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5 Reception Order Options

October 4, 2023


Almost everyone has attended a wedding with traditional order of events, however, there are actually 5 main options to choose from. Sometimes a factor in your reception order will be the venue. Because of catering timing or multiple events simultaneously, you may be required to have your reception in a specific order. Should you get to choose your reception progression, here are the 5 options outlined on the following diagram.

traditional order

The pink path indicates what I consider the “traditional” reception. The Bride and Groom are formally announced by the emcee into the reception. You go straight into your Newlywed Dance, followed by the Father/Daughter Dance, and lastly the Mother/Son Dance. Salad is then served and dinner follows immediately after. The toast and speeches started towards the end of dinner. Next, the dance floor is opened to guests and the party portion of the night begins. The cake cutting and garter/bouquet toss are done before the end of the night but appropriately set before photography leaves (if they are not hired through the end of the night). Lastly, if you are having a special exit (such as sparklers), the last song would be played in time to have guests line up for your exit.

guest eat sooner

The green path indicates the option where guests eat sooner, rather than waiting for all the formalities. Once you are announced into the reception, you go straight into the Newlywed Dance. Immediately after, salad is served. During salad you do the two parent dances. Next, everyone is served dinner. Then you follow the same path as traditional.

dance set before dinner

The dark blue path is one in which a dance set of 3 songs is played before dinner. This is a preferred choice for couples who have a live band. I’ve often used this order for Jewish weddings as well;  The Horah is played during the dance set. After entering the ballroom, you would do all the formal dances back-to-back before the dance set.

dance set mid courses

The light blue path places a dance set between salad and dinner. For venues or catering companies that need a little extra time to plate dinner, this option works well. After your newlywed dance, salad would be served before parent dances. Then, a dance set would be played before dinner.

toast before dinner

Lastly, the beige path moves toasts up to occur before dinner. This order is the same as traditional except the toast are done after salad is served. You may also do them before salad, however, serving salad ensures you don’t fall behind with the schedule should the speeches take longer than anticipated.

In conclusion, with 5 reception order options to choose from, you can customize your wedding night to unfold in a way that best suits your style. Additionally, I added notes to the diagram of other things for you to consider throughout the night. The most important thing I can mention is that toast should be limited to no more than 5 people max speaking total (anyone else can give a toast at your rehearsal dinner). Speeches should be kept to a limit of 5 minutes or less.

Cover Photo: Karen Willis Holmes

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