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Let's eat, drink and be merry.

Once the solemnity of the ceremony is over it's time to party - but what happens at the reception and in what order?

 

Whether the celebration is formal or informal there is usually:

  • The arrival of the bride & groom

  • Toasts and speeches

  • The cutting of the cake

  • The first dance - if you're having dancing

  • Time for the bride and groom to greet and chat with their guests

  • The departure of the bride & groom

However there's no set order for these things.

Some couples choose to have the speeches and cake cutting before the meal so that, with the formalities over, they can relax and enjoy their celebration. This also works well if you're serving the cake as dessert because it gives the caterers time to cut it into portions.

 

Others like to have the meal and then have the speeches and cake cutting when their guests are relaxed after their meal.

Arrival of the bride and groom

Some make a dramatic entrance by helicopter others in more traditional transport, but once you're at the reception venue there are a couple of options.

 

You might wait until everyone has arrived at the reception venue (maybe seated ready for the meal) and then have the MC announce your entrance.

 

Some wedding parties have a formal procession to the top table of the bride and groom, followed by the bride's mother and groom's father, groom's mother with the bride's father, chief bridesmaid with the best man, groomsmen and bridesmaids.

 

If the idea of being announced or walking in procession fills you with horror it is perfectly acceptable to arrive quietly and mingle.

Welcome and chat with each guest

It can be quite a challenge, but it is important that you both speak to every one of your guests during the course of your wedding.

 

The easiest way is to have a receiving line - it's a great opportunity for a brief chat with every guest.

 

Ideal times are after the ceremony or before the reception. If you're having some 'ceremony only' guests then a receiving line after the ceremony allows for good byes and good wishes to be exchanged. 'After ceremony' lines tend to be over more quickly because everyone is keen to move on to the reception.

 

A receiving line can be as formal or informal as you like - for a beach or garden wedding the wedding party can move to one side and the guests line up to file past. For a church or other building the wedding party can line up by the door and greet each guest as they leave the venue.

 

Alternatively, your guests can arrive at the reception venue and be served drinks and nibbles while you have photographs taken, then be presented to the receiving line as they are seated for the meal.

 

The traditional formal line-up is:

  • Bride's mother

  • Bride's father

  • Groom's mother

  • Groom's father

  • Bride

  • Groom

The less formal version is:

  • Bride's mother

  • Groom's mother

  • Bride

  • Groom

Or in more complicated families with lots of step-parents, it may be easier to have just the bride and groom.

 

Remember, the more people in the receiving line the slower it moves!

So what do you say? Greet each guest by name or politely ask their name, thank them for coming and introduce them to the other members of the wedding party if necessary. Be welcoming and friendly but brief otherwise the line may become too long - you can always have a longer catch-up later.

 

If you don't have a receiving line it's important to make the rounds to greet your guests. The best time to do this is after the meal. You might like to hand out wedding favours along with a few words of thanks to your guests for their attendance.

Cutting the cake

The MC will announce, usually after the speeches, that the bride and groom will now cut the cake. 

 

The couple hold the knife together to make the first cut. The bride holds the knife in her right hand with the groom's right hand on hers and her left hand on top. 

 

If the cake is iced with hard icing you might need to pre-cut so the official first cut isn't a struggle. 

 

Then the cake is taken away and cut into enough slices for each guest to have a piece. Extra pieces might be cut for absent friends or relatives and sent to them in special cake boxes.

Toasts & speeches

Covered in detail + click here

First dance

If you're having dancing the bride and groom will be first onto the floor, followed by the chief bridesmaid and bestman, parents of the bride and groom and then members of the two families.

Departure of the bride & groom

Usually the bride and groom are the first to leave and it's considered impolite for guests to leave before the couple. 

 

When it's time to leave the bride and groom may change into travelling clothes and the bride throws her bouquet over her shoulder to the unmarried female guests - tradition has it that whoever catches the bouquet will be the next bride. You don't have to toss your bouquet, but it's a good way to signal your departure. If you're planning to have your bouquet preserved, get the florist to make a small posy to toss.

 

The hosts and bestman are the last to leave making sure everyone has safe transport home, and taking with them the bride and groom's wedding clothes and any cards or gifts.