Wedding Reception Order of Events: A Guide

The order of events for a wedding reception can be a confusing time, espeically if you haven’t been to a few weddings and paid attention to all the specifics. In this guide, we wanted to give a quick run through of the general & traditional order of events for wedding receptions.

The order of events for a wedding reception

Cocktail Hour

If you’re the bride, you generally won’t actually be there for the start of your wedding reception because you’ll be off getting photographed with your wedding party and/or family. Because of this, the wedding reception will usually start with what is known as ‘cocktail hour’. This lets your guests mingle with each other and have a few drinks while they wait for the night (or afternoon) to really kick off.

Wedding Party Arrivals 

After you and your wedding party have had all the wedding photography done, you will all then arrive at the reception venue. This is usually quite a show; it’s a showcase of a husband and wife being introduced as a married couple for the first time and usually involves some form of walk through by all members of the bridal party with you and your bride/groom coming in last to make your beautiful, grand entrance.


At this point in the wedding reception, after cocktail hour has concluded and you + your wedding party have arrived, traditionally speaking, this is when dinner is served (or sometimes lunch, depending on the wedding). The meal will vary wildly depending on what you and your partner have chosen. 

Toast Time

wedding guests toasting bride and groom

Next up are the toasts, and no, we don’t mean the breaded kind; throughout the course of (and after) the meal, key people at your wedding will give toasts. Traditionally, the best man and maid of honour will always make toasts that are then followed by you and your partner, possibly parents of yourself or your partner and maybe some other friends or family members. Speeches at wedding tend to run through a whole range of emotions in their own beautiful way, from funny moments to heartwarming words all the way down to, probably, some awkward speech-givers. It’s a fun time in the night and really builds up the vibe of love and togetherness that you’ll want at your wedding.

The First Dance/Dancing Time

After the dinner is complete and all of the toasts have been carried out, it’s time for a moment many brides have told us makes them most nervous; the first dance as a married couple in front of all your guests. This is the moment that really kicks off the dancing and partying for the night. After your first dance concludes, make sure your bridesmaids and groomsmen know it’s time to get the rest of the guests involved to kickstart the party of a lifetime on the dance floor!

One piece of advice we always give for making the first dance a less anxious or nervous experience is to just focus solely on your partner and block out the room. Be mindful of living in the moment of celebrating your love and forget the audience you’ll have for the next few minutes.

Entertainment Time

This is an optional and totally individualistic part of the wedding ceremony; for some brides this won’t even be a part of the ceremony or for others there could be specific traditional, religious or personal touches added here. An example might be bouquet tossing, garter tossing, something traditional that reflects your heritage, or even in the case of one of our real brides, fire breathing!

Cake Cutting

Towards the end of the reception, once the dance floor starts to calm down, it’s time for the cake cutting and dessert of some sort. This is the time where you and your partner will slice the cake together in front of your guests (possibly even smush some in each others face as tradition has tended to dictate) and share dessert with all the people at the wedding reception. 

The Final Exit

This marks the conclusion of your wedding ceremony and is the time for you and your husband or wife to exit the venue* and officially begin your marriage to one another. There are many ways couples might choose to signify this such as the guests lighting sparklers or showering the couple with rose petals. The list of options here is almost endless but you get the idea!

*some couples may ignore this and stay til the very end of the night, it’s really a personal choice for you and your partner to make.

We hope our quick run through of wedding receptions helps give you a clearer idea of the order of events for your night.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published