Running order: 7 key moments during your wedding reception
Even if you’ve been to dozens of weddings, planning a wedding, especially your own, is an entirely different experience, and one of the most befuddling parts is figuring out the wedding reception’s running order.
Below is a very simple, seven-step guide to a very
traditional wedding reception and its order of events. Just remember, that modern couples have a lot more freedom and may want to flick the order around or just skip any of the steps they deem to be unnecessary or unwanted.
The receiving line
Receiving lines are a very traditional point in a wedding reception and, as mentioned above, are hardly mandatory these days.
Traditionally, a receiving line allows the parents of the bride and groom to welcome each guest as they enter the reception and to thank them for attending.
Sometimes, the bride and groom will also stand in line to welcome the guests as they arrive, however, this is a very traditional option and, typically, at modern weddings, the bride and groom will be off taking wedding photos with their bridal party between the ceremony and reception, so only the parents of the bride and groom and senior family members will be available.
Drinks, reception and photographs
Typically, after making it through the receiving line, guests have the chance to mingle with each other and enjoy a drink or two, usually champagne, as well as some nibbles.
Many guests will know each other but may not be seated together, so this is their chance to spend a little time with old friends and family before the official proceedings begin.
It’s also an excellent opportunity to gather all your guests together for a group photo while everyone is still looking their best.
If you keep an eye on the newlyweds’ movements, you can gather everyone together so that they’re ready to be ‘shot’ as soon as the couple arrives and, that way, you’ll get a shot with the newlyweds in it instead of one containing just the guests.
The wedding reception meal
Whether your wedding reception is a morning, afternoon or evening one, at a traditional wedding, you’ll all sit down and enjoy the newlyweds’ first meal together alongside them.
Guests will find out where they are seated via a seating plan or escort cards that they can pick up at the entrance to the reception centre or dining area.
Guests are usually seated first but they stand as the bridal party enters and, finally, the newlyweds enter and are introduced for the first time as a married couple.
Toasts and speeches
It is customary for the speeches to either follow the wedding meal though, sometimes, in order to avoid the constant clatter of knives and forks – or guests choking if the speeches are particularly amusing, they can be held between dinner and desert or spread out throughout the entire meal. There are usually three speeches, with toasts at the end of each.
Traditionally, the bride’s father makes the first speech, followed by the groom and, finally, the best man. These days, however, it could be the bride’s mother or the groom’s mother as well. Many brides will also make a speech as might the maid of honour.
The cutting of the cake
Traditionally, the cutting and sharing of a couple’s wedding cake symbolises their first act as husband and wife. Again, traditionally, they should cut the bottom layer of the cake with the groom’s hand placed over the bride’s on the knife. Then, the bride should feed the groom piece of cake first and he should return the favour.
Of course, today, whether it’s a heterosexual couple marrying or a same-sex couple, the newlyweds can choose who feeds whom first – or they could feed each other simultaneously.
Some couples choose to cut the cake early on during the wedding reception and then serve the cake as dessert, while others just take part in the cake cutting ceremony and then have the cake cut up for guests to take a piece home.
The first dance
Some couples opt to perform their first dance after the cake-cutting to get it over and done with, but traditionally, once the formalities of the wedding meal is over, the dancing can begin.
The bride and groom usually choose a song that means something to them and then, in front of all their friends and family, they dance it together for the first time as a married couple. After a while, the best man and maid of honour may join in part way with the mother and father of the bride and groom joining in too before the guests join them on the dancefloor.
Many modern couples take dance lessons in the run up to the wedding to make their first dance something truly spectacular and, with fewer couples wanting to hold a first dance, we’ve even seen a rise in the number of ‘mash-ups’ where the entire bridal party joins in for a bit of show dance.
After the first dance, the bride usually dances with her father, the groom’s father and the best man, while the groom dances with his mother, the bride’s mother and the maid of honour.
The big exit
Traditionally, couples left their wedding reception early enough to head off on their honeymoon or enjoy their wedding night together, however, with so many couples living together before marriage, many couples aren’t in such a rush and prefer to stay on to party with guests until the wee hours.
Some couples, however, still set off on honeymoon or to their hotel a few hours after their first dance, having changed into more comfortable travelling outfits.
Their transport would, traditionally, be adorned with tin cans and streamers and, of course, those words ‘Just married’, and, as they leave the reception venue, the bride would throw her bouquet in order for it to be caught by one of the single female guests.