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wedding reception flow

wedding reception flow

How to Create Wedding Day Flow – Like a Professional Wedding Planner

By Planning No Comments

Learn the wedding planner secrets to choreographing the perfect wedding day flow. With our professional tips your guests will never get bored and flow effortlessly from one special moment to the next.

planning your wedding day timeline

Pad your timeline

We’ve learned over the years that weddings rarely run as perfectly scheduled, so that’s why we always pad our timelines. Whether hair and makeup takes longer, your photographer wants more time with you, Great Aunt Sue is running late, or whatever delay may arise, padding your wedding timeline will ease your stress and actually keep you running on time.

So how do you know how much to pad your timeline? Here’s what we recommend:

  • Ask your hair and makeup team how much time is needed for the bride and anyone else getting this done. Then add on an additional 5 minutes for each person.
  • Ask your photographer how much time they need for couples photos and family photos based on your lists. Then add on an additional 15 min.
  • Add 10 minutes to your ceremony – maybe 15 minutes if you have a rather large wedding party.
  • As for your reception – see your tips below.

Use your invitation start time as your guide and back-up your wedding planning timeline from there.



Your wedding start time is 6pm.

You have 5 bridesmaids and one bride for hair and makeup. (Typically we see 30-45 minutes for hair and 30-45 minutes for makeup for most and an hour for the bride, so we’re basing our timeline on this.)

Your photographer has said 1 hour for all your desired photos based on your list and needs.


10:00am – Hair and makeup begins (this will vary based on the number of people getting hair and makeup as well as the number of people doing the service. Sometimes you may add more artists to make the timing work or start earlier.)

3:30pm – Hair and makeup ends (30 min padding in case things run over)

4:00pm – Couple Photos (30 min + 10 min padding)

4:40pm – Family Photos (30 min + 15 min padding)

5:15pm – Refresh before ceremony (this builds in a  bulk just in case of extra time in case photos run long or start late, but if not, you get some time to rest and take a break)

6pm – Ceremony Begins

wedding day planning

Start On Time

Nobody likes to come to a wedding then stand around waiting, which is why we alway aim to start on time. Sure things can happen that are out of your control and cause delays, but for the most part if you follow our tips above and pad your timeline, you should be able to start on time. This makes for happy guests right from the start.

wedding day cocktail hour

Keep Cocktails Short

A key we’ve found to the perfect wedding day flow is keeping cocktails short and concise. We recommend 45 minutes to 1 hour tops. (We do understand that there are times when cocktails need to be longer due to a room turnover. And if this is the case for you, make sure to have ample food, music and perhaps a photobooth for distraction and entertainment.)

When cocktailing is short, guests don’t get antsy anticipating what will happen next and when. You’ll find that just when they’re thinking, hmmm when will be transition to dinner, it’s time. This amount of time also gives the couple enough time to take a moment alone together after the ceremony, refresh and regroup. And maybe even snap a few last minute pix.

wedding reception planning

Break Up Your Reception

We like to keep guests moving at our weddings. Nobody wants to sit at a table for 2 hours straight just eating, your guests will get antsy. That’s why we recommend always breaking up the reception. Eat a little, speech a little, dance a little.

Here’s how it works:

  • Guests enter your reception/dinner space.
  • Have them enter to energetic music to set the tone
  • Couple Grand Entrance
  • Welcome Speeches
  • First Course
  • Dance Set
  • Second Course 
  • More Speeches While Guests Eat
  • Dance Set
  • Third Course 
  • More Speeches – if you have to while guests eat
  • Dancing
  • Cut cake during dancing or break

*Pro Tip – Tell anyone making a speech to keep it short and sweet, 2 minutes max so guests don’t get bored. Try not to have more than 4 speeches total. (Welcome, Best Person x2, Couple) And tell your toast makers that it’s okay to take up notes to keep them on time. We also don’t recommend having an open mic or allowing for unplanned speeches as this will disrupt your event flow. If you need more time for speeches, have people speak at the rehearsal dinner.


For more detailed information on your wedding planning timeline and the confidence to plan your own wedding day, sign-up for The Wedding Course where we take you through your planning step-by-step.