Reception Timelines

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Every reception is different and it is important to remember that while timelines are useful planning tools, they are rarely exact. Some events may stray from their time lines due to longer speeches or maybe you want your guests to boogie on the dance floor longer. Here are a few timelines that we have found work well for a buffet reception when the ceremony is not in the same area.


I. First Dance after Meal

4:00 Catering Team Arrives and Begins Setup
6:00 Guests Arrive at Reception Venue
Cocktails and Hors d'oeuvres
6:50 Bride and Groom Arrive with Bridal Party and Mingle
7:15 Guests Are Invited to Take Their Seats for Dinner
7:20 One or Two Short Toasts
7:30 Bride & Groom Either Start Buffet or Are Served at the Head
Table and Immediate Family Starts Buffet
8:15 First Dance (followed by father/daughter dance, etc.)
9:00 Cake Cutting
9:30 Bouquet Toss
11:00 Music Ends/Guests Depart
12:00 Caterer Completes Cleanup and Departs
(eight hours of onsite labor)


II. First Dance Before Meal

4:00 Catering Team Arrives and Begins Setup
6:00 Guests Arrive at Reception Venue
Cocktails and Hors d'oeuvres
6:50 B&G and Bridal Party Arrive and Are Introduced
6:55 Toast(s)
7:05 First Dance
(dance floor is now "open" )
7:25 Guests Are Invited to Take Their Seats for Dinner
7:30 Bride & Groom Either Start Buffet or Are Served at the Head
Table and Immediate Family Starts Buffet
9:00 Cake Cutting
9:30 Bouquet Toss
11:00 Music Ends/Guests Depart
12:00 Caterer Completes Cleanup and Departs
(eight hours of onsite labor)


III. Shorter Time Line

4:00 Catering Team Arrives and Begins Setup
6:00 Guests Arrive at Reception Venue
Cocktail Hour and Hors d'oeuvres
6:50 Bride and Groom Arrive
6:55 One or Two Short Toasts
7:00 Guests Are Invited to Take Their Seats for Dinner
7:05 Bride & Groom Either Start Buffet or Are Served at the Head
Table while Immediate Family Starts Buffet
7:45 First Dance (followed by father/daughter dance, etc.)
8:30 Cake Cutting
9:00 Bouquet Toss
10:00 Music Ends/Guests Depart
11:00 Caterer Completes Cleanup and Departs
(seven hours of onsite labor)