Wedding Reception Timeline

Get ready for toasts, speeches, dancing, cake — and don't forget to eat! Use this guide to make sure your reception flows smoothly.


maid of honor toast
Photo Credit: Maria Angela Photography

Just before the main meal is served, or immediately after, the best man is introduced and asks everyone to stand. You and your groom should remain seated. His toast may be brief and sentimental ("Here's to the happiness of a couple close to us all, Kathy and John") or it can be more detailed and personal, often amusing and anecdotal. Whatever the case, it should reflect the hope and happiness the two of you have for the future. The best man then raises his glass and invites the other guests to do the same in a well-wishing toast. The bride and groom may then get up and say a few words of thanks and toast each other.

It is also customary at religious weddings to have the officiant say a blessing before everyone begins eating. Be sure to let your officiant know ahead of time if you would like to include this, so that he or she is prepared. The bridal party and wedding guests should remain quiet and attentive during the blessing, regardless of their religious affiliation.

The Menu

wedding menu card
Photo Credit: Natalia Zamarripa Photography on Every Last Detail via

The only two requirements for a wedding reception are cake and champagne, and menus for marriage celebrations run the gamut from a light breakfast to an elaborate dinner. Obviously, the time of your wedding reception should dictate what is served. An early-morning wedding calls for a breakfast or brunch; afternoon ceremonies may be accompanied by hors d'oeuvres or a light meal. Evening weddings generally call for a full dinner (which may be served by waiters or buffet style), unless they are held at 8 p.m. or later, at which time you may choose to offer only cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Your caterer or banquet manager can help you select an appropriate menu. Wedding food that won't bore your guests ►

In many parts of the country, the word "reception" has come to denote a full meal. If you don't plan to do so, use the wording "cake and champagne" or "cocktails and hors d'oeuvres" on your invitations so that they will know what to expect.

Next: The cake cutting, bouquet & garter tosses, and when to leave ►