wedding date on calendar

How to Schedule Your Wedding Reception Timeline in Four Easy Steps

In a previous post, we discussed the ins-and-outs of what a bride or groom needs to create the perfect wedding timeline. From booking your venue right down to the details of getting your marriage license, we cover every detail. But, we want to break it down even further by discussing the details of your wedding reception timeline.

Keep reading to learn some of the wedding trade’s top tips and secrets that we’ve gathered over the years for having the perfect wedding reception.

Step 1: Know Your Must-Haves

As your big day approaches—all the way up until you say, “I do”—you’re likely going to be a bundle of nerves and stress. Luckily, right after the ceremony is over, you get to eat, drink, and party the rest of the night away…assuming everything runs smoothly.

To make sure your reception runs with the least amount of hiccups and confusion, we always recommend first creating a list of any “must-have” events that need to happen following your ceremony. This could include (but is not limited to), the following:

  • Cocktail hour for your guests
  • Family/group photos with the photographer
  • Wedding party entrances
  • First dance with the newlyweds
  • Father/daughter and mother/son dances
  • Speeches from the bridal party
  • Dinner
  • Cake cutting
  • Garter and/or bouquet toss
  • Dollar dance and/or generational dance
  • Dancing
  • Sendoff

These are just a few of the typical events you may be considering during your wedding reception, but don’t feel obligated to have all (or any) of them. Choose only the ones that you feel are appropriate, that give you the least amount of stress, and that make you happy.

Step 2: Figure Out Time Constraints

One thing that a lot of couples forget about is the time constraints of your wedding day. For you, everything will go by in a complete blur, but your vendors and guests will tell you otherwise. You don’t want your guests sitting around for two hours while you take photos, but you also don’t want your photographer to leave before you have photos of everything you want to be captured.

First, you’ll want to make sure you know what time you need to wrap up the party at your wedding venue. Second, check with your vendors and see how long you have them scheduled so you can plan their arrival time accordingly. Once you know how long you have, you can start filling in the gaps of a rough wedding reception timeline.

Step 3: Create a Rough Outline

Now that you have a vague idea of what you’ll be doing during the day, it’s time to start filling in time slots. We recommend writing down all of the planned events you have first and then adding in the times as you go down the list. Here’s an example of a possible timeline you could use for your big day:

  • 10:00 am – 1:00 pm: Hair and Makeup
  • 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm: Getting Ready and/or Bridal Party Photos
  • 3:00 pm – 3:30 pm: Ceremony
  • 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm: Cocktail Hour and Photos
  • 4:45 pm – 5:15 pm: Entrances and First Dance and/or Family Dances
  • 5:15 pm – 6:15 pm: Dinner
  • 6:15 pm – 6:45 pm: Speeches and Cake Cutting/Dessert
  • 6:45 pm – 7:00 pm: Garter/Bouquet Toss and/or Dollar/Generational Dance
  • 7:00 pm – 9:45 pm: Dancing
  • 9:45 pm – 10:00 pm: Sendoff

Again, you don’t need to follow this timeline, but it can give you a general idea of how long everything will take. Even if your ceremony is only 15-20 minutes, we advise leaving buffer time in case there are any delays. That way, you’re not rushing through photos afterward or trying to cut off your photographer earlier than you intended.

Step 4: Be Flexible and Have Fun

The most important thing to remember is that no matter how your wedding day or reception goes, you’re still married to your best friend at the end of it. Your wedding reception timeline may get all out of order, and things may be a bit chaotic, but you’re surrounded by friends and family, which is what matters most.

If you’re still looking for the perfect venue for your reception, reach out to us here at Melhorn Manor! We’re proud to be the best barn wedding venue in Lancaster County, Pa. and we’re happy to host your ceremony and your reception. With three stunning historical barns to choose from, beautiful outdoor areas, modern amenities, parking, and more, Melhorn Manor is ready to help you start planning today.