Common Wedding Reception Format – Chronological List of Events
Arrival of guests at hall
Introduction of wedding party
Introduction of bride and groom
Bride & Groom’s First Dance
Father & Daughter’s Dance
Mother & Groom’s Dance
Bouquet and Garter
Dancing and Fun
Arrival of guests at reception site
Typically, a wedding lasts about 15 minutes. However, some guests do arrive early to the reception. Therefore, be sure all reception to-dos are complete by the start time of the wedding. Also, all wedding vendors should be wearing proper attire for early arriving and late staying guests. All tables should be set-up including cake table, entertainment’s table, Sign-in table, food tables, and tables with chairs for all guests. If you have a seating arrangement, all seating lists should be at the reception with everyone’s name with where they are sitting. Special Note: The receiving line can be held at the church or at the reception hall. Final formal pictures by the photographer will be followed by the receiving line. Some halls have a standard procedure they like to follow. Receiving lines can be as few as the bride and groom, parents, best man and maid/matron of honor or the formal receiving line in order of mother and father of the bride, mother and father of the groom, bride and groom, ushers and bridesmaids, special guests.
Introduction of Wedding Party
This step is not mandatory, but it is nice for everyone to know who the wedding party is as many have not met before your wedding. Create a “Reception Planning Guide” and give this to your master of ceremonies prior to your wedding. This details, among other things, the order of entrance into the reception site with their names and titles. The order of entrance is as follows: parents of the bride, parents of the groom, ushers with bridesmaids, flower girl and ring bearer, special guests, best man, maid/matron of honor, bride and groom. In addition, review the pronunciations of the wedding party’s names with the master of ceremonies.
Introduction of Bride and Groom
This is always the last of the introductions. Everyone should stand before the bride and groom enter. In addition, a special song can be arranged with the music entertainment and a special announcement made to punctuate a true grand entrance. Also, inform the master of ceremonies how you would like to be introduced: Mr. and Mrs. Smith or John and Jane Doe.
This is another step that is not mandatory, but for the religious couples makes a nice setting. If you invite the person who performed the marriage ceremony to the reception, I would recommend having them conduct the blessing. If they are not able to attend, a parent or family friend is a good idea. Lastly, the master of ceremonies could give the meal blessing. Be sure to communicate with whomever is giving the blessing in advance so they are prepared to give a personal touch.
It’s time to eat! Bride and Groom, be sure to stop and take a moment to eat. This may be your only chance in the day. In addition, it is customary for the bride and groom to start the food line. Most guests know to wait until the bride and groom start the food line. So don’t be late!
This is the traditional bride and groom making the first cut on their wedding cake. Then, the bride feeds half of the piece of cake to the groom and the groom feeds the remaining half to the bride. The cutting of the cake is a ceremony intended to symbolize the caring and sharing for one another. Forks may be used as they make the image very attractive for the photographer. Forks may also minimize the possibility of someone being hurt with the more playful squashing that sometimes happens.
The toast is when the bride and groom toast each other then interlock arms and drink. Immediately following, the best man and maid/matron of honor make toasts to the bridal couple. Be prepared for other family and friends to follow with their toasts too.
Bride & Groom First Dance
The Bride Groom Dance is the first dance between a bride and groom as a married couple. The dance is also commonly known as the “First Dance”. The timing of the bride groom dance can vary in the evening based on your preferences. The first dance can be done immediately following the grand entrance with the wedding party circling the dance floor or the bride groom dance can begin the chronological order of the formal dances with fun and dancing to follow. If you would like to see examples of bride groom dance songs.
Father & Daughter Dance
The Father Daughter Dance or the Father Bride Dance is the dance between the father(s) of the bride and the bride. Brides, if you have more than one father in your life, one can tap the other on the shoulder in the middle of the dance so you can dance with both of them. If you do not have a father, a common substitute is a father figure or even your brother would make a very nice gesture. Some bridal couples combine the father daughter dance with the mother groom dance into just one song to dance. If you would like to see examples of songs for the father daughter dance.
Mother & Groom Dance
The Mother Groom dance is the dance between the mother(s) of the groom and the groom. Grooms, if you have more than one mother in your life, one can tap the other on the shoulder in the middle of the dance so you can dance with both of them. If you do not have a mother, a common substitute is a mother figure or even your sister would make a very nice gesture. Some bridal couples combine the father daughter dance with the mother groom dance into just one song to dance. If you would like to see examples of songs for the mother groom dance.
There may be songs in your life that mean dear to your heart. You can ask the music entertainment to play these songs during the night or immediately following the formal dances. An example would be: If someone dear to you passed recently, you may ask the music entertainment to play Angels Among Us by Alabama.
Bouquet and Garter Toss
The traditional tossing of the bouquet is when the bride tosses the bridal bouquet to all single women in attendance. The woman whom catches the bouquet is said to be the next one to marry. Immediately following the bouquet tossing, a chair is set in the middle of the dance floor. The chair is for the bride to sit and the groom to remove the bride’s garter from her leg. The traditional tossing of the garter is when the groom tosses the bride’s garter to all the single men in attendance. The man whom catches the garter is said to be the next one to marry.
Dancing and Fun
This is what you pay the music entertainment to do…get people to dance and have a good time. Give the music entertainment an idea of what type of music you enjoy but don’t give them a list of 100 songs they need to play. However, you are allowed to set limitations on what they are not allowed to play. If you would like to give the music entertainment suggestions on what to play, see our Wedding Party Songs.
If you are the bride and groom, relax and have fun at the reception. This is your day! Murphy’s Law is that something will go wrong. Just take it in stride because once the wedding starts, you can’t change anything.
Matt loves listening to any music style he can understand the words. He lives in the wedding capital of the world, Las Vegas, with his wife Sharon. Matt's other likes include craft beer, baseball, and traveling.