Reception Wedding Planning

Actually What’s the Basic Wedding Reception Timeline?


Could you please give a rough timeline of the following events: receiving line, cocktail hour, first dance, champagne toast, best man’s and maid of honor’s speeches, dinner and cake cutting? I’m so clueless! I’m not certain about the order of events at the wedding reception.


Absolutely, good question! Here’s the basic order of wedding reception events. How long each event lasts depends on your party—is it a simple cocktail wedding reception or a seated dinner? (The average reception with full meal lasts for about four hours.) Keep in mind that you’re not orchestrating the wedding reception alone—your banquet manager, caterer, bandleader (who might act as MC) and other wedding professionals are old hands at this stuff, so they know what’s supposed to happen when. Remember too, that nothing is set in stone—there are always options, and if the timing of one thing or the other doesn’t suit your style, you can always mix it up.

Receiving Line

The line can form at the wedding ceremony site just after the wedding or at the reception site, depending on logistics. If you think your guests will get to the reception before you (if you and the wedding party will be taking pictures after the vows), you might want to have the line at the ceremony site. Another option is to hold the cocktail hour in a room other than the main reception room. You’ll have plenty of time to get to the cocktail hour, and when the doors to the reception room open, you and your parents can form the receiving line as guests enter.

Cocktail Hour

The cocktail hour kicks off the wedding reception and can last for an hour or perhaps an hour and a half. Guests arrive, greet each other and you, and generally get into party mode.

First Dance

This moment can take place when you two are announced for the first time as husband and wife—just go directly to the dance floor. Alternatively, you can wait until after the salad course—it’s entirely up to you.

Champagne Toast and Speeches

The toast generally happens after everyone is seated and the first course has been served. The best man starts the toast and gives his speech, followed by the maid of honor. The couple responds (the groom usually responds to the best man, but why not let the bride say something too?), and then parents and other guests can say a few words as well.


Once cocktails are finished, the couple and wedding party have been announced, and the first dance is over (if you’ve chosen to dance before the meal), dinner should be served. Generally, not much more than half an hour should have passed since guests entered the main reception room.

Wedding Cake Cutting

The cake is usually cut during the last hour of the reception, which makes sense because it’s time for dessert and coffee as the party is winding down. Also, the wedding cake cutting generally signals to guests that it’s okay to leave soon, so don’t cut the cake too early or things could start wrapping up before you’re ready.

Wedding Ideas

21 of the Cutest Wedding Napkins That You’ve Ever Seen

The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen |

Sure, they’re also a nice way to help guests stay tidy during cocktail hour as they nibble hors d’oeuvres and sip libations, but honestly we just think they’re downright cute…not to mention totally great for Instagramming. The fun’s in the details!  Cocktail wedding napkins are often overlooked, but the truth is they’re an amazing place to showcase your personality.

They suit every type of wedding, too, from black tie ballroom events to homespun backyard affairs. Use them as a spot to serve up a bit of sass, personalize them with interesting facts to entertain your guests or inform them of the all important wedding hashtag. Here are 24 of the cutest wedding napkins you’ve ever seen.



The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen |

Trivia, inside jokes and cute quotes on the napkins will make the guests want to see them all. Photography: Front Room

The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen |

Sometimes, it pays to be persuasive. Calligraphy + Photography: Laura Hooper Designs

The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen |

Holographic script on lilac add gorgeous dimension. Design + Photography: For Your Party

The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen |

In a throwback to kindergarten days, these cute fingerprint hearts will get your guests smiling. Design: Special Stationery

The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen |

Pair your initials with custom stir sticks for a killer combo at cocktail hour. Photography: Heather Kinaid

The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen |

These classy napkins are bubbling over with love. Gorgeous for New Year’s weddings or black tie affairs. Design: For Your Party

The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen |

Mr + Mrs = 1 perfect foil-stamped wedding napkin. Design: Jupiter + Juno

The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen |

Custom monograms are the prettiest on perfect napkins under refreshing custom cocktails. Photography: Erich McVey

The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen |

Picking a timeless monogram design that ties in perfectly with all wedding decor, including napkins, is a wonderful choice. Photography: James Moes

The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen |

It’s always the right time to go with a rhyme! Photography: Kreate


The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen |

A little bossy, a little sassy … a lot of cute. Design: Confetti Grey

The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen | PreOwnedWeddingDresses.comPerfect for everyday use, to be honest. Design: For Your Party

The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen |

Got a four-legged friend who can’t be there? Honor them during cocktail hour. Photo: Cassidy Carson

The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen |

A stylish monogram combined with fun facts on bright fuschia napkins seems like an amazing choice. Photography: Birds of a Feather

The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen |

These perfectly adorable napkins will have all of your guests shouting sip, sip hooray! by the end of cocktail hour. Design: For Your Party

The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen |

What did we tell you about rhymes? Even cuter in gold foil on black or a deep jewel toned napkin. Design: Pomp Creative

The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen |

#bestweddinghashtagever #stealitnow Photo: Oliva Leigh Photographie


The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen |

Bright pops of color are so easy to do with napkins. Via: Studio Blush

The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen |

Holographic type declares something you already know will be true. Design: Michelle Edgemont

The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen |

Simply stated, printed so prettily. Calligraphy + Photography: Laura Hooper Designs

The Cutest Wedding Napkins You've Ever Seen |

BBQ with a side of awesomesauce for this rustic wedding. Design: Sip Hip Hooray


Wedding Planning

Pair Wine and Cheese As a Pro at Your Cocktail Hour

A wine and cheese spread is delicious for everyone, from connoisseurs to newbies, and substantial enough to stave off your guests’ appetites until dinner. It can also dress up any event, even if yours isn’t a super formal wedding (how often do you get to wash a slice of truffle Gouda down with a fine Pinot?). But note that it doesn’t have to break the bank—truly! So, where to begin finding the ideal duo? Here are five delicious wines to try, along with mouthwatering cheese suggestions to make each sip sing.  The only pairing more perfect than you and your spouse-to-be is a glass of wine and some good cheese.

Josh Cellars Chardonnay

Josh Cellars Chardonnay

Tasting Notes: Aromas of tropical fruits and citrus married with notes of oak, bright yellow and white stone fruit flavors linger on the palate, and a fresh, clean acidic finish.

Choice Cheeses: Chardonnays love soft and creamy cheeses, like Camembert or brie.

Josh Cellars Chardonnay, $13.99,

Summer Water Rosé

Summer Water Rosé

Tasting Notes: Citrus, fresh raspberry and grapefruit, with a crisp, acidic finish.

Choice Cheeses: Associate Wine Director of WINC, Brooke Mattiass, suggests burrata cheese (or fresh mozzarella) that’s creamy in texture, but delicate in flavor—the perfect complement to Summer Water’s bright red fruit flavor.

Summer Water Rosé, $13,

Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon

Chateau St. Jean Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Tasting Notes: A bright core of deep fruit flavors and subtle spice notes, with a smooth finish on the palate.

Choice Cheeses: Mt. Tam triple-cream cheese from Cowgirl Creamery is Chateau St. Jean winemaker Margo Van Staaveren‘s favorite (firm, yet buttery with a mellow, earthy flavor).

Chateau St. Jean Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $35,

Ruffino Sparkling Rosé

Ruffino Sparklin Rosé

Tasting Notes: Hints of strawberry and rose petals, with elegant bubbles and refreshing acidity, offering alluring flavors of delicate red berries and white fruit.

Choice Cheeses: Try either Italian pecorino to complement the bubbles, or a heavier triple-cream cheese, like Saint-André.

Ruffino Sparkling Rosé, $14.99,

WALT “The Corners” Pinot Noir

WALT The Corners Pinot Noir

Tasting Notes: Ripe Bing cherry and blueberry notes, rose petals and baking spices like nutmeg and allspice.

Choice Cheeses: Try Fontina cheese (noted for its earthy, mushroom and woody taste) or opt for an extra-special truffle Gouda.

WALT “The Corners” pinot noir, $75,

Wedding Ideas

At My Wedding How Do I Cope With Children?

Brides acting deputy editor Nicola Down  is mum to a
cute, but very noisy, 4-year-old. She says:

Victoria Dawe

Children can bring joy and spontaneity to your wedding day
but they can also scream ‘I need a wee!’ at the
worst moments in the church and be a major tripping hazard at
cocktail hour.


You could compromise by inviting children to the ceremony and
drinks, then ask that they depart before the dinner and dancing.
But if that’s not practical – and it won’t be for many – the secret
is to keep them entertained.

During the ceremony, why not get your ushers to dole out treats
for parents with small kids and seat these families in the back row
so they can make a quick exit if need be?


You could consider having a children’s table with crayons and
washable markers, stickers and board games, but it’s smart to have
some adult supervision.

And don’t forget to ensure there are things for them to eat.
While adults can (almost) wait hours for food, children won’t, so
having kid-friendly munchies on standby could help to prevent
meltdowns – on both sides.


Your other option is to splurge on a sitter. Research and choose
a childminding service then set up a playroom close to your
reception site or, if you have a friend willing, in a nearby (and
child-proofed) home. If you’ve got a bigger budget, there are even
some firms that will organise elaborate kiddie bashes at your venue
– thinks arts and crafts, mini discos and treasure hunts.