How to Create the Perfect Reception Timeline

Planning Tips

Last week, we broke down the elements of a wedding ceremony timeline, and today we're picking up where we left off, with the cocktail hour and dinner reception. The sample reception timeline below follows a common wedding-day format, beginning with a 4 p.m. ceremony start time and ending at 10 p.m. Also, the timeline assumes the ceremony and reception are being held in the same venue, which means guests won't need to travel to a separate party site. Thus, cocktail hour kicks off right after the ceremony's conclusion, followed by dinner, toasts, dancing, and cake! Use this sample timeline as general guide of how a reception typically proceeds.

Ceremony & Cocktail Hour
4:00 p.m.: Ceremony begins
4:45 p.m.: Ceremony concludes; cocktail hour begins
6:00 p.m.: Cocktail hour concludes; guests begin to take their seats at the reception

See More: 30 Amazing Ceremony Structures

6:15 p.m.: Emcee introduces the wedding party and newlyweds
6:20 p.m.: Newlyweds go right into their first dance
6:25 p.m.: Welcome speech or blessing
6:30 p.m.: Dinner service begins (music volume is lowered)
7:00 p.m.: Toasts (beginning with the best man)
7:30 p.m.: Father-daughter dance, followed by mother-son dance
7:45 p.m.: All guests are invited to join everyone on the dance floor
8:30 p.m.: Cake cutting
9:45 p.m.: Last call
9:55 p.m.: Last song; followed by couple's grand exit
10:00 p.m.: Reception concludes; guests depart; begin breakdown
11:00 p.m.: Breakdown complete; everyone out

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