Whilst the ceremony is undoubtedly the most important part of the whole day, the wedding reception is definitely the busiest! This article takes a closer look at your wedding timetable to helpyou schedule everything to run smoothly from beginning to end.
With so much going on and so little time to fit it all in, you could be forgiven for wondering how everything will possibly run without a hitch (apart from the obvious one of course). But as long as you've thought sensibly about things and put together a detailed programme of events, then trust us, it will - as long as you stick to your wedding timetable of course!
The key to pulling together a successful itinerary is to know are what events you need to plan for, and how long to allow for each one. So without further ado, let's take a look at the most common events that occur during wedding receptions and the order they typically occur in...
Wedding Timetable : Photographs/Welcome Drink & Canapes
Typically, the photographs will be one of the first events to occur at the Reception venue. Within a few moments of the ceremony ending (or shortly after arriving at the Reception venue if the Service is at a separate location), the couple will be whisked away by the photographer for photo duty. Whilst this is happening, welcome drinks and canapes are often served to guests to provide an introduction to the proceedings and help pass the time.
The best guide to find out how long to allow for this part of the proceedings is to go directly to the horses mouth - speak to your photographer well beforehand and ask for their guidance. Normally you can expect the photography session to take at least an hour, but it may take longer if you want lots of group shots or reportage style photography of you with your guests.
Wedding Timetable : The Receiving Line
The receiving line is an optional part of the reception that allows the key members of the wedding party and guests to formally meet and exchange pleasantries.
Typically a receiving line would begin with the Father and Mother of the Bride, move on to the Father and Mother of the Groom. The Chief Bridesmaid and Best Man would follow and the line would conclude with stars of the show, the Bride and Groom themselves. However, this line-up is not set in stone and couples can choose to reduce or add to this motley crew as they see fit.
The general rule when timetabling for the receiving line is to allow around 30 seconds per guest. This may not sound like much, but for a 60 person reception this equates to around 30 minutes, so it's easy to see how things quickly add up.
If you want to go without a receiving line you simply need to get venue staff to direct your guests to their tables at the appropriate time which will take about five minutes or so. When you are having a receiving line, this should happen automatically and does not need to be accounted for.
Wedding Timetable : Speeches & Toasts
Starting the speeches as soon as every guest is gathered for the meal is becoming an increasingly popular option, and one which we would also recommend. The speeches are a typically nerve-wracking time anyway, so it is often best to get them out of the way before the mea,l so that the speakers can all relax and really enjoy thier food.
Speeches don't normally last more than 30 minutes in total (assuming that there will be only 3 speeches made) but for a more accurate guide, ask each speaker to run through their speech before the day and provide you with an estimated duration time. Once everyone provides you with a figure, simply add them up then factor in an additional 20% for applause, laughter (the Best Man can live in hope!) and the toasts.
Wedding Timetable : The Wedding Breakfast
The Wedding Breakfast can be as simple as a picnic on a lawn, or as formal as a 7 course silver service banquet.
With so much variation it's impossible to provide accurate times, so you should speak to the venue for clues. As a guide, a typical 3 course meal for around 50 guests will normally take between an hour and a half and two hours from beginning to end.
Wedding Timetable : Cake Cutting
Many couples have the ceremonial cutting of the cake at the end of the Wedding Breakfast, although it can take place at any time during the day.
Once the cake has been officially cut by the Bride and Groom, venue staff will take it away and slice up the remainder.
Couples should allow around 10 minutes for the official cutting and subsequent photos, and about 15 minutes for the venue to slice the cake up. The latter figure is only relevant of course if they cake will then be formally served as soon as it is prepared.
Wedding Timetable : Intermisssion
An early wedding lends itself perfectly to a break after the meal prior to the evening reception. However if guests don’t sit down for the Wedding Breakfast until early evening, it is unlikely that any break will be needed.
If a break is built into the proceedings, it allows guests to freshen up, enjoy the venue's surroundings, spend time with their family and other guests, pop home and feed the dog, or enjoy any entertainment that has been laid on for them (the entertainment doesn't need to be anything expensive, it can be as simple as garden games or as elaborate as a string quartet).
A break of an hour to two hours should be sufficient. This allows guests long enough to take their time and relax, but not long enough to lose interest.
Wedding Timetable : Evening Reception
An evening reception, should one be taking place, normally begins around 7-8pm, although there are no set rules. If the same room is to be used for both the day and evening reception, the venue may well require some time to turn things around. With this in mind, it is always wise to speak to the on-site co-ordinator for guidance as this turnaround time will also need to be fatored into the timetable.
Wedding Timetbale : First Dance
The first dance typically kicks off the evening reception in style. The couple’s ‘song’ can be anything from a current chart hit to a golden oldies style waltz. Towards the end of this dance (for a second song) or half way through it, the Bride and Groom are usually joined on the dancefloor by their parents, the bridesmaids and the groomsmen.
Unless you are opting for one of Meatloaf's 15 minuite classics (and some people will!), then you only need to allow around 5 minutes for the first dance.
Wedding Timetable : Evening Reception Food
Typically, the food on the evening will take the form of a buffet or canapes served to the guests on platters. Whatever the preference, for any 'informal food' allow around 30 to 45 minutes in total - usually accompanied by background music.
Wedding Timetable : Last Orders
And all too soon your day will draw to a close. Some couples choose to depart in a blaze of glory in the middle of the celebrations, leaving with a group of angry ladies fighting over who won the tossed bouquet. Other will hate the thought of leaving a party before their guests and will stay right till the end.
Whatever your preference, every wedding has to finish sometime (boo!), so speak to the venue and find out when they will call last orders at the bar.
So now you know what you need to timetable, all you need to do now is to go ahead and do it! Luckily for you, we have developed a wonderful tool in the MyWeddingsday zone called 'Wedding Details' which allows you to do just that. If you haven't already signed up (for free!) then why not do it now by clicking here - as soon as you're signed up you can begin timetabling! (it's more fun than it sounds, we promise).
For those of you who want to know more about how to stick to the timetable you've developed, why not take a look at the article entitled Timetables and Toastmasters.
Related: There are hundreds of wedding articles on the site, each filled with superb ideas, advice and inspiration. Check out the links in the left hand column to read more. Alternatively, to search for a local wedding venue, product or service provider, try our Wedding Directory. With over 13,000 companies already listed, you're sure to find what you're looking for.