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What is the wedding reception timeline?


All good weddings have a rough plan of the day. This helps the happy couple to understand where they need to be and when. You can visualise your day and, hopefully, it will calm your nerves. The reception should be no different. Having a timeline which you and the wedding staff can access helps everyone stay on the same page. It can also double up as a handout, which can be given to guests, so they have a rough understanding of how the evening will go.

3-4pm – The Wedding Ceremony

The happy union takes place.

4-5pm – Cocktail hour

Time for the guests to relax and chat after the wedding. A great chance for photos and for the couple to mingle. If you are having the wedding at a specific venue, this part usually takes part in the bar and outdoor area if weather permits.

5-5:20 pm

Into the dining area. Now’s the chance for guests to sit down at their dining places. This gives a chance for everyone to get settled and have a drink ready for the toasts. They can have a chat and see who they will be seated with.

5:20-5: 30 pm

The couple has their grand entrance. It’s a nice touch for the guests sitting on the head table to arrive first before the newlyweds enter.

5:30-6: 00 pm

Now everyone’s settled in their seats, it’s a good time to enjoy the wedding speeches. Of course, everybody is different, and the time may vary but we would recommend roughly half an hour. It gives enough time for each person to have their say without it being too long. You don’t want your guests to become restless.

6:00-7: 30 pm

Wedding breakfast and cutting of the cake. Time for everyone to enjoy their menu and socialise with other guests. Again, you can tailor this to your own requirements, but typically the meal should last between an hour and a half and two hours. Afterwards, the happy couple can have the cake cutting ceremony if they are opting for this.


Tables are cleared, and evening guests arrive. They then have half an hour to mix with the other guests and speak to the happy couple.

8:00-8: 15 pm

The first dance. One of the most special moments of the day. You can also include the father and daughter dance if you’d like. After this, invite everyone onto the dance floor.


Now it’s time for the party to begin. A lot of receptions have little features such as photo booths, food vans and games, depending on your preferences. These can be great for guests to enjoy in between talking and dancing. If you wish, have a little buffet spread or a few canopies for the evening guests to enjoy.


Depending on what time you’d like your guest to leave. Be aware that some guests may be tired and want to leave a little earlier. Coffee stations, flip flops and plasters are all good little handouts to keep people going all night long. As the night concludes, some couples opt for a grand exit whilst being showered with flowers or rice. Other people prefer a more low-key exit. Plan what you’d like and what time you’d like the evening to end.


At Ettington Chase, we have wedding coordinates and planners that can help you along the way of the big day. Our wedding venue in Stratford-upon-Avon will deliver you and your guests a day to remember. Get in touch with our team today!