Planning the reception involves even more details and choices then planning your wedding in most cases. Choosing color schemes, themes and menu choices is just the beginning of a long list. If your DJ is experienced at weddings, it is likely he or she will ask what songs you want played at certain parts of the reception. These events may include bouquet toss, the cutting of the cake, and the introduction of the bridal party. You want to make sure you have all these events listed both for your reception venue and for your master of ceremonies or DJ. Including a song selection for some of the events is also encouraged. You can ask your DJ for suggestions on this.
Here are some traditional events held at wedding receptions, when they usually occur and some of the etiquette required.
The Receiving Line – A receiving line at your wedding reception can be the easiest way to make sure you thank each guest for coming personally. Since it is usually held during cocktail hour, it can help give you more free time to enjoy your reception. The receiving line should be done at the start of the reception. The bride’s parents (and the groom’s if they helped pay for the reception) should greet guests first. The entire bridal party may also stand in the receiving line. Some couples choose to stand alone or with just their mother’s while the father of the bride and father of the groom circulate through the guests during the cocktail hour. No matter who stands in the receiving line the couple should always be last in line so that guests talk to them just before entering the reception area.
Introduction of the Wedding Party – Your master of ceremonies or DJ will then announce the wedding party. This can be done in two ways. The wedding party may be seated and then announced each waving to guests when announced. Another option is a procession where each member walks into the room as they are announced. The wedding party can also process in the reception in pairs and be introduced the same way. The bride and groom should always walk into the room as they are introduced even if their party was seated for introductions. Make sure your DJ has the proper pronunciation of everyone’s names written phonetically for them no matter how simple the name may seem to you. It is easy to mispronounce the name of someone you don’t know.
First Dance – After the bridal party is introduced you may do the first dance immediately if you choose, though many couples wait until after the meal is served. The choice is yours and either way it is perfectly acceptable. Other dances such as the groom dancing with his mother and the bride dancing with her father can be done following the first dance. If the first dance is done before the meal the other special dances may still follow the meal.
Cutting the Cake – You may choose to do the cake cutting before the meal so it can be sliced and served immediately following the meal. If it is not sliced before the meal then it should be sliced immediately following.
The Toasts – If the best man and maid of honor will be toasting the couple it is best to do this before the main meal (and before anyone has had too much to drink!) If the officiant is attending the reception you may ask him to say a few words and possibly a prayer before the main meal as well.
The Tossing of the Bouquet and Garter – This is usually done towards the middle or even the end of the reception. A variation on the traditional tosses is gaining popularity. In this variation the DJ will ask all married couples to get on the dance floor. He will then ask all of those married less than a day to leave. This will usually get a few laughs. The bride can then sit in a chair set next to the dance floor while the groom removes her garter. As the song plays the DJ asks couples who have been married longer and longer to leave the floor. He may say couples married less than one year then five and ten etc… . It is best that your DJ or MC know in advance how long the couple that has been married the longest has been married. You also want to make sure that couple gets on the floor even if seated. When there is one couple remaining on the floor the bride and groom can the present them with the bouquet and garter.
The Dollar Dance – Guests can be allowed to buy a dance with the bride or groom for a dollar. The DJ can explain it and joke about something for which the funds may be used. Many guests will donate more in order to “cut in line”. The maid of honor could handle the funds for the bride and the best man for the groom each negotiating higher prices or certain song choices, maybe even a kiss. The couple can have a contest to see who earns more in a set period of time.
Slide Shows/Videos of the Couple – Any slide shows or videos of the couple should be shown after dinner preferably during, or immediately following, dessert.
Many events are widely said to be held “after the meal” or “before the meal”. If you will be doing several of these things the order really won’t matter. Just set an order that works for you and seems logical.
There are many other things couples may choose to do during their reception. This is only a general guideline. The important thing is to have your master of ceremonies informed in advance of what events you want to happen when and whether or not you want them to wait for your word to start each one. It is important to inform your caterer as well or have your wedding coordinator take care of things. No matter what you decide to do at your wedding reception just remember to relax and have fun!