Wedding Reception Timelines

When it comes to planning the timeline of your reception, you may not be sure how to organize your timeline.  “This is my first wedding and I have no idea what to do.” We hear this time and time again. Please remember, hiring “high-end” wedding vendors will make your planning so much easier.  Music By Design is a wedding expert and is will help your event flow smoothly – your wedding reception should be a stress free time of enjoyment.

You will meet with the banquet captain and discuss your timeline with your DJ prior to your reception. Below is an example of a standard timeline. Please keep in mind, it is your event.  The following is merely a suggestion based on experience, and is in no way set in stone.  Your vendors are there to accommodate you provide the best experience possible.

Traditional Timeline

6:00 pm – Cocktail Hour Begins

6:50 pm – Guest seating

7:00 pm – Bridal party introductions

7:05 pm – Bride and groom cut cake

7:10 pm – Speeches & Toasts

7:25 pm – Blessing

7:30 pm – First course served

8:45 pm – Bride and groom’s first dance

8:50 pm – Bride and father dance

8:55 pm – Groom and mother dance

9:00 pm – Dance floor opens to all guests

10:00 pm – Bouquet Toss

10:05 pm – Garter removal

11:55 pm – Last dance

12:00 pm – Reception ends


Why cut your cake immediately after being introduced?

Cutting your cake immediately after being introduced is a good idea for several reasons. First, it allows the banquet hall to remove the cake early and begin slicing it for your guests in time for desert. Second, you already have the attention of everyone in the room immediately after being introduced. Third, the photographer has an opportunity to take your pictures before you begin eating. The groom may want to remove his jacket and roll up his sleeves for dinner. Taking the cake cutting pictures early ensures that you still look your best.

How many speeches should we have?

It is traditional to have two speakers, your maid/matron of honor and best man. We suggest that each speech be kept to a maximum of 5 minutes. By keeping speeches short and sweet, you retain the attention of your guests and assure that dinner is served on time and hot. It is recommended that all speeches be given before dinner is served. Having speeches given during food service can be distracting and draws attention away from the individual giving the speech. Your vendors will be flexible, just make sure you know in advance how many speeches will be given. Some family members may want to give “surprise” speeches.  Unless previously scheduled or given the green light by the bride and groom, your DJ will not give the microphone to guests that are not on the schedule. This ensures that your reception flows nicely and allows plenty of time for dinner service and all your other formalities.

What if the bride and groom wants to give a welcome speech?

Oftentimes, the bride and groom are compelled to thank everyone for coming. We recommend waiting until desert to do so.  Why wait?  First of all, it makes for quicker dinner service. The less speeches given before dinner, the faster the food is served, which makes for happy guests and happy vendors. Second, and more importantly, it gives you time to “soak it all in”. During dinner, you have a chance to look around the room and see all the people that made it out for your special day and think of what you really want to say in your speech. These speeches are generally brief, but heartfelt. “We’d like to thank everyone for coming to our reception….thanks to the Smith family for traveling from overseas….thank you to (bride’s family) thank you to (groom’s family)….enjoy the reception….see you on the dance floor.”

We want a video montage.  How long should it be and when should we play it?

It has become very popular to include a slideshow during wedding receptions. A slideshow is a nice way to display your love story to your guests and is sure to draw laughter and tears from those who love you the most. However, a sideshow that is too long can have an adverse affect and cause your guests to lose attention and interest. We recommend keeping your slideshow between 6-7 minutes long using roughly 100 photos. A good rule of thumb is 33 pictures of the bride, 33 pictures of the groom, and 15 to 20 pictures of the bride and groom as a couple. Selecting one song to be played over each segment provides theme music for each sequence and lends itself well to transitions. Plan on scheduling your slideshow immediately preceding the speeches or during desert. If you have a lot of speeches, definitely wait until desert.

We hope this information was helpful. If you have any questions or concerns, please consult Music By Design at 630.262.0432.

Personalize Your Reception

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of DJ’ing a wedding chalked full of personal touches that displayed the bride and groom’s outgoing, fun-loving personalities.

My Thoughts…When planning your wedding, do not worry about what other people expect or what is conventional. Don’t be afraid to add a little flair to your special day.

For starters, their first dance was choreographed to Ray LaMontagne’s “You are the Best Thing.” The groom twirled his bride around the dance floor and hammed it up for the guests. Everyone loved it. You could feel the energy in the room building as everyone anxiously awaited to see what was going to happen next… as the groom dipped the bride and I faded out the music and mixed in “Weapon of Choice” by Fatboy Slim. On the far side of the dance floor, the father of the bride began to move around slowly as if to break into dance at any minute as the song began to build. At the same time, the bride (on the other side of the dance floor) also began pacing the dance floor. After the 30 second intro, the father of the bride and the bride began dancing ala Christopher Walken in the “Weapon of Choice” music video. The room erupted with applause and I knew right away this was going to be a fun bunch. From here, we faded into the more traditional “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong as the groom and his mother joined the bride and father of the bride on the dance floor.

I was told ahead of time that the bride and groom and their friends had a lot of “song routines”. “You’ll see what we mean,” they said. I had no idea what I was in store for. First up, “Time Warp” from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, by special request from the bride. The entire dance floor filled as the song began and everyone took their place as if this was a well rehearsed Broadway show. Everyone in the room was grinning from ear to ear as they “performed” synchronized movements to the song. It was a blast!

Throughout the evening, the group continued to participate in other group dances, including a hilarious dance to The Pointer Sisters “Jump (For My Love) in which members of the bridal party took turns jumping into an imaginary double Dutch jump roping scenario. Again, it was a blast for everyone involved.

Because they planned a night that was customized to their specific tastes, the couple and all of their guests will definitely look back at that night as one they will never forget. They were not concerned about convention. They wanted to have a fun, memorable, and unique wedding reception and they most definitely did. I can honestly say that it was one of the most fun wedding receptions I have ever been a part of.

Grandmother Nails It

Venue: Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza on 7.25.09

The food was great! Outstanding views from the 15th floor reception hall.

As DJs, we see many different events and a few crazy things now and then. After looking at the job sheet for Saturday, I noticed the bride’s grandmother was scheduled to sing. The bride wanted the singing to take place after the mother/son dance and I was slightly concerned about how well this would go over. In the beginning of the evening, the grandmother stopped by the DJ booth to express how nervous she felt. When the time came, I gave her a proper introduction, and she calmly made her way to center stage on the dance floor. What happened next blew us all away. She started with a 5 minute heartfelt monologue that explained what she was singing and why. She was outstanding! Even before the singing began, she had the crowd laughing one minute and tearing up the next.

Finally, the singing began and she nailed it! The entire room was on the verge of tears and disbelief. Her singing was absolutely breathtaking. She finished and the room was mesmerized.  A split second of silence was followed by a standing ovation. The bride and groom (still in tears) met her halfway for hugs.

The rest of the evening was wonderful. The family was great and they danced all night long