Expert Advice
September 15, 2022

Your Wedding Reception Timeline: An Easy Guide to Follow

Let’s find out from wedding experts in Baltimore, The Smokehouse Grill, what your wedding reception timeline needs to include.

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Weddings are full of memorable moments, from getting ready surrounded by friends and family to heartfelt ceremonies. But the wedding reception is the most enjoyable part of the wedding day; you get to relax and celebrate with your loved ones. But time is precious during your wedding day; everything will fly by. That’s why it’s critical to plan your reception timeline so you can savor every moment.

Let’s find out from wedding experts in Baltimore, The Smokehouse Grill, what your wedding reception timeline needs to include.

Start With the Basics

Depending on the number of hours you have for your wedding reception, you can customize your activities. Begin by clearly outlining the total time allotted for the entire reception. Some wedding venues offer six, eight, or 10-hour rental options. Traditional wedding receptions have a similar flow, so here are the central moments to consider. 

Cocktail Hour - One Hour

Cocktail hour is a great time for guests to catch up with friends and family, take photos, and enjoy a cocktail (or two!). The Smokehouse grill has several liquor and beer packages to choose from to ensure the bar is fully stocked with plenty of options. Depending on the logistics of your ceremony and photos, the cocktail hour might come right after your ceremony if the reception is happening at the same location. If guests must move from the ceremony site to a different place for the reception, then cocktail hour could start about an hour or two later. 

As the name suggests, this part of the evening typically lasts one hour. If you had photos before your ceremony or a first look, you and your partner could enjoy cocktail hour amongst your guests. For other couples, it could be an hour to take photos and catch golden hour for some fantastic wedding photo opportunities. 

Guests Take Their Seats - 15 - 30 Minutes

Just before cocktail hour is over, your guests will receive an invitation to take their seats at the reception. You will need a seating chart displayed, and tables numbered or named so that your guests can find their seats easily. You’ll want to allocate at least 10 minutes to allow guests to make their way to their seats. 

Grand Entrance - 15 Minutes

The moment you’ve been dreaming of is here! Entering the ceremony, announced for the first time as husband and wife. The duration of the grand entrance depends on what songs you choose and how you want to present your bridal party. Between allocating time for the bridal party to line up and for the actual entrance itself, fifteen minutes is a safe bet for the grand entrance. 

First Dance - 5 Minutes

Give everyone a tissue because tears will roll as you and your partner take the dance floor to enjoy your first dance as a married couple. Pick your first dance song and let your DJ or live band know in advance, and allocate five minutes for the first dance.

Cake Cutting - 5 Minutes

Some couples may choose to remove this from the evening, but this can be a fun way to kick off the night in the spirit of the cake-cutting tradition (and maybe even sneaking in smashing cake in your partner's face!).

Speeches - 15 Minutes

One of the most emotional moments of the evening is when loved ones of the bride and groom, most often the father of the bride and the Best Man and Maid of Honor, give speeches. Check with these individuals in advance so you can plan this part of the timeline accordingly. Pro tip - encourage them to keep their speeches on the shorter side, so you don’t lose the audience's attention. There is a way to deliver a heartfelt speech without overstaying your welcome! 

Dinner - One Hour 

After all the teary moments, you and your guests are ready to have dinner, which will last anything from 45 minutes to an hour, depending on your chosen style. If you wish to save time, a three-course dinner is your best choice, especially if you consider catering in Maryland options. For buffet-style dinners, we advise placing signs at the beginning of the line and on each dish so the line moves faster and everyone knows what’s in each dish.

Parent Dances - 10 minutes

Another picture-perfect moment is when you both dance with your parents. You can pick a meaningful song for such an emotional dance or switch dance partners to have a moment with your mother and father-in-law. 

Dance Floor Opens - 2 hours

After parent dances, since everyone's attention is set on the dancefloor and you are already dancing, what better moment to open the party? Ask your DJ or live band to change the mood from a sweet parent dance to a full-on party mode to pack the dancefloor. 

Bouquet and Garter Toss - 10 minutes 

Take a break from dancing and gather everyone to do the bouquet and garter toss, a couple of traditions many want to keep. Remember, this isn't necessary; you won't break the dancing mood if you wish to skip it. 

Last Song - 5 Minutes

Have you ever been to a party where they turned the lights on and shut the music while you were still having a blast? Not cool, right? If you want your wedding to leave the most remarkable impression on your guest, pick a song to end the night so that no one will resist dancing. 

Grand Exit - 10 Minutes

After that last dance, it is time to head out and say farewell to the newlyweds. Your wedding coordinator should let everyone know it is time to form a line and see how your head off to a happily ever after. You can give them sparks, bubbles, or confetti to throw that will make for memorable photo opportunities. 

We hope this guide gives you a clear roadmap of how much time to allocate for each special moment your reception will hold. Make a timeline to enjoy what you treasure the most since there are no written wedding rules; the most important elements of your reception are the memories you as a couple cherish. 

If you are looking for catering in Maryland to help take your wedding reception to the next level, look no further than The Smokehouse Grill. We’ll help you customize your venue for your guests and help you design your ideal menu and reception. Contact The Smokehouse Grill today to learn more about our rental and catering options. 

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