After going through a day filled with major ceremonies and events, the wedding reception is that event during which the bride and the groom get some time to relax and socialize with all the guests, including their family, relatives and friends. A wedding reception is quite elaborate but not exhausting like some of the other ceremonies or events of the day. If you are about to attend a wedding ceremony, you might find asking yourself what is the order of events for a wedding reception?
As a general rule, a wedding reception is supposed to start with the ‘receiving line’. This is an event during which the guests form a queue to greet the bride and the groom. Each of the guests gets the opportunity to greet the newly-married couple.
How does a wedding reception run?
A wedding reception consists of a large number of events that follow one another. The events that run through a wedding reception, in chronological order, are receiving line, cocktail hour, guests entering the reception space, the arrival of the wedding party, grand entrance of the bride and the groom, first dance, welcome speech, dinner, speeches and toasts, special dance performances, party, cake cutting, bouquet and garter toss, last dance, grand exit and after-party. (Recommended article: “How Long is the Average Wedding Ceremony“)
What is the order of events for a wedding reception?
Following is the order of events for a wedding reception. (Recommended article: “What is the Order of Events at a Wedding?“)
1. Receiving line
One of the oldest ceremonies associated with a wedding reception, receiving line refers to the line the guests form at the onset of the reception to greet the bride and the groom. They wish the newly-married couple on the beginning of this new journey together and bless them.
2. Cocktail hour
As the name suggests, the cocktail hour is the time during which the guests enjoy a glass of cocktail and socialize with each other. A cocktail hour is usually scheduled for an hour but you could stretch it to 90 minutes if the wedding ceremony and the reception are happening at two different venues. The newlyweds get the time to click their portraits during the cocktail hour. (Recommended article: “What is Cocktail Hour During a Wedding?“)
3. Guests get inside the reception space
After the conclusion of the cocktail hour, guests start entering the reception space and find their tables.
4. Arrival of the wedding party
The wedding party, which includes the bridesmaids, bridesmen, groomsmen, grooms ladies, flower girls and ring bearers, makes a grand entrance to the reception space. The musicians or the DJ would play some music to mark their arrival. If there is an emcee for the evening, he will introduce the parents of the couple and the members of the wedding party to the guests.
5. Grand entrance of the bride and the groom
Guests are expected to cheer for the bride and the groom as they enter the reception space with a celebratory song playing in the background.
6. First dance
Most couples perform their ‘first dance’ as a married couple during the wedding reception. Most of them have a brief dance after entering the reception space. Some do their first dance after having their dinner.
7. Welcome speech
The Welcome Speech serves as a good chance for the bride and the groom and their parents to thank the guests for registering their presence on this special day. If the family wishes to pray before the reception meal, they could do that during this time.
8. Dinner is served
Now, it’s time for the dinner to be served to the guests. When it comes to the reception meal, you have a variety of options like a plated dinner, buffet style or family style to choose from. The guests should be given adequate time to have their dinner. The bride and the groom too can have their dinner during this time. (Recommended article: “What Time Is Golden Hour and Why Is the Best for Wedding or Engagement Portraits“)
9. Speeches and toasts
Toasts and speeches are usually delivered when the guests are having their dinner. Since they are sitting and having their food, you can be assured about them being attentive towards your speech or toast. There is an order to the speeches as well. Traditionally, the best man is expected to deliver the first speech. After him, the maid of honor gets the opportunity to say a few words. After her, the father of the bride speaks. Post this, the speeches could follow in any order. The duration of each speech shouldn’t be more than 2-3 minutes. Towards the end, the bride and the groom could deliver a ‘thank you’ speech to the guests.
10. Special dance performances
The bride and the groom, along with their parents, hit the dance floor during this time. The guests, in particular, look forward to the father-daughter and the mother-son dance.
Now, all the guests will get the opportunity to get on the dance floor and show their moves. Days before the wedding, you can sit with the DJ or the band and curate a playlist of songs that would be played during this time.
12. Cake cutting
Once the guests have danced to their heart’s content, the wedding cake will be brought for the cake cutting ceremony. The bride and the groom will cut the first slice together. A staff member at the venue could take the responsibility of cutting the cake into several other slices and serving them to the guests.
13. Bouquet and garter toss
A classic ceremony that takes place during the wedding ceremony, the bouquet and garter toss involves the groom getting the garter removed from under the gown of the bride using his hands or teeth and tossing it towards the guests.
14. Last dance
The DJ or the band will announce that it’s time to have the ‘last dance’. After this announcement comes around, the couple and the guests would get on the dance floor to have the final dance of the evening. A special song should be chosen for this occasion.
15. Grand exit
It is time for the bride and the groom to say their goodbyes to the guests and exit the venue. Don’t forget to call the photographer and take some memorable pictures during this time.
After-Party is a relatively new addition to wedding receptions. While some choose to organize an after-party after the reception, many don’t. If you are planning to organize an after-party after the reception, make sure all your guests are well-informed about it.
Do parents get introduced at the wedding reception?
Yes, the parents of both the bride and the groom get introduced at the wedding reception. Traditionally, the bride’s parents are introduced before the parents of the groom. However, no rule dictates who should be introduced first. When my friend got married last year, the groom’s mother was introduced first as she has played an important role in getting the couple together and making their union possible.
How do you end a wedding reception?
A wedding reception usually ends with the ‘grand exit’. The bride and the groom say their final goodbyes to the guests and leave the venue. They could speak briefly to the guests during this time. These days, a lot of modern couples organize an after-party post their reception but one wouldn’t consider it to be a part of the main wedding reception.
Do the bride and groom stay until the end of the reception?
An important ceremony during the wedding reception is the grand exit during which the newly-married couple exit the venue after saying their goodbyes to the guests. So, the bride and the groom do stay until the end of the reception but leave just a little before the guests have left to mark their ‘grand exit’.
Header photo © Al Elmes / Unsplash