Sample Wedding Timeline
(*This timeline was created to give you an idea of how a typical day might flow. For shorter or longer receptions, this timeline may need to be adjusted to meet your specific reception needs. Please keep in mind that this is just a sample and that the times are just approximates. Please remember this is YOUR Day, you can schedule things anyway you would like.)
Here's a guide to what typically happens.
5:30 pm: Guest begin to arrive at ceremony site.
6:00 pm: Ceremony takes place (approximately 30 minutes in length is standard)
At this time, your guests will head to the reception site. To keep the mood festive and fun, the cocktail hour should begin as soon as guests arrive at the reception, whether that happens five minutes or an hour after the ceremony.
6:45 pm: Cocktail Hour:
You can take pictures during this time, mingle with the guests, or just enjoy a little time to yourselves! Most people use this time to take formal photographs. Drinks are poured and hors d’ oeuvres are served to your guests while they mingle.
7:30pm: Guest move to reception room:
An announcement should be made that dinner is starting soon. Guests move to the room where dinner will be served and are seated.
7:40 pm: Bridal Party Introduced:
Typically the bridal party and both sets of parents are introduced, followed by the bride and groom.
7:45 pm: Grand Entrance of the Bride & Groom:
Since all eyes are on you, some couples choose to step immediately into your first dance. Sometimes the father/daughter and mother/son dances can take place at this time as well – other couples choose to hold these dances until after the toast and cake cutting.
7:50 pm: Welcome:
Typically the bride's father welcomes everyone to the wedding reception and thanks everyone for coming. More and more couples choose to welcome their guest themselves. Some couples choose to have toasts here, but most wait until later in the wedding reception. You can also, if you wish, say a blessing over the meal at this time.
8:00 pm: First Course is served or buffet opens.
Dinner service begins for a sit-down reception or lines begin for a buffet service. The wedding party is always served first. This may seem contrary to etiquette, but serving them first affords the time to make table visits while the rest of the guests are seated. The DJ will play subdued “dinner appropriate” music at this time (Sinatra and vocal standards are a favorite). Word of advice to the bride and groom: make sure you take advantage of this time to eat!
8:15 pm: Main Course is served:
Once the Bride & Groom have finished eating they do the table rounds of greeting their guest.
8:45 pm: Champagne is poured:
Not everyone has a full champagne toast
8:50 pm: Toasts:
Best Man makes his toast. If the Maid of Honor is making a toast, she follows. She is followed by others that wish to toast the happy couple.
9:00 pm: Bride and Groom Thanks:
Although, not required, it is very nice for the couple to say thank you to everyone, especially to their parents.
9:05 pm: Cake Cutting:
Cake served with coffee if applicable.
9:10 pm: First Dance by Bride & Groom:
The DJ announces the couple. They can dance the entire song by themselves, fade the song early or have the DJ invite the rest of the bridal party up for the second half of the song.
9:15 pm: Father/Daughter and Mother/Son Dances
9:25 pm: Open Dancing Begins:
Take the lead and hit the dance floor! Guests usually follow the lead of the bride and groom, so do your part to ensure a packed dance floor. At this point, you should have already greeted your guests and accomplished your duties as host. Remember – this is your party, so have fun. Some older guests will begin to leave at this point, so be sure that you've had a chance to visit with them beforehand.
10:05 pm: Bouquet Toss and Garter Removal and/or Garter Toss:
If you do both, typically the gentlemen places the garter on the leg of the lady of caught the bouquet or the people who caught them dance together or some couples choose to skip this all together.
10:15 pm Open Dancing Continues
10:30 pm: Bride & Groom Last Dance:
The DJ should invite the Bride & Groom to the dance floor for their last slow dance of the evening. Great way to bring the romance back to the evening. Some couples choose to dance the entire song by themselves; others choose to invite everyone to join them, either after the first verse or half way through the song.
10:35 pm: Last Dance:
The DJ should invite everyone to the floor for a last dance together. Choose a fun and upbeat song so that everything ends on a high note. The right tune for the last dance will have your guests reluctant to leave. Something lively can ignite the mood for the after party, should you desire.
10:40 pm: Departure:
Have the DJ ask everyone to meet out front so they can send you off in style! Have guests blow bubbles, toss rose petals or even light sparklers to wish you on your merry way towards a lifetime of happiness.
Please keep in mind that the advice we offer here is based on traditions and are only guidelines. We will be happy to offer suggestions, or give you the pros and cons of doing things in a certain manner; however, YOU make the final decision. The sequence of events at a wedding varies from one client to the next, and also varies from one part of the country to another.