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How to plan a perfect Reception Timeline

So here are some of my tips to help plan a perfect reception timeline!

It can be a bit overwhelming trying to coordinate dinner service, speeches, dances, the cake cutting, and anything else you wish to incorporate into your reception before the dance floor opens and the party begins! All reception timelines are different and depend on if you're having a plated meal or buffet, and the number of people making speeches and doing dances.


Whether you're doing a buffet or plated meal, it's nice to break up speeches instead of doing them all at once, especially if you have a lot of people speaking! If you are having a plated meal, have a speech or two go after every course is served. Your guests can eat dinner and listen to the speech - this will keep things moving quickly and keep everyone quiet when people are speaking. If you are having a buffet, have a speech or two before dinner, and then a few after the meal is served and before dessert. Also, you can put a time limit on how long people's speeches can be if you want to keep things moving along quick and avoid getting behind on your timeline!


Typically, there is a first dance, a father/daughter dance, and a mother/son dance. You obviously can add some extras or do less, it is totally up to you, but those are the standard dances. If you want to get your first dance over worth (it's normal to be nervous!) then do your first dance right after you do your reception entrance! This is a popular option and I see it a lot. Another idea is to do the first dance right before you open the dance floor for the night, and have your guests join you at the end of the dance to get everyone out onto the floor! If your parents are doing a speech, you can do the respective dance right after the speech finishes. Another option for those who don’t want the spotlight right on them, you can do the parent dances at the same time to the same song.


Adding buffer time (not just to the reception, but to your entire wedding day timeline) is definitely recommended! It is better to be a little bit early than to be behind, and it will keep your stress levels down if you are always ahead of schedule. Your photographer is most likely scheduled until a certain time, and you want to make sure you stay on schedule so that they don’t miss getting important photos. Adding even just 5-10 minutes extra for every speech, the cake cutting, and the dances, can keep you on schedule and make sure the party starts on time!


One of my favorite parts of any wedding day is sunset photos. These photos ALWAYS end up being my absolute favorite bride and groom portraits from the day, and they are always my couples’ favorite photos as well. So I do suggest you plan for 10-15 minutes during your reception to slip out and take some sunset photos!

So when exactly is sunset time, or “golden hour”? Typically it’s between an hour and a half to thirty minutes before the sun sets. This is the PERFECT time to take portraits! However, with a typical wedding timeline, portrait time is not at sunset (it’s normally midday or early afternoon). But, there’s still a way to capture the dreamy portraits that golden hour provides!

The way to do this is to sneak out during your reception for some extra portraits. You can typically accomplish these in 10-15 minutes, so it doesn’t take long at all! It all depends on how your timeline is set up, but typically this happens at the end of dinner or after your other reception events are finished. No one will even notice you are gone for 10 minutes!


The reception is when you finally get to relax and to soak in the day and the fact that you are now MARRIED! If anything comes up or the timeline doesn't go exactly as planned, do not panic - this is the time of day where you can just sit back and enjoy - so don’t let any minor hiccups get in the way of you having the best time!

I really hope you enjoyed this guide and found it helpful!

Hiring a wedding planner or day of coordinator to help plan your day and make sure that everything runs smoothly on the day can be helpful if needed! I have a list of amazing planners, let me know if you need a recommendation!

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