how to plan your wedding reception timeline

how to plan your wedding reception timeline

If you’re working with a wedding planner or day-of coordinator, creating a wedding timeline is likely one of the many priceless tasks they will complete for you! While we’re hoping that all you have to do is pour a glass of wine and wait for that email to roll in, many of you will be tackling this task yourself. As such, allow us to get you heading in the right direction.

The first thing you need to know about your wedding timeline is that you must hold it loosely. It is inevitable that things will take more or less time than planned, that unexpected festivities or surprises from your loved ones ay pop up, or one of your vendors is running ahead or behind schedule a little. And that's okay.

All the same, it doesn't hurt to include specific times on your timeline anyways. But the most helpful thing you can do is tell your wedding emcee or DJ which items have times that are non-negotiable.

Dinner is usually a given, as your caterer will have gone to great lengths to ensure that food is ready and hot, right at the correct time. Another important element that may be time-specific is your photographer. Are they booked until a certain time, or are they flexible with when they leave? If your photographer and videographer are going to leave at a specific time, you’ll need to decide what parts of the reception need to happen before then, in order to make sure they’re captured professionally.

Assume that everything takes longer than you think.

Always leave buffer time, and plan more time for everything than you think it might need, especially speeches and toasts. Even if you tell each person giving a toast that they must keep it under five minutes, there’s a pretty good chance that mom and dad will get carried away and tell some misty-eyed stories and lose track of time. Don't sweat it! Sharing that moment with your loved ones is once-in-a-lifetime. Dessert can wait.

On the other hand, in the event that speeches are all shorter than the time allotted, it will mean that the timeline will move forward faster and everyone will be partying it up on the dance floor sooner. We’re definitely down with that!

So you want to get dancing?

Well, we can’t blame you for wanting to get out there and cut a rug as soon as possible. So how can you make your dreams of a marathon dance party a reality?

First of all, you can do speeches and toasts during dinner. This won't work if it's a buffet, as the constant flow of guests getting out of their seats will be too distracting. However, If you have a family style or plated meal, there's nothing wrong with listening to toasts while enjoying your dinner.

Speaking of dinner, we're guessing that the amazing food you spend all that time selecting is going to leave gas guess satisfied. Rather than serving dessert right away, you can go right into the speeches while guests’ bellies are nice and full. Then, once the dance party starts, it's a great time to pull out creative dessert options like s'mores bars, build-your-own-sundae tables and whatever else your heart desires.

Don’t forget the Epic Sunset Photos…

There’s a good chance that your photographer has dreams of snapping a few intimate photos of you while the sun is dipping below the horizon and the light is warm and golden. Check online to see what time sunset will be on your wedding day, and inject a little time in the schedule to allow you to sneak outside for a few photos.

If you still have questions, don't be afraid to ask your DJ, caterer or photographer for their input. They’ve seen enough weddings with all sorts of timelines to know what to expect and they would love to help you finalize your timeline.