If you have opted for a traditional wedding, you have really done yourself a favor. Traditional weddings are often easier to plan because they are filled with so much history. Couples have a lot of years of weddings to look back on to learn exactly what to do and when. Although this may not be for everyone, it can certainly make the planning stages a lot easier to navigate. The following timeline is often seen at traditional weddings, but couples can vary it within reason to make it their own without breaking the “traditional” mold.
Cocktail Hour – 00:00
The first thing guests expect to do after seeing the bride and groom tie the knot is settle in for some cocktails and other delicious drinks at the reception site. While they are busy chatting and enjoying themselves, you and your new husband or wife will likely be taking photos with the family. Depending on the logistics of the event, such as whether or not the ceremony and reception are taking place in the same location, the cocktail hour can begin immediately or be offset by a half hour or more to account for travel time. During the cocktail hour, or immediately following the ceremony, it is traditional for the couple and wedding party to form a receiving line to greet their guests. This is a big deal to a lot of guests and should not be forgotten.
Couple’s Arrival – 01:00
Since you will be gone during the cocktail hour, it is traditional for the guests to welcome you and your significant other to the reception as husband and wife. This is the grand entrance that many couples look forward to. If you have one, the coordinator will ensure that the guests are seated and notified of your arrival in enough time to not spoil the occasion. Both sets of parents and the wedding party are often introduced, followed by the introduction of the bride and groom. Once you have been announced, you may go directly to the dance floor for the first dance. Alternatively, some couples do wait until after the first course is served to begin the dancing.
Cheers – 01:30
Since all eyes will be on you immediately following the first dance, it is an opportune time to begin showing your appreciation for your guests. Take a few moments to thank everyone en masse for coming and celebrating with you on your special day. Next, a blessing may be given over the meal, depending on your faith. This is usually done by a parent of the bride. Following that, the mother and father of the bride often give their thanks to guests and invite them to take part in the meal. Other toasts given by the maid of honor and best man should be staggered between courses so that they don’t all come at once.
If you have not done so, toast time is the perfect opportunity to give your wedding party gifts for all their help in planning the wedding and making it happen. Simple gifts are often best. Many online photo printers offer customized wedding gifts like picture frames, magnets and mugs that would be the perfect thank-you for many in your party.
Dinner – 01:45
All courses of the dinner should be served no later than 2 hours after cocktails begin. This will keep guests from getting too hungry and less than pleased. If the meal is buffet-style, the coordinator or DJ will direct how guests at each table rotate to the front of the line. If the meal is seated, the wait staff will take care of bringing the food to guests. While it may be tempting for you to forgo dinner in order to avoid messing up your clothes or makeup, you won’t enjoy yourself very much if you are starving. So throw caution to the wind and eat all you’d like. It is your day!
Once dinner is cleared, newlyweds should head back out onto the dance floor to have some fun. Unless guests see the bride and groom go first, they aren’t likely to know that it is ok for them to dance, even if they want to. It is during this party time that cutting the cake, throwing the garter and other fun activities usually take place. Dancing should end four to five hours after cocktail hour, and should go out with a bang. Choose a last dance that will mean something to you and your husband or wife, and leave an impression on your guests.
Farewell – 5:00
Following the last dance, everyone should gather together to wish the new bride and groom good luck on their marriage. Guests usually gather into the foyer or outside on the steps to blow bubbles, toss rice or rose petals and cheer your beautiful future.
While everything may not go exactly as planned, or some of these suggestions may not work for your reception, the important thing is to make it your own. Only you and your future spouse can say what you want, so be sure to fill your special day with the activities you always want to remember.
Bryan Passanisi is online marketer and writer living in Redwood City, CA. He graduated from The University of San Francisco with his Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing. Bryan has managed a popular wedding blog and has created viral content. He currently is a blogger for Shutterfly.