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  • Writer's pictureChris Minor

Creating Your Dream Wedding Reception Timeline: Do's and Dont's

A lot of our clients ask us what a "typical" wedding timeline should look like. Let's take a look at a one of the most popular timelines our clients have gone with over the years!

paper organizer with pen and cherry blossoms


(5pm - 1am)

This timeline will come as no surprise to anyone who has attended a wedding in the last 20 years. We have added in a few of our own recommendations to class it up Vegas Entertainment style.

cocktail hour

5pm - Cocktails Start - Typically this spans the first hour of your reception.

DO's - Background music is important to set the mood. If your cocktails time is longer than an hour we highly recommend the following; Adding appetizers to help soak up some of that alcohol and either a photo booth and/or some lawn games for your guests to interact with.

DONT's - It is not recommended to have a longer than 2 hour cocktail time. This tends to happen on acreages, camping sites, and out of town recreation halls where there is an early ceremony and a long break until the reception start with no where for your guests to go in between. In this case, consider offering water, juice, pop and snacks leading up to the cocktail start time for refreshments.

Note: Longer cocktail hours open the door to messier late night hour behavior, property damage and people possibly leaving your event early. Yes, it is up to the individual to party responsibly however, some forethought into the timeline can help cultivate a better late night outcome.

grand entrance

6pm - Grand Entrance - Your grand entrance is where people get to formally welcome you and your bridal party, basically receiving you to your reception.

DO's - We strongly recommend choosing an upbeat song to excite your guests for the night to come. They just sat through an hour of cocktail music, give them something to raise their heart rate a bit! We also recommend that you have your DJ make the announcement. Our DJs are professionally trained to deliver an energetic entrance that get people to their feet and welcoming you the way you should be welcomed to your reception!

PRO TIP - Spice this up with some of our Cold Sparklers to really wow your guests!

DONT's - It is not recommended to double up your bridal party introductions with the grand entrance. The main reason is the volume. Most won't hear everything over the applause and the music. If you want to have everyone in the bridal party announced by name it is better to have them come in to their own song so there can be a break to announce them. Even better is to do a formal bridal party introduction in the next section (general announcements). This ensures that they get a proper welcome and acknowledgement for their contributions to the couple.

PRO TIP -Some couples choose to do their first dance right after their grand entrance. This is fine so long as you are not doing any other special dances later. If you are, you want to start those off with your first dance. We recommend you hold off on your first dance until after cake cutting. This will bring everyone to the dancefloor and allow your DJ to capitalize on that fact when the dance starts. It is much easier to fold people onto the dancefloor when they are already there, than try and pull them to the dancefloor.

emcee announcements

6pm - 6:15pm - General Announcements - This is typically where the Emcee will take over for the next little bit.

DO's - Housekeeping announcements. Many Emcee's will try and do this right before a grand entrance. While it's not wrong, it's not great. Going from boring housekeeping announcements to a grand entrance is like trying to go from 0-100mph. Once the grand entrance is done the announcements allow your guests to settle back in and prepare for dinner.

Housekeeping is where things like, clinking glasses to kiss should be addressed (if that isn't something you want to happen, because it will). I personally like to let it happen once as a freebie, then lay out the rules of how to get the couple to kiss after that.

PRO TIP - Bridal party introductions - This is a great time to introduce the people you chose to stand for you on your special day and give them the proper time and attention they deserve!

DONT's - People sometimes like to sneak the speeches in with the announcements to get them over with, or get them out of the way. Especially if there is only a few to do. Now is not the time for speeches. Keep the announcements and introductions short and brief, your people are hungry. Well fed guests are happy guests!

dinner table with dishes

6:15pm - 7:30pm - Dinner - Time to Eat! Whether plated, buffet or family style there are certain things you do and don't do during dinner.

DO's - Have nice soft background music playing to create ambience. If dinner is buffet style have the DJ or Emcee call up tables to eat.

It is proper wedding etiquette for the head table to be served/called first, followed by the parents tables and then tables with small children.

PRO TIP - Plated dinners will always take longer than buffet and family style. Add at least another 45 - 60 minutes to your timeline for a plated dinner offering.

DONT's - Lot's of people want to make the process of calling up tables for buffet fun for their guests. This is fine however it should not feel like they have to work for their food. Things like name that tune, or the item game are fun. Things like couple trivia (unless every single person in the room knows the couple really well) might have some tables patiently waiting for their turn in last place. The safest bet is to just randomly pick numbers out of a hat.

Another thing couple's often do is work speeches into dinner. Don't do this. Let your guests enjoy socializing and eating their meal. Not to mention, let your Emcee and the people making the speeches eat! It can be difficult to focus on enjoying the meal you have provided your guests when they are now required to focus their attention else where, over and over again. Some may argue that during dessert in a plated service is acceptable because of the added time plated adds to the timeline. I would argue back that starting speeches before tables are cleared, require servers to clear the tables during the speeches. This can distract from the speeches and the heartfelt messages the people giving speeches are wanting to convey.

As the head table eats first, they are typically done first. Rather than start speeches, go around and visit with tables that are finished their meals. Remember, your guests haven't actually spent any time with you yet! Typically they see you walk down the aisle, get married, leave for photos, walk into the room and sit down to eat. Use this time to visit!

speech salute with glasses

7:45pm - 8:30pm - Speeches - Speeches and slideshows are highlights of the traditional wedding. They allow people in different areas of your lives to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences with those in attendance. These often elicit a wide range of emotions and bring everyone that much closer together.

DO's - Give your guests about a 10-15 minute heads-up to grab a drink, smoke, use the restroom, etc. to prepare for speeches. This can be done as dinner service is being cleared from the tables. This is also when the slideshow can be set-up and/or tested so the transition is smooth.

We recommend having people write down and time their speeches. Standard rule of thumb is to keep it under 5 minutes (or as long as the groom lasts in the bedroom... btw groomsmen this is no longer funny and the 1990s would like their joke back).

Writing down and timing the speech prevents long winded rants, losing track of the point and embarrassing over-sharing. It's also a good idea to have a backup of the speech as you'd be surprised how many people lose their speeches and have to "wing-it".

DONT's - Do not let people "wing-it". When I hear someone start with the phrase, "I was going to write something out but I decided to just wing-it" or "I lost my speech so I'm just going to wing-it". I sit up straight and am at full attention because the likeliness of a train wreck is high. Super entertaining for me, not so much for you and your guests.

The desire to let people share a story or advice for the newlyweds open-mic style is great in theory, not so much in reality. I'm not saying it's always bad, however add some alcohol, someone who thinks they have a great story, piece of advice or something really funny gets up, goes deer in the headlights because now everyone is looking at them, then tries to push through it anyways... never ends well. The only time this is well received is when a small child gets up and says something cute, that is adorable. To be honest, in most cases it's literal crickets, where no one comes up and that time just becomes really awkward.

The last speech of the night should always be the Bride and Groom's thank you speech. As with everyone else, write it out so as not to forget anyone.

PRO TIP - If there is a presentation style slideshow the Bride and Groom thank you speech should come after. Presentation slideshows often introduce you as individuals and then as a couple to your guests. Doing your speech after allows your guests to hold onto those images and memories while receiving your thanks.


Slideshows - Slide shows can be done in 2 ways; Silent with pictures that display non-stop throughout the reception, or as a presentation with music.

DO's - Lower the lights so the images can be seen clearly. Use high quality images whenever possible. For presentation style slideshows embed music into the slideshow and equalize the songs you use. Embedding music prevents the need for the DJ to have the songs and time the songs correctly to match the slideshow. If you can skip a step or eliminate a potential challenge it is always best to do so. Normalizing/equalizing makes it so that when one song ends and the other begins there isn't a huge change in volume.

PRO TIP - Your DJ should be able to mash songs up for you to use if you need. Best to do this before hand and embed the mashup than try and have the DJ and some person try and "press play at the same time" night of.

Bring a backup of the slideshow on a USB key. Test the slideshow and sound before running a presentation slideshow. Make sure you have all the adapters you need to get from the laptop to the projector and sound system.

DONT's - Don't stress if it doesn't work right off the bat. Sometimes the projector or the laptop will go to sleep, or someone unplugs a cord. Have the Emcee ready with a story or something to kill a few minutes while everything gets sorted out.

part of a stop watch

8:30pm - 8:45pm - Quick break - This break is often never taken and highly under rated for all it achieves.

DO's - Have the Emcee announce a small break to once again, fill glasses, smoke and use the restroom. This is a fantastic time for both the Bride and Groom to get put together for their cake cutting, and first dance pictures. It also provides time for the DJ to prepare the songs and get the microphone back from the Emcee if they are using our system. This time is well spent in allowing the photographer to setup lighting and flashes needed for the next events too.

PRO TIP - Make sure there is a knife, plates and all you need to do your cake cutting. You would be surprised at how often couples get to the cake table, surrounded by all their guests only to realize their is no knife.

Move this break to after cake cutting if you are planning on doing some face cake smashing!

DONT's - Don't rush things. The day is already going to go by in a blink of an eye and become a blur of events and people. Slow down!

wedding cake

8:45pm - Cake Cutting/First dances

DO's - Stand facing your guests and the room. Cut cake, place on plate. Typically the Groom will go first and feed the cake to his Bride, then reverse. Remember to go slow and pause for photos. Do all of this in super slow-motion and it'll be a highlight rather than formality.

So long as there is no cake smashes to the face, proceed right into the first dances and let these events roll nice and smoothly into one another! This is a natural progression moving your guests from one location to another and building anticipation for what's next along the way!

DONT's - Being the center of attention and in the "spotlight" is an issue for some people. This tends to lead them to cut their dances short. Nothing wrong with it, however we strongly suggest you ask your photographer how long they would like to take the shots you are paying them to take. Cutting your first dance down to 2 minutes without letting them know might feel comfortable in the moment yet cost you in the long run. Endure, lose yourself in the moment and each other and you will be rewarded when you see those photos!

PRO TIP - Take some dance lessons to choreograph your dances! Hard to be focusing on all those eyes on you when you are too busy focusing on your sweet dance moves! Not for you? That's ok. Remember those Cold Sparklers from the grand entrance? This is a fantastic time to use them and avert attention away from you! Not to mention they make for some amazing pictures!

bride leading  conga line

9pm - Dance Start! - Party time! Time to get loose! You only have 1 more thing that requires your attention and it's totally optional anyways!

DO's - Turn the lights down low! Get your bridal party out on the dance floor and lead by example. Visit the dance floor often! Keep the dance to under 4 hours!! 4 hours should be considered the maximum with 3-3.5 hours as ideal. The less time the dance is, the more hits can be played back to back with less filler in the sets.

PRO TIP - When possible, have the bar in the same room as the dancefloor. Bars in other areas of the venue like another room, or the foyer is oftentimes a dancefloor killer. Fighting to pull people away from the bar is the game your DJ will be playing all night with themselves. We understand that sometimes it cannot be helped, however this limitation should be understood as a possible negative impact to your dancefloor numbers. Until the bar closes that is, then it's always all hands on deck!

Be specific with your song requests and do-not plays. Requesting genres or generic labels such as "club music" is only going to create confusion as that is a subjective label. Likewise saying "no cheesy wedding music" is again subjective to the individual. I say YMCA, you say no. I say Sweet Caroline, you say yes. Now I am confused.

Always give your DJ a playlist. Even if it only consists of a handful of songs. The more information we can get about the flavor of music and vibe you want, the easier it is for us to expand upon it.

DONT's - Avoid planning events during the dance that will kill the energy and/or the dancefloor. Events that require the music to stop, leave the dancefloor, or the room entirely, give people the opportunity to evacuate the dancefloor. The only thing that should happen during the dance (if possible) is the bouquet and garter, as these are dancefloor fillers, not killers. While sometimes these things cannot be helped, just know your DJ must now re-build their dancefloor which in some cases they may have just gotten done doing, only to have to do it all over again. There is nothing worse than sabotaging your DJ unknowingly.

bride throwing a bouquet

10pm - Bouquet/Garter - The bouquet and garter toss mark the end of the traditional formalities of the wedding reception. We recommend doing these for several reasons.

DO's - Just do it!

Don't have a lot of single guests? No problem! Just get all the girls and all the guys out onto the dancefloor.

PRO TIP - Think the garter removal is embarrassing? Just do the garter toss!

The bouquet and garter is the pivot point of the evening especially for the older folks. After this is done, it allows them the opportunity to bow out if they would like. That said, it does keep them and others at your event longer given the promise that the bouquet and garter are still coming up. Tricky I know, but we like stacking the deck in our favor! Let's be real, you put a lot of time, money and effort into your wedding, let's make it so people can celebrate with you for as long as possible! We all just spent 2 years at home, what's another hour! Give them something to look forward to!

DONT's - Brides... Do your partner a favor if you are doing a garter retrieval; Take your shoes off. It is so impossibly hard to get a garter over a heel, especially blindfolded, no-hands, teeth only (which is how a garter should be taken off btw)!

man holding a hamburger

11:30pm - Late Lunch

DO's - Never a bad idea to feed your guests something to soak up all that alcohol!

DONT's - Don't forget to have someone tell the DJ to make this announcement. You would be surprised how often this doesn't happen.

upside down glasses

12:30pm - Last Call - This is typically 30-45 minutes before the end of the event.

DO's - Have your DJ announce this a couple times. Prepare for a dancefloor exodus and bar backup.

DONT's - It's last call, so long as you announce it there isn't really any dont's here.

taxi light

1am - Event End - You don't have to go home, but you cant stay here!

DO's - Always, make multiple announcements about not drinking and driving. Good places for these announcements are during housekeeping announcements, Bride and Groom thank you speech, after bouquet and garter, last call, and finally at the end of the dance. Having taxi and ride share numbers available, taxi chits, or even supplying a shuttle service to your guests is something many Bride's and Groom's will do as well. Just be sure your DJ knows the pick-up schedule for the shuttle so they can announce it.

PRO TIP - During housekeeping announcements let your guests know if they can leave their cars at the venue and when they can come grab them the day after.

DONT's - DO NOT let your guests drive home intoxicated. People need to be looking out for one another. In most cases your guests will come up to you to wish you well, congratulate you again and tell you that they are leaving. This is a perfect time to check how they are getting home and remind them that they can get a cab, Uber, or ride share if they need. That simple question and level of care could make all the difference.

vegas entertainment vinyl logo


We have seen some very unique timelines over the many years. Some to the point that not a single moment went by where something wasn't happening. 2021 and 2022 were great examples of this as couples had a lot of extra time to plan and add to their event. In some cases it went really well, in other cases, not so much. A good timeline balances the necessities, entertainment and free time for yourselves to enjoy your event and connect with your guests. Slow down. Take time to enjoy the moments throughout the day and evening. You will be thankful that you did.

I hope this article and our expertise helps you create a wedding timeline to one of the best days of your life! If you would like Vegas Entertainment to help turn your day from memorable to unforgettable, just fill out the contact form at the bottom of our home page and let us know!


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