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Owning Your Wedding Day Timeline Like A Boss: Reception and Grand Exit

Your wedding day is winding down now and it’s time to party! There’s a number of things that can happen during the reception but it’s up to you to decide how you choose to plan for the events to occur. A sample reception timeline can look like this:

6:30pm Grand entrance (where wedding party and newlyweds are introduced to everyone in attendance)
6:45pm Dinner is served
7:30pm Toasts
7:45pm First dances (newlyweds, newlyweds with parents)
8:00pm Cake cutting
8:10pm Bouquet toss/garter toss
8:20pm Open dancing
11:00pm Grand exit

Not everyone will do each thing that is listed above. Some couples may opt out of doing a bouquet and/or garter toss, some may opt out of a grand exit. I’ve photographed a wedding where they didn’t do a bouquet toss or a garter toss, but they had a Whitney Houston and a Snoop Dogg impersonator perform instead(it was SOOO fun too, by the way). When planning out your reception here are a few things to consider:

What is important to you? This is your day. So it is important that you enjoy it by doing things throughout your day that are the most meaningful, significant, and representative of you and your spouse. As you plan for your wedding, you will see (or have already seen) that a lot of people will have opinions about how your day should go. If you don’t want to have a cake cutting, don’t let that opinionated auntie convince you otherwise! I have seen many couples incorporate culturally-specific elements (of their faith, nationality, etc.) into their wedding receptions, such as dancing the hora, including a mariachi band, and one bride decided to have her guests take turns hitting a piñata. And hey, maybe you might want to do a choreographed dance for your first dance!

How long is your photographer staying? Depending on how long your photographer is staying, you may not be getting photography coverage until the very end. Typically, when I am photographing a wedding, I leave about 15-20 minutes after open dancing begins. This is enough time to get all of your events covered during the reception and having the dancing covered. This way you would have everything that is important to you documented and save money in the process by not having your photographer stay for an extra 2 hours photographing a lot of the similar dancing shots that can easily be covered in about 20-30 minutes. If you have a very limited time with your photographer, you may want to shuffle your reception events around. For instance, if (according to the sample timeline above) your photography coverage ended at 8:00pm, you might want to do your first dances, cake cutting, and toasts as soon as the reception begins. That way, dinner will be in full swing by the time photography coverage ends so nothing will be missed.

Stage your grand exit. If you’re having a grand exit but wouldn’t want your photographer to stay until the very end, you can stage it! When staging your grand exit, you would have everyone line up with sparklers (or whatever you choose to have your guests to have in hand), and you would run through as though you’re leaving. But instead of leaving, you would just head back to your reception and resume your festivities. If your wedding reception is ending pretty late, it may be better to stage it anyway. By staging your grand exit earlier in your reception, you will ensure that a larger amount of your guests will participate and won’t miss out on the fun!


Hope you’ve enjoyed this Owning Your Wedding Timeline Like A Boss series and that it’s helped you with planning out your wedding day timeline. Stay tuned next week for more wedding planning resources!

For more wedding day tips, head on over to Wedding Planning Resources!

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