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Wedding planning can be both thrilling and overwhelming, especially when it comes to orchestrating the perfect reception. As you dive into the details of organizing your own unforgettable day, take a look at our sample wedding reception timeline below as a helpful starting point. Remember, every love story is unique, so every celebration should be as well! Use this timeline as inspiration or as a foundation to build on as you add your own personal touches. Work with your wedding planner to craft a reception timeline that meshes best with your vision, so that your special day unfolds just as you've dreamed!


1 HOUR: Depending on the logistics of your wedding, cocktail hour

typically begins immediately following the ceremony if your event is at

the same venue. Add travel time needed to reach the reception if it's at a

different location.


15 MINS: Guests are invited to take their seats for dinner.


10 MINS: The newlyweds are formally introduced to wedding guests.

Some couples opt to precede their entrance by introducing family or

wedding party members.


5 MINS: Keep the energy high by transitioning straight into your first

dance with your new spouse! You can choose to dance for an entire song

or ask your band or DJ to fade out about two minutes in.


5 MINS: Family members, often the parents of the couple, or the 

couple themselves, offer a reception welcome toast, thanking 

guests and inviting everyone to enjoy the meal.


45 MINS: Typically, dinner will last about 45 minutes, depending on the

meal service style you choose.


10 MINS: In between courses, wedding party members 

are usually invited to say a few words.


10 MINS: If you opt for a cake, this tasty event can be after the first dance if it 

needs to be plated for your guests or shortly after dinner if it is a self-serve station.

For more wedding planning help, download our interactive Planning Companion!