What Is the Order of a Wedding Reception Program?

For all practical purposes, a wedding reception flows however a bride and groom decide it should. That said, for couples who want guidance, there is a traditional, though not strict, order that reception programs often follow.

At the start of the reception, while guests are at the venue eating appetizers and sipping cocktails, the wedding party is usually hard at work being photographed. Once the bride, groom and attendants arrive at the reception, a receiving line is set up or the participants are simply introduced. The guests are then seated, and toasts follow. These are traditionally given by the father of the bride, best man and maid of honor. Dinner is served next, or the buffet is opened. If desired, a prayer or blessing is offered just before food service begins. As most people finish eating, the dancing starts. Traditionally, the bride and groom have the first dance, which is a solo affair. Next are family dances, with the bride and her father and the groom and his mother. The wedding party joins after this. Once the formalities are taken care of, all guests are welcomed to the dance floor. At some receptions, the order of the dinner and dancing are switched. The wedding cake is cut next and, shortly after, the garter and bouquet are tossed. The happy couple typically leaves before the end of the reception.