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The Wedding Reception:  Tips to Plan The Perfect Program

It’s time to relax, dance and celebrate!  Your wedding reception should be a BLAST! However, it’s important to make sure that you have your event well thought out. Every aspect of your reception affects the overall outline of the evening. The last thing you need to be worrying about is your timeline. Your coordinator, DJ and MC should take care of making sure that everything stays on schedule so that you can enjoy your night. Here are some tips that will help your wedding reception flow smoothly.

Wedding Reception table with dinnerware, flowers & glasses

Guest Consideration

Take your guests into consideration when planning your timeline. If you have a lot of elderly guests that will not be staying until the very end, make sure you schedule the cake cutting at a relatively early time so that they can be a part of it. Grandmas love seeing this sweet tradition!

Keep It Moving

Plan your wedding reception timeline in a way that will keep guests engaged and moving all night! Avoid long lulls between dinner and speeches starting. Let the people you’ve asked to give speeches know to keep theirs to a minimum. If speeches go on too long your guests may start to check out. Once speeches are over move into your first dances and any other events you’d like in your reception program. Hint: your photographer knows a thing or two about receptions as they have been to many! Don’t shy away from asking them for assistance. I tell my couples this: once the events in your reception program are complete the two of you are free to relax, party and enjoy your guests for the rest of the evening without being pulled away.

Make It Your Own

If you want to have a special dance with your grandparents, do it! Make your reception a reflection of who you are and don’t feel tied to traditions. Also, make sure you give your DJ or Band a “Do Not Play” list if there are some songs you really don’t want to hear during your reception!

Don’t Get Caught Up

Don’t stress about the formalities and details. Sure, details are pretty and fun to photograph, but they can steal the joy of the day if you get too caught up in them. Plan your centerpieces, welcome table, etc., well before the wedding date, and teach your coordinator or family friend how to set them up so that you aren’t even thinking about those things the day of!

Reception Coverage

If you haven’t purchased enough coverage time for your photography to last until the exit, that’s ok! When planning your timeline and would like some dancing shots I recommend at least one hour of dancing photographed. The guests who dance during the first hour will still be dancing in the third hour! One hour of dancing will be enough time to really capture the joy of your reception!  The timeline typically allows me to capture the first few songs of your guests dancing and enjoying themselves, but as mentioned above, if you would like more time additional coverage can be added.

Much like the ceremony, you have the freedom to make your reception your own! It’s your party; it should be exactly how you want it to be! Here is a list of some key events that happen often at receptions:

  • Wedding Party Introductions 
  • First Dance
  • Dad-Daughter Dance
  • Mother-Son Dance
  • Anniversary Dance
  • Money Dance
  • Traditional Religious Dances
  • Welcome by parents of the wedding couple
  • Blessing
  • Cake Cutting
  • Toasts
  • Bouquet and Garter Toss
  • Large group portraits with friends 
  • The exit of wedding couple

Remember – your coordinator, photographer, MC and DJ can help you set up the evening so that guests won’t leave early or experience long periods of waiting for the next moment to happen. Setting up your wedding reception so you can relax, enjoy, have fun and be present to celebrate this momentous day is priority!  

If you’re looking for other wedding day tips check out my blog posts on Creating an Intentional Wedding Day Timeline and The Beauty of an Unplugged Ceremony.

Wedding Reception table with dinnerware, flowers & glasses
Wedding Reception table with dinnerware, flowers & glasses
Blush pink ribboned Wedding candles on a ledge

Rentals: Special Event Rentals
Florals: Wascana Flower Shoppe

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meet the photographer Leah

Photographing and preserving your life moments is so joyful and I’m super honored every single time.  Documenting connection and moments over perfection is why I LOVE what I do.  I’m a dreamer and a storyteller.  Being creative and documenting your milestones is my passion.

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