Despite many people daydreaming about their dream wedding for years, when it comes to planning the real thing there are a lot of fine details that don’t make for good daydream material – but are still very crucial to a successful wedding day!
One of these things is time management; specifically, run sheets for the day that include handy bits of information about who is meant to be where and at what time. This can be a daunting task even for the most spreadsheet-savvy of us. Look, it will take a little more than some fancy stationery and the notes app on your phone, so we thought we’d throw together a crash course in planning your reception, as this is where a lot of the momentum of a wedding can fall flat, or become disorganised!
Firstly, if you are having an onsite wedding (held at and catered by a venue) then they are your first point of reference for your reception! Your venue will have a clear idea of how many staff they will be providing, how long the food takes to prepare and serve, not to mention experience with weddings of all shapes and sizes – so ask them to share some wisdom and resources with you and your partner!
Secondly, and it really should go without saying, when it comes to speeches – less is more! Your guests have been sitting patiently by you throughout the formalities of the day and they’ve probably worked up quite an appetite during the emotional rollercoaster that all good weddings are renowned for. As such, they’re definitely ready to eat, drink, and be merry with you and the dancefloor may even be calling their name. Guests are less likely to stay focused on you, the newlyweds, if ten or twelve distant aunts and uncles all recount lengthy anecdotes about that one time at the beach… phew, I even lost interest just thinking about it! We recommend 4 or 5 speakers as a guide, and they should be key people who have a proven record of being able to string a somewhat entertaining or heartfelt sentence together.
If you can nail the speeches, and cooperate with the venue – then the rest will be a piece of (wedding) cake! Here’s what we think a successful wedding reception usually looks like – we’ve structured it on an hourly timeline, so that you can slot it in at any time of the day!
00:00 – Cocktail Hour! After you, the newlyweds, have kissed and made your way back down the aisle hand-in-hand under a shower of rose petals (the best kind of biodegradable confetti there is!), your guests will be in dire need of refreshment. Whilst you and your partner are taking part in a location shoot, they’ll be nibbling at finger food and perhaps wetting their whistle with a glass of bubbles.
01:00 – Come On, You Lot! After about an hour, the MC or waitstaff should begin ushering guests into the place where the reception-proper will occur. Should there be tables, make sure there’s a large and clear seating plan so that no one has to play musical chairs!
01:30 – Here Comes The Bride!…And Groom! Once everyone is seated (and this may take some time, herding cats is a phrase that comes to mind…), it’s time for you to follow your groomsmen and bridesmaids into the venue and up to your table! Usually the DJ sets the mood with something fun and upbeat. Food should not be served yet.
01:35 – MC Welcome After you are all sat, the MC should take charge of the reception, and introduce important guests, and get everyone warmed up and receptive for the first speech!
01:40 – 1st Speech It could be you, it could be a parent, a close friend, the maid of honour; choose someone who can command the room and set the tone for the rest of the reception – emotional speeches are great, but can be a bit hard to digest so early on! Starting off with a few laughs is your best bet!
01:50 – 2,4,6,8… Your first course should be served now, as the first speech is drawing to a close.
02:10 – 2nd/3rd Speeches With bellies full (for the moment), there’s time for one or two more speeches before mains. These can be a little more meaningful, there’s been plenty of time to get a few drinks in so the jokes should all land well!
02:30 – Bog In Don’t Wait! It’s time for your main course, and also time for you (as the special people of the day) can move around the space and chat and thank people you may not have had time to greet yet. Do try and ensure that you have a few mouthfuls of food – better yet, lick the plate clean! You’ve been up-and-attem for quite a while now, so staying fed and hydrated is very important!
03:10 – Final Speeches Alright, it’s time to bring out the big guns, and the two of you! The last speeches of the night are typically from a close and important member of one of the families, and a final thank you from the bride and groom (don’t worry if hair is a bit tussled and makeup smudged by this point – your guests will love seeing that you’re really present in and participating at your own wedding). The MC will conclude the speeches as the last of the main course should be cleared away, then they will invite the newlyweds to the dancefloor for…
03:30 – The Cutting of the Cake Quickly, quickly! Cut that cake, smile and pause for the photo as the blade hits the plate and turn and give your partner a kiss but make it swift because we know you’re ready for…
03:35 – The First Dance I don’t think we need to tell you what to do here (other than practice before hand), just forget about the lights and the eyes on you and just move and be close to your partner – this is your first dance together as newlyweds!
03:40 – Family Dances Invite those closest to you to join you on the dancefloor.
03:50 Everybody Dances! Open up the dance floor for those that have been itching all day to show off those moves! Your dessert and wedding cake should be ready for serving now – even though you’ve got a killer playlist, there will still be a few guests who need a bit more fuel for those dancing legs.
04:00 Party On! Photos, dancing, chatting, perhaps a costume change, a spill or two… who knows what’s going to happen! It’s time to kick back and enjoy the party, the formalities are all but complete, the food is well on its way to being digested, the laughter is flowing fast, this is what your guests have been waiting for!
04:45 Winding Down As the allotted time for your reception runs down into its final minutes, ask the MC to begin clearing the dancefloor for the infamous tossing of the bouquet. Once a safe space has been provided between flailing arms and those guests not taking part, chuck that thang! Tears dried and blood mopped up (we’re kidding!), this is a perfect opportunity to let everyone know that the party is over (“you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here” etc. etc.) and say your farewells because guess what? Congratulations, you’ve done it, your wedding day has been and gone, you’re married now, and it’s time for the HONEYMOON!
Whilst not all wedding receptions will look like this, we hope it can give you a basic structure to work from. Times and numbers can look daunting and are easy to be overwhelmed by, but just know that on the day, if you have done your planning correctly, these pesky run sheets will be in the capable hands of people who are in charge of worrying about these things – leaving you both free to be whisked along in the wake of a fabulous party dedicated to you!
– With best wishes and good luck from Good Moments