The reception can be the hardest thing to plan for your wedding day. There are so many different components to coordinate that it’s hard not to just give up! The most important part is to know what is to take place when. I’ve been to a lot of weddings, so I went ahead and put together an order of events based off of what I have seen:
1. The Cocktail Hour
After being officially pronounced husband and wife, the newlyweds are often to be the first ones to leave the wedding ceremony. Usually, they leave with their wedding party to take pictures the partying and dancing begins. Guests will either remain at the same location as the ceremony, or head to the reception location for cocktails. Depending on the logistics of the event, your cocktail hour will begin immediately (if the ceremony and reception are held at the same venue). Cocktails will be the start of the reception and typically last an hour. During this time, the staff will have stationary food available, or they will walk around with trays of appetizers and drinks, while the guest mingle. Don”t forget: Greeting your guests is key! It’s custom for the newlyweds—along with their parents and the wedding party—to form a receiving line outside of the ceremony site to greet guests. Many couples these days opt for this post-ceremony receiving line, rather than going from table to table during dinner.
2. Bride and Groom’s Arrival & First Dance
Here is one of my favorite parts of a reception. This is where the bride and groom make their entrance. As the Master of Ceremonies, I will make an announcement to ensure that all guests are seated. Generally, both sets of parents and the wedding party are introduced, followed by the bride and groom being introduced for the first time as husband and wife. In many cases, the newlywed’s first dance will begin as they enter the dance floor after being announced. Alternately, you can wait until after lunch or dinner, but since everyone is already cheering as the bride and groom enter the reception, the applause can be used as encouragement to eliminate any shyness they may have over being the center of attention.
3. Toasts & Speeches
Following the first dance, the bride and groom might want to take the opportunity—while the attention is focused on them—to thank everyone en masse for taking part in the wedding celebration. A family member, typically a parent of either the bride or groom, will say a say something. Then the mother and father of the bride will thank guests for attending and invite guests to enjoy the celebratory meal. Keep in mind that the toasts that are given by the best man and the maid/matron of honor should occur between courses, to spread out all the high-emotion and anticipated moments, and to keep guests in their seats.
Time to enjoy the main course. If there is a seated meal, I will have a playlist put together based off the music choices of the bride and groom. The playlist will be conversation-friendly, background music so no one has to yell to be heard as the staff makes their rounds. If you are having a buffet, as the Master of Ceremonies and DJ, I will coordinate with the catering staff and release the tables individually to make sure there is a constant flow through the buffet line. The bride and groom will be served individually at their head table or sweetheart table.
5. Let the Dancing Begin
Once dinner dishes are cleared, the newlyweds should be the first ones on the dance floor ,so guests know it’s time to start partying. Using the music choices provided by the bride and groom, and requests from guests, I will customize a dance set making sure everyone makes their way to the dance floor and continues dancing until the next event (cake cutting ceremony, bouquet toss, removal of the garter, centerpiece giveaway, or whatever else that was scheduled). If you choose to do the bouquet toss, make sure that there is toss bouquet provided by your florist so you can keep the original as a memento.
6. Last Dance
End your wedding on a high note and choose a dance song that will leave an impression. There are so many song choices that make for a good final dance, but there is also the option to end the evening by playing the bride and groom’s first dance song one more time.
7. Final Farewell
Now the time has come to say good-bye. There are a few ways that this can be done to include all remaining guests. As the Master of Ceremonies, I will make the announcement to invite guests to the foyer or to the main entrance (outdoors), so the bride and groom can make their grand exit using rose pedals, bubbles, and/or sparklers. At this point guests will cheer for their successful future together.
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