Alex’s Guide to Wedding Receptions

October 18, 2021

You’re finally a legally married couple and now it’s time to celebrate amongst your closest friends and family!

But wait. Where do you start? How do you plan? What is supposed to happen at what time? If you’re not lucky enough to have the help of a talented and experienced wedding planner things can get pretty confusing.

The Good News is that when it comes to your actual wedding reception, Mint DJ Events offers a detailed online planning system called #MyMint. While it’s definitely not a replacement for a human wedding planner, it certainly does help outline and customize your wedding reception.

“But, still, I want to know where to start!”

This article should help you start and understand the many moving pieces and formalities that can take place in both traditional and non-traditional weddings.

First: The Cocktail Reception

The cocktail reception (or cocktail hour) is the time that guests arrive and begin to gather at your reception. Traditionally the newly married couple and their wedding party are with the photographer getting photos taken. Although we’ve definitely seen a lot of weddings where couples have photos taken earlier in the day, this allows the couple and wedding party to join their guests and enjoy some conversation, drinks and passed plates.

What you need to plan:

  • A musical vibe. We work with our couples to create unique cocktail receptions. If you’ve got a lot of younger guests and don’t think that oldies & Motown will work during the dancing this is a great time to play some. If you’re planning a country wedding you can play some fun country tailgate style sing alongs. If you’re planning a classic wedding some fun instrumental jazz will set the mood.
  • Food & drinks. Work with your venue to select light passed plates, hors’d oeuvres, tapas & other small dishes that fit the theme of your wedding. Also popular are picking signature drinks for the bride & groom.

#ProTip Movement is essential in keeping energy & spirits high at wedding receptions. Whenever possible we recommend having the cocktail reception in a separate room or area than dinner & dancing. Many venues offer patios, lawns, foyers & other spaces for cocktail receptions. All of Mint DJ Events wedding packages offer a small cocktail system so you’re covered musically.

Second: The Entrance

Your guests have entered the main reception space and are finding their seats. The next traditional wedding formality is the “grand entrance” and announcement of the wedding party and, of course, the newlyweds. We work with our couples during the months leading up to the wedding to create a truly magical entrance for both them and their wedding party.

What you need to plan:
There are a few moving pieces with the grand entrance. Number one, do you want to do it? Most couples do and it is tradition, but by no means is it essential. If you’d rather skip the grand entrance a good alternative is to have your DJ introduce you and dance your first dance. If you do plan on making a grand entrance here are some of the moving pieces:

  • The order of entrance. This is where you determine who will be walking in, who they will be walking in with, and the order they’ll enter. Typically both sets of parents will enter first, followed by the wedding party (best man & maid/matron of honor last) and then the bride and groom.
  • The music for the entrance. Picking the entrance songs can be a lot of fun. Generally couples will choose a high energy song that fits their personalities.

Note: If your grandparents are attending the wedding it’s a good idea to recognize them at their tables before the grand entrance.

Third: The First Dance

This is where customizing a timeline really comes into play. While we’re big fans of doing the first dance right after you’re introduced since everyone is cheering and it creates a great natural segue. You can also hold off until after dinner, or, if you plan on attending the cocktail reception and want something lower key you can dance then.

What you need to plan:

  • This one is easy. You simply need to choose your song and when you’d like to do it. You can also work with a dance instructor and show off some sweet choreographed moves.

Fourth: Speeches & Toasts

Again, we might be going out of order a little bit since no one wedding is the same, but toasts are a huge part of traditional wedding receptions and offer a truly great moment for your closest friends to tell you and your guests how much they value your friendship. Of course, we always have wireless microphones for these speeches.

Who typically gives a toast?
Traditionally toasts and speeches are given by the best man and maid or matron of honor however there are some other speeches and thank you’s to consider.

  • Bride & Groom Thank You’s. After your first dance is a great opportunity to thank your guests for attending and to thank everyone that help contribute to make your day perfect. You can also say thank you after your best man and maid of honor give their toasts.
  • Mother & Father of the bride. Traditionally the parents or sometimes just the father of the bride will thank guests for attending and invite everyone to enjoy their meal. This is a special moment as a lot of times the parents of the bride share a truly heartfelt moment with the newly married couple.
  • Blessing of the meal. If you’re not religious this can be skipped, but if you’re having a blessing you can ask your officiant if they’re attending the dinner or a family member can say a blessing.

Fifth: The Dinner

After all the pre-dinner activities such as the ceremony and cocktail reception you, your guests & your wedding party are hungry and ready to enjoy a delicious meal!

What you need to plan:

  • The meal! Honestly, from speaking with hundreds of couples, this is by far the best part of the planning process. You get to taste and eat food 🙂
  • The musical theme. Traditionally this is a great time to place some Italian standards like Sinatra, Tony Bennet, Michael Buble & similar artists. That isn’t required of course and our team always works with couples to put together a background dinner playlist.
  • Guests don’t necessarily have to stay seated! We love Manhattan style wedding receptions where dancing takes places between courses. This is great way to tell your guests that this is a party, so let’s celebrate!
  • If you’re having a buffet most catering companies will release tables, but our DJ team is always more than happy to work on letting your guests know when it’s their turn to visit the line.

#ProTip Enjoy your dinner! More often than not the couple doesn’t get to sit down and enjoy their meal due to photos and the pressure to visit tables and thank their guests.

Sixth: The Cake Cutting

By this point, you should realize that the order we’re typing this guide is by no means a definitive timeline for how you’ll be planning your reception. This is definitely the case with the cutting of the cake. Sometimes couples ask us to introduce the cake cutting before dinner, sometimes it’s right after, sometimes it’s in middle. You can also hold off on cutting the cake until later in the reception.

Don’t wait too long to cut the cake! Far too often we’ll see served cake sitting at tables because everyone is on the dance floor celebrating and having a great time while the cake is served. It’s best to time cake serving right after your meal.

Seventh: The Parents Dances

Another significant and special moment at wedding receptions is the father & daughter dance and mother & son dance. A great moment to share the spotlight and show love and appreciation for your parents.

What you need to plan:

  • Music. You should choose a special song that showcases the relationship you share with your parents.
  • Timing. You can choose to do this right after your first dance or even towards the end of dinner.

#ProTip While dancing with your parents is a special, heartfelt moment, don’t pick a song that’s too long. Four and a half minutes can seem like an eternity when you’re in the spotlight. We typically suggest fading out of this track at two and a half to three minutes if the song is lengthy. This allows your photographer enough time to capture this special moment.

Eighth: It’s Party Time!

This is where a great DJ shines! Our team works with couples leading up to the wedding to build a collection of must-play and do not play songs that match their guest’s tastes all while reading the crowd in real-time and mixing music that keeps guests of all ages dancing.

#ProTip The wedding couple should be leaders of the pack. It’s your day and there’s a great chance that if you’re on the dance floor having an amazing time your guests will join in!

Ninth: The Last Dance

The last dance should be high energy, fun and allow guests to pack the dance floor, surrounding the bride and groom and sharing in one final high point for the reception.


We hope this article helps in understanding the traditions of wedding receptions, but keep in mind — this is your day and there is nothing set in stone as a definitive flow. We highly recommend enlisting the help of an experienced wedding planner that can get to know you and work with you in creating a magical day that matches your personality. We understand that a lot of couples don’t have the luxury of hiring a wedding planner, and we always work hand-in-hand with you to create a great timeline that flows organically. If you have any specific questions feel free to message me @djalexnepa

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