Wedding Reception Timeline Sample

March 23, 2012 3:14 am By Bands For Hire Crew 5 Comments »



Welcome to our FREE online wedding reception timeline sample! Our company, Bands For Hire Live! does over 300 wedding receptions each year in the 473 United States cities that we work in and we have decided to put up an online sample of a typical wedding reception timeline. There are two different types of wedding receptions, one where there is a live band, and one where there is a wedding DJ. We are going to provide a wedding reception timeline for each of those situations to help you plan the perfect night!


Wedding Reception Timeline – LIVE BAND

The exact times of your wedding reception timeline may differ from this one, but we have gone with a 5.5 hour wedding reception, as in our experience, 5 and a half hours is the perfect length. Any longer and your guests will tire and leave early. Do NOT stretch out your reception, keep it moving along nicely and swiftly and your wedding reception will be the talk of your friends and family for years to come!

Wedding reception timeline item #1 – 6:30pm – Guests Arrive, Cocktails – Band plays iPod background music (Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble, The Beatles, Instrumental jazz, light “bubbly” music to keep the party lively, but not too loud because people will be trying to talk.) It is NOT recommended that the band play live during cocktails or dinner as it will be too loud and people will want to talk, not dance, etc. Discard anything that you have seen on TV or in a movie, those bands in the background of those wedding receptions aren’t really playing, that’s why you can hear what the actors are saying. If someone were standing 20 feet away from a REAL live band, they would not be able to have a conversation comfortably. A lot of people have this misconception. Have the band play some nice light background music either on their iPod, or on an iPod that you provide for them to plug into their sound system. For more instructions on programming your own iPod for your wedding reception, please see our iPod Wedding Reception Programming Tips

Wedding reception timeline item #2 7pm – Bride and Groom arrive and are announced to the guests (sometimes this is done by the Best Man) – You may also choose to have the entire wedding party announced. If this is part of your wedding reception timeline then you will need to provide the MC or the band with a phonetically spelled out list of those in the wedding party and the order in which they will be announced. Be sure and word the introduction of the bride and groom EXACTLY as they want to be announced, i.e. “Ladies and Gentlemen, we present you Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Wilson”, etc.

Wedding reception timeline item #3 7:15pm – Cake Cutting Ceremony – The best time to cut the cake is NOT after dinner as most people think that it should be. The best time to cut the cake is IMMEDIATELY after the couple is introduced into the room, this way the attention is on the couple, and the couple has somewhere to go / and something to do after the applause from the audience dies down. Right after the applause, have your MC announce “and now ladies and gentlemen, the couple will cut the wedding cake, get your cameras ready!” This also helps the catering crew. This gives them time to get the cake into the back and get it cut up and ready to serve by the time dinner is over. They will love you for this idea!

Wedding reception timeline item #4 7:30pm – Dinner (usually this is announced by the Father or parent of the Bride) Keep dinner moving, and don’t let it last more than 1 hour TOPS as this will KILL your wedding reception if dinner is too long. While people are still finishing up, have your toasters approach the microphone and begin to make their toasts, this will keep the evening moving along.

Wedding reception timeline item #5 8:15pm – Toasts (Best Man, Maid of Honor, Parents, etc.) Be sure that your band has either a wireless microphone, or a nice microphone on a stand near the front of the stage for your toasters. A mic that they can hold in their hand is also preferable if they don’t want to use the mic stand. Have the toasters go up and introduce themselves to the band so that they can get them set up with the mic before they begin their toasts.

Wedding reception timeline item #6 8:30pm – Bride and Grooom First Dance – (If the band knows your first dance song have them play it live, if they don’t know the song that is NO BIG DEAL because it is nice to DJ the first dance song as the photographers are trying to move around and get good shots, etc.)

Wedding reception timeline item #7 8:35pm – Father of the Bride and Bride Dance – (optional – again, if the band knows the song have the band play live, if not, have them play the song on iPod)

Wedding reception timeline item #8 8:40pm – Mother of the Groom and Groom Dance – (optional – again, if the band knows the song have the band play live, if not, have them play the song on iPod)


NOTE: If you do not want to have separate songs for the father/bride and mother/groom dances, you can have the song start with the father/bride on the dance floor and then half way into the song invite the mother of the groom and groom to the dance floor to join. Just a cool idea that some couples are using today.

Wedding reception timeline item #9 8:45pm – Entire Bridal Party Dance – This part isn’t done as much anymore, but if you want a song just for the wedding party, have the band play it or DJ it here.

Wedding reception timeline item #10 8:50pm – Band Starts Immediately following the last of the “dances”.

Wedding reception timeline item #11 9:50pm – Band Break – Now it’s time for the Bouquet Toss / Garter Toss (optional) – Choose songs that you want the band to DJ for the bouquet / garter toss.

Wedding reception timeline item #12 10:15pm – Band’s Second Set

Wedding reception timeline item #13 11:45pm – Last Call, Bride and Groom Exit – some couples have guests line up outside with sparklers in a “send off line” for the bride and groom to walk down. Be creative 🙂

Say Goodnight and hear your friends and family tell you that they just attended the BEST wedding reception in history!

Now we come to our couples who are going to hire a DJ for their wedding reception. The wedding reception timeline for a DJ is similar to that of a live band except that obviously, all music played for the night will be from the DJ and no live music will be involved.

Wedding Reception Timeline Sample – DJ

6:30pm – Guests Arrive – Background Music – Cocktails

7:00pm – Bride and Groom arrive and are announced to the guests (pick out a fun song for your entrance!)

7:15pm – Cake Cutting Ceremony (go straight over to the cake after you are announced and walk in while you have everyone’s attention – this will give the caterers time to cut the cake and have it ready to serve later)

7:30pm – Dinner (sometimes a minister will say a blessing here) [SIDE NOTE] – An “Eat and Mingle” buffet style dinner is preferred over a “sit down” dinner because a sit down dinner tends to slow your party down and can make your guests “sluggish”.

8:15pm – Toasts (Best Man, Maid of Honor, Parents, etc.)

8:30pm – Bride and Grooom First Dance

8:35pm – Father of the Bride and Bride Dance – (optional)

8:40pm – Mother of the Groom and Groom Dance – (optional)

8:45pm – Entire Bridal Party Dance – (a song just for the bridal party can help “warm up” the dancefloor)

8:50pm – Upbeat Dance Music Starts Immediately following the last of the “dances”. A good trick is to have the entire Bridal Party on the dance floor when the fast music starts (see above where we played a special song just for the bridal party) this way there’s already people on the dance floor having a good time and it will be more comfortable for your other guests to join in – no one wants to be the first one on the dance floor!)

9:45pm – Bouquet Toss / Garter Toss (optional)

10:15pm – The Party Continues until LAST CALL / CLOSE

We hope that you found our FREE online wedding reception planner useful and we wish all of you a very happy and successful marriage!

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