Wedding Reception Idea in Melbourne

What should happen in a wedding reception?

Like snowflakes or fingerprints, all wedding receptions are unique. But traditionally, some combination of the below happens. If you've been to even one wedding before, you already know all of this stuff and can probably skip this outline. Wedding newbs only beyond this point.


"You may now kiss the bride!"


There is no doubt a wedding ceremony is unforgettable. But what happens after the service is over? The reception! Usually, the wedding planner, MC or venue manager is in charge of keeping things in order. For this reason, providing them with a wedding reception timeline is a must.

Check out our post on Wedding Reception Venue Selection

We've included a five-hour reception timeline and answered seven typical reception and party questions to keep your unforgettable night running smoothly. 


While there are no set rules or procedures for wedding receptions, many do follow a traditional formula. If you've been invited to a wedding but don't know what to expect from the host, check out this overview of what is likely to happen at a "typical" wedding reception. Even if the event you are attending is informal or avant-garde, chances are at least some of the following components will be involved.


Want your wedding reception to be both memorable and stress-free, but don't know the first thing about throwing a good party? The crucial thing for hosting a fabulous wedding celebration is knowing what's supposed to happen when. Here's a handy wedding reception timeline, based on a traditional cocktail hour and a four-hour reception, to give you an hour-by-hour guide to the day's post ceremonial events.


When it comes down to it, your wedding reception is one of the most significant parts of your wedding night. Having a set timeline to stick to will ensure that you and your guests get the best possible experience to make it a night you won't forget! Here is a sample wedding reception timeline and some other helpful tips to get the party started.


The key to a smooth reception is a carefully planned timetable. Use these sample reception rundowns as a guide to your wedding celebration. You can shift these timings up or down, depending on what time your wedding ceremony is, and if it's in a different location to the reception.


When you've finalised your sequence of events, make sure your caterer, photographer and entertainers have a copy of it too. Your chief bridesmaid, best man and other members of the wedding party, can help everyone stick to the schedule while your guests – and most important of all, you and your new spouse – simply have a great time and let everything fall into place.

Check out Boutique events group Wedding Venue for your ultimate wedding reception.

Some guests arrive early at the reception. So be sure all reception to-dos are complete by the time your wedding's scheduled to start. Also, all wedding vendors should be suited up in proper attire for early and lingering guests. All tables should be set up, including the cake table, the entertainment's table, the sign-in table, food tables, and tables with chairs for all guests. If you have a seating arrangement, all seating lists should be at the reception with everyone's name indicating where they sit.

Order Of Events At Your Wedding Reception

Wedding receptions tend to follow a similar pattern, including several wedding rituals and traditions. Whether you are having a formal or informal dinner, this should help you plan your order of affairs.


Guests Arrive At The Reception Site

Some guests arrive early at the reception. So be sure all reception to-dos are complete by the time your wedding's scheduled to start. Also, all wedding vendors should be suited up in proper attire for early and lingering guests. All tables should be set up, including the cake table, the entertainment's table, the sign-in table, food tables, and tables with chairs for all guests. If you have a seating arrangement, all seating lists should be at the reception with everyone's name indicating where they sit.


After being pronounced husband and wife, you're often the first to leave the wedding ceremony, heading off (with a photographer in tow) for pictures together before the partying gets underway. Your guests will head to the reception site for cocktails. Depending on the logistics of the event, your cocktail hour will begin immediately (if the ceremony and reception are held at the same venue), or it might start more than half an hour later (if there's travel involved). Cocktails will kick off your reception and will last for at least an hour. During this time, the staff will serve stationary or passed appetisers and drinks, which will get people mingling and in the mood.

Wedding Reception in Melbourne

While your guests are mingling with each other after the ceremony is an excellent time to do your couples session and formal family photos. Although the bride and groom typically won't be able to attend the cocktail hour, it's still an excellent time for your guests to relax and enjoy some hors d' oeuvres and drinks before they go into the main reception. Check out this Wedding Photography Timeline for suggestions on how much time should be allotted for the cocktail hour based on how many formal photos you want to be done.


Your wedding coordinator and DJ/MC will get all of your guests rounded up and seated in the reception hall so that they are ready for the party to start. If necessary, they will explain how guests can find their seat and will give any other special announcements during this time. The start of getting your guests into the reception and the estimation of how long this will take based on how many are in attendance is an essential part of your wedding reception timeline.


Wedding Party Entrances

Your DJ/MC will announce your family and wedding party entrances here. This is a fun time for your wedding party and immediate family members to enter the reception hall with a funny dance or action that gets your guests excited and ready for your grand entrance.


Here's the part where you make your grand entrance. The coordinator will usually make sure guests are seated before the emcee alerts them to your imminent arrival. Generally, both sets of parents and the wedding party are introduced, followed by the announcement of you both for the first time as a married couple. This is not only one of the unique parts of your day as you are officially introduced as newlyweds, but adhering to this timeframe on your wedding reception timeline is especially important as it will help set the pace for the events that follow. 


The newlyweds, their parents and the wedding party make their grand entrance to the reception. The bride and groom are introduced for the first time as husband and wife. It feels like something from a beauty pageant or a variety show from the 1960s—so that you know, you'll probably feel like that multiple times throughout the wedding process.

The Wedding Speeches

Now you and your forever honey are seated at your head table, and it's time to thank your guests for coming. This can be done by the bride and groom or the mother and father of the bride. In some cases, this is also a good time for a blessing from a family member to commence the meal!


Once the starters have been cleared, and MC may welcome everyone and propose a toast to the bride and groom before inviting the best man to the stage. The best man often thanks to the bridal party and bridesmaids for all their hard work then delivers his speech about the bride and groom. The bride's father usually says a few words once the best man has finished. Finally, the groom delivers his speech.


Wedding speeches are meant to be fun and short, but in most cases, they tend to go on for a bit. Speakers often embark on trips down memory lane or spend time thanking particular guests for coming from far and wide to be with the happy couple on their big day. Once the speeches are finished, the main course is served.

First Dance

In many cases, your newlywed first dance will begin as you step out onto the floor and into the spotlight after being announced. Alternately, you can wait until after the first course of the meal is served, but since everyone is already cheering you as you enter the reception, use the applause as encouragement enough to skim away any shyness and step on out. Need some song inspiration? Don't miss the list of our favourite first dance songs!


The bride and groom take to the floor for their chosen first dance. The next hop is reserved for the bride and her father and the groom and his mother. Then the guests take to the dance floor and the evening party begins!


After making your grand entrance, all eyes are on you, and it is a perfect time to go straight into your first dance as a married couple. Whether your dance is choreographed or just a slow and sweet moment to a sentimental song, this is your moment to shine together.


Also, during this portion of the reception timeline, some couples like to switch partners and invite their parents on the dance floor for their parent dances, and others prefer to do so after dinner to help encourage guests out on the dance floor.



By this time, guests are probably pretty hungry and thinking, "Hey, where's the food?" Dinner is served—it can be anything from fine dining, to an intimate family-style meal, to a catered Chipotle buffet; your call—more on this in What to Serve and How to Serve It.


Buffets are typical at wedding receptions, but some couples choose to have food served to guests at their tables by catering staff instead. Three-course meals are popular and usually involve a starter, a main course, and a dessert. These courses are sometimes followed by cheese and biscuits later on. Music continues to play in the background while guests eat and socialise.


Wine and champagne are typically provided to each table for toasts during the wedding speeches. Some couples choose to have an open bar at their wedding reception (usually paid for by the groom), while others prefer to provide only table wine and have a cash bar service available for guests who are interested in additional drinks.


Time to dig into the main course. If you're having a seated meal, the band or DJ will play subdued, conversation-friendly background music as the waitstaff makes the rounds. If you're having a buffet, your coordinator, DJ or bandleader will dictate how the rotation will work by calling each table when it's time to head to the front of the line. Just remember: You need to do everything possible to take their seats and eat!


Make sure you grab your food first, chow down and be sure to enjoy the wedding meal you selected! Then if you want, you can make your rounds and greet your guests before your return to your table for the toasts. This is if you haven't set aside other time to mingle with your guests somewhere else in your wedding reception timeline. If you do choose to take the mealtime to greet or take photos with each table, make sure you allow yourself at least 3 minutes per table and adjust the meal time accordingly.

Cheers & Toasts

Following your first dance, you might want to take the opportunity—while all eyes are still on you since hopefully no one yet has had too much to drink—to thank everyone en masse for taking part in your wedding. A family member, often a parent of the bride, will say a blessing (depending on the families' faiths). Then, since toasting signifies a transition in the course of an event, the mother and father of the bride will thank guests for attending and invite everyone to enjoy the celebratory meal. Keep in mind that the toasts given by the best man and the maid of honour should occur between courses, to spread out all the high-emotion, much-anticipated moments and keep guests in their seats.


While your guests are still in their seats, finishing up their meal is a great time to go through the toasts. It's a good idea to start with the Best Man and Maid of Honor toasts and then follow with anyone else you have asked to toast. If it weren't the bride and groom that thanked their guests for being a part of their wedding day before the meal, now would be a great time to do so… before the dance party starts!

Family Dances

This is a perfect time in the wedding reception timeline to start the dancing portion of your party with the mother & groom and father & bride dances. After the last family dance, you can have your DJ ask all your guests to come to the dance floor for a group photo. This gets everyone up and out of their seats and on the dance floor, so when the music hits you will have a good crowd to get the party started!


The Father & Daughter's Dance or the Father Bride Dance is the dance between the father(s) of the bride and the bride. Brides, if you have more than one father in your life, one can tap the other on the shoulder in the middle of the dance so you can dance with both of them. If you don't have a father, a common substitute is a father figure. Even your brother would make a lovely gesture.


The Mother & Groom's dance is the dance between the mother(s) of the groom and the groom. Grooms, if you have more than one mother in your life, one can tap the other on the shoulder in the middle of the dance so you can dance with both. If you don't have a mother, a common substitute is a mother figure or your sister.


Special Dances

Like many people, you might have some songs that are near and dear to your heart. You can ask the entertainment to play them immediately after the formal dances. Example: If someone close to you passed recently, you could ask the show to perform "Angels Among Us" by Alabama.

The Cutting of the Cake

The bride and groom usually cut the wedding cake together. Sometimes, the flower girls are tasked with handing out slices to the guests. As the cake is consumed, the socialising and dancing usually continue for a short time longer before the event begins to wind down.

About one hour before the conclusion of the reception, when the party starts getting a little rowdy, your waitstaff should start preparing tables for coffee and dessert. Since the cake cutting generally signals guests that it's okay to leave soon after that, don't do it too early or things could start wrapping up before you're ready. 


About an hour before the end of the reception (right when guests are probably in need of a snack and starting to lose some steam on the dance floor) is an excellent time to break out the cake and bring on the sugar rush.


Bouquet And Garter Toss

In the traditional tossing of the bouquet, the bride tosses her bouquet (or a substitute) to all the single women in attendance. Immediately after the tossing, a chair is set in the middle of the dance floor, for the bride to sit on while the groom removes the garter from her leg, and tosses it to all the single men in attendance. The man and woman who catches the garter and bouquet are said to be the next to marry.

Many people include these in their weddings, but they have pretty creepy meanings behind them if you really think about it (more on that later). Decide what's best for you, or make up your own traditions—more on this in Entertainment.


Once everyone has had sufficient time to let loose on the dance floor, the bouquet and garter toss can be the next events in your reception timeline if you choose to do them. These activities are steeped in tradition. Keep in mind that they aren't mandatory. You can always skip them if they don't suit the style of your reception. If you do choose to toss the bouquet, make sure to get a tossing smell from the florist so you can keep your original one as a souvenir and be sure to choose the perfect bouquet toss song.  

Keep the Party Going

After dessert has been enjoyed and the sugar rush begins to kick in, it's time to keep the dance party going! This last dance set will simultaneously coincide with your nighttime photo session on your wedding reception timeline. Have your DJ announce when he is playing the last song, so your guests know this is their last chance to get out there and dance before the party's end. Choose an upbeat, big hit that will get everyone out on the dance floor to shut the party down!


Remember: the guests won't start dancing until you do. After the first dance, it's the couple, bridesmaids, and groomsmen's responsibility to ignite the dance party. Ask your wedding party to get on the dance floor the moment the first song starts. Shouldn't be too hard to convince them.

Final Farewell 

Now it's time to say goodbye. Your coordinator will usher everyone into the foyer or onto the steps outdoors so that as you make your grand exit from the reception, friends and family can blow bubbles, light sparklers, or toss rose petals—and cheer to your successful celebration and future together. 


Typically, the newlywed couple is the first to leave the reception. Guests often join together to form a tunnel with their hands through which the couple may exit the room. As an exit song plays, the bride and groom leave from their seats and file through the living tunnel, thanking guests along the way.


After leaving the reception, the couple usually heads to a hotel to get some rest before jet-setting off on their honeymoon. Guests are generally welcome to stay and dance after the couple departs, but in most cases, this is when the music ends, and people begin to leave. A member of the bridal party is usually tasked with removing the flowers, wedding cake, and gifts from the venue.


Exit as grand as your entrance. Have your guests see you off with sparklers, bubbles, rose petals, beach balls—or depart in a cool vintage car. The possibilities— and photo ops—are endless.

Frequently Asked Questions

Typically, the newlywed couple are the first to leave the reception. Guests often join together to form a tunnel with their hands through which the couple may exit the room. As an exit song plays, the bride and groom leave from their seats and file through the living tunnel, thanking guests along the way.

Usually, the order of wedding reception speeches goes as follows: The best man goes first, followed by the maid of honor, and parents of either spouse (traditionally, this spot is reserved for the father of the bride, but any parent/host can speak).

When planning an unforgettable wedding, you will need to think about the reception hall, your dress, the music, photography, etc., but what might surprise you is that the most important element that contributes to the success of a wedding reception is actually the food!

The cocktail hour is an opportunity to further personalize the decor, drinks, food, and other elements of your wedding celebration. During the cocktail hour, you can showcase your family history, your personality as a couple, or your culture or ethnicity.

Most wedding receptions are made in the evening for dinner; however, the couple may opt for a luncheon, brunch, or even afternoon tea. Ultimately the married couple chooses the details and location of the reception.

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