I only have three fixed times on this timeline:
- When will your first guest arrive?
- When will dinner be served?
- When is the last song of the night?
I have worked with many wedding professionals that have this important day planned down to the minute. There is obviously nothing wrong with this and, if this is what makes you feel most comfortable, then I encourage you to start working on that timeline.
I have found that life happens and, all too often, the timeline gets disrupted. This can cause frustration and staying on a set timeline could disrupt the flow of the night.
STE Event Group Wedding Flow
Pre music: typically starts 30 minutes prior to wedding ceremony. Flexible means if your first guest arrives 40 minutes early– start the music. You do not want your guests sitting down to crickets.
5:00 pm: Ceremony (1 of 3 times we are concerned with for wedding flow)
Cocktail Hour: Typically directly following the ceremony.
Introduction of Wedding Party: 10 to 15 minutes before dinner is served. Dinner may be running late. If so, be flexible and extend your cocktail hour. DO NOT introduce the wedding party if dinner is running late based on a set scheduled time. Your guests will be seated at their tables and in a holding pattern, waiting for dinner to be served. Your guests will eventually get up and go to the bar, walk around, etc. and now you have to get them seated again. This is why I always check with the caterer to make sure dinner is on time or if adjustments need to be made to the introduction of the wedding party. Your guests will not notice cocktail hour going over 10 minutes. However, they will notice sitting in their seats for 5 minutes with nothing happening.
Cake Cutting: Typically, few people really want to watch the cake cutting. This is a great time to cut the cake as your guests are getting ready to eat dinner.
Additionally, this is the time to find the person presiding over the blessing of the meal. They should be next to the DJ or person with the mic.
Welcome Speech: This is usually done by a parent (typically the FOB).
Blessing: As mentioned above, the person giving the blessing should be near the mic at the time of the cake cutting. The MC should be ready to introduce the individual and he/she should give the blessing once the bride and groom have returned to the head table and are seated.
6:00 pm: Dinner Served (2 of 3 times we are concerned with for wedding flow)
This is not the time for your Emcee, DJ, or Day of Coordinator to take a break. They need to be observant and watch the flow of dinner. If this is buffet style, the person overseeing your flow of your reception needs to make sure all of your guests have been through your buffet line before starting toasts or speeches. If the dinner services are running long you need to inform the last few tables that sit down with their meals that the bride and groom want them to enjoy their meal but you need to move forward with the evening. They will understand and be appreciative. You CANNOT let your guests that finish dinner early get up and start walking around. It will not take long for more guests to start walking to the bar, restrooms, outside, etc. Your flow will be disrupted. This will not be a problem as long as the person overseeing the flow of your night is observant and on top of things.
Toasts: It is my opinion that you do not pass the mic for toasts. Your guests want to know who is speaking and you should introduce any person that speaks. The typical order of toasts is:
- Guests not at the head table
- Head table table guests
- Best Man
- Maid or Matron of Honor
This being said, it is perfectly fine to change up the order to your liking.
Dances: The typical order of dances is as follows:
- Bride and Groom 1st dance
- Wedding party
- Open dance floor
- Anniversary Dance (optional)
- Dollar dance (optional)
- Bouquet (optional)
- Garter (optional)
Most couples today are front-loading their reception and leaving plenty of time for socializing the rest of the evening.
Midnight: Last Song (3 of 3 times we are concerned with for wedding flow)
I suggest that your DJ/MC invites your guests to join the bride and groom on the dancefloor for the last three songs of the night. This will allow all of your guests to make their way to the dance floor and give you time to have fun with your friends and family before the night comes to an end.
STE Event Group