The average wedding reception lasts five hours. Your budget, venue, and the local noise ordinance will decide if the party goes longer than that. Prior arrangements need to be made for the possibility of overtime or many venues and vendors will not extend the reception.
If you’re wedding day is starting early in the morning with make-up and hairstyle appointments, photographs, and other last-minute preparations…you may not want the reception to last more than five hours.
In order to maximize the time available at your reception, it is essential to create a “Tentative Schedule”. A “Tentative Schedule” will depict a general outline of how things will progress, within the five-hour time frame. It also allows you some flexibility, “IF” things don’t proceed exactly as planned.
I understand for some of you a “Tentative Schedule” is unfathomable. Everything that you plan always goes perfect, because you’re a perfectionist and failure is not an option. I understand, because I also prefer structure and strive for perfection. However, at a wedding reception, there are way too many variables that are either unforeseen or beyond your control.
Perhaps a relative, who was not scheduled to speak, suddenly requests the microphone? “Wow! I didn’t see that coming? How do I say no? I haven’t seen this person in years. I think…it’s ok? Sure DJ, no problem. Let ‘em have the microphone…”
Once the unscheduled speaker has everyone’s attention, they proceed to do a 20 minute stand-up comic routine about your childhood, entertaining everyone in the crowd, but also throwing off your entire schedule. At a wedding reception, things like this happen frequently. Accept that there’s a possibility of some contingency changes to your program that you did not foresee and…ENJOY the day!
Yes, a “Strict Schedule” is possible to implement…but if things don’t happen exactly as planned, you’re setting yourself up for a big disappointment. The most important thing on this day is the union of you and your spouse…not the Cake Cutting at 6:45pm.
Ultimately, you and your spouse will have to decide what activities will take precedence during the reception. Make a list of things that are important to both of you (1. eat a great meal 2. take photos with all my guests 3. dance into the night 4. introduce my family and the bridal party 5. toss the bouquet & garter, etc…). Compare your lists and see if there’s an area where you can save some time or omit things that aren’t essential to you.
Once you have selected your preferred activities, it’s time to set-up your schedule and choose someone to “run the show”. The obvious choice here is the DJ. They have the microphone and need to make all the announcements anyway. There’s a long list of potential candidates, however, who are all qualified to tell people what to do. The wedding coordinator, the caterer, the photographer, the venue manager, your best friend, and your mom all have an important role on this day… but only ONE person should be in charge of timing and events. Decide who will coordinate the schedule and then make sure everyone knows who that person is. Choose wisely, because everyone will have to defer to this person during the reception, and this reason alone may decide whether you’re maximizing time…or not.
There are 3 phases during the wedding reception schedule: The Cocktail Hour, The Meal, & The Party. Each phase has certain traditions which can be employed, depending on what’s important to you and your spouse. When deciding on what to do, keep in mind the demographics of your guests and the total attendance. A well planned reception will be enjoyable for your guests, as well as highlight your style and personality.
In my next post, I will discuss some suggestions for THE COCKTAIL HOUR.