Wedding Receptions: The Reception Timeline
You should already have arranged for the venue to be available from before you arrive until after you depart. Guests should be informed in advance if there is a time they are expected to vacate the premises, or if the partying can continue long after you and your honey have blown the joint.
It is the job of the Master of Ceremonies (emcee) to keep the reception moving along according to schedule, alerting the guests to what is happening or coming up soon, hopefully in an amiable and entertaining manner. He or she should have plenty of notice and time to prepare.
For the role of emcee, choose an energetic and enthusiastic friend or relative who wants to accept the responsibility. Even if you have the skills, and are tempted, under no circumstances should either the bride or groom act as emcee. You are the stars anyway, and you can show off during your speeches, if you desire.
Besides an emcee, you may also want to appoint someone to coordinate transportation (you are also responsible for getting out-of-town guests to the venue), and someone else to direct guests to the gift collection area (and perhaps keep an eye on them). The reception traditionally begins with a receiving line. This is certainly the case if it is a formal affair, less imperative if the reception is at someone’s home or outdoors.
Typically, the bride’s parents (if they are the hosts) will be the first in the line to greet the arriving guests, then the bride and groom, then the groom’s parents. If the happy couple are making the wedding themselves, they can lead off the receiving line.
All the gentlemen in the receiving line should be prepared to accept gift checks and place them discreetly in their inside jacket pockets. The “gift captain” should come around occasionally to relieve the receiving line of these envelopes.
The emcee should make any announcements (if needed) pertaining to food service, and should be provided with the play list, if the bride and groom have made any special requests. Otherwise, he is expected to announce the couple’s first dance; to call on the persons making speeches and giving toasts; to call the guests’ attention to the cake-cutting ceremony; and to signal the farewell at the party’s end.
At some point during the festivities, the bride and groom are expected to circulate among their guests. This is especially critical if there was no receiving line. If the guests are seated at tables, this is usually an opportunity for the couple to have their picture taken with each table’s occupants (see below).
The emcee should be ready to make any announcements requested by the site manager, the caterer, the photographer, the music provider, security, and/or distraught guests.