Category Archives: planning a wedding reception

How long is a wedding reception?

“How long is a wedding reception?” is one of the most common wedding planning questions couples ask. Typically, a wedding reception (with meal included) lasts between 4-6 hours. The length of your wedding reception is an important part of setting a wedding reception timeline and coordinating key wedding vendors.

This guide to planning a wedding reception can help you plan an awesome 4-6 hour reception. (Plus, use our wedding reception planning checklist to organize all those details.)

Wedding Reception Timeline

Cocktail hour

Dinner (Requires serving and background music)

Wedding Cake and Cutting

Reception Dance

  • Bridal party announcement
  • First dance
  • Song for any reception surprises
  • Bouquet and garter toss
  • Mother-son dance
  • Father-daughter dance

Wedding Reception Planning Tips

Tips from the Pros: Planning the Ultimate Wedding Reception

wedding where they take requestsWe’ve been to a lot of wedding receptions (6,000+). Needless to say, we’ve been part of some fantastic wedding receptions over the years. Our experience is your gain; we’ve compiled a list of some wedding planning tips that you can use to plan a wonderful wedding reception.

Be picky (and be careful!).

There are (literally) thousands of options for every part of your wedding in Chicago: wedding venues, djs, photographers, videographers, florists, bakers…the list could go on and on. As you research and hire the people that make your dream wedding a reality, be selective and wary of every vendor. Look for vendors that have plenty of experience, back-up plans for those “just in case” situations, and good reviews. Be careful of the low-cost options; you don’t want to scramble on your special day because you hired a sub-standard vendor (use this list of specific red flags to look for when hiring a wedding DJ).

Don’t underestimate the value of a “Cadillac.”

We’ve been around many couples and we know how important it is to stick to a wedding budget. However, don’t get so stuck on numbers that you focus only on hiring the lowest cost option. Vendors that are considered the “Cadillac” of their profession can provide valuable services that are worth a few extra dollars (and don’t automatically assume those vendors are not affordable!). Ask your vendors questions specifically about what they provide to make sure you are hiring the best option for your big day.

Lean on their experience.

Assuming that you hire experienced wedding vendors who have more than a few weddings under their belt (like us with our 6,000+), don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations and suggestions as you plan. Their suggestion may have been done at another wedding, but you can still customize the recommendation into an idea that feels very uniquely you (especially when part of a wedding reception that screams you at every turn!). Put simply, your wedding vendors have been there, done that. Use it. You’ll be glad you did.

Have a plan B.

Anything can happen on your big day. As much as you plan out every detail and minute, emergencies can still arise that can alter your original wedding plan (and we won’t even mention the weather, this is Chicago after all!). Be open to the idea that “just in case” situations do happen, and plan accordingly. Pack an emergency wedding kit. Plan for an alternate venue for your big day or photos if bad weather comes up. Find vendors that can still provide service even if equipment breaks or someone gets sick.

Two-way communication is vital for fantastic results.

There is some give and take when planning a wedding. As much as you need answers from your wedding vendor, be aware that you’ll need to give too (in fact two-way communication while planning leads to fantastic, custom results!). At every meeting, ask your wedding vendor what they need from you and when they need it by. As DJs, we can tell you that we need feedback on songs you want played (and not played), pronunciation help for your family and attendants, vendor information, venue limitations information (possibly not if we’ve worked there before), and any special requests that you may have (more information on what your DJ needs here). Keep track of deadlines, and respond as needed (you’ll be thankful you did!).

Focus on your guests.

Your wedding day is your special day, but make sure you keep your guests in mind as you plan. We’ll give you a few examples. Not every wedding guest wants to dance, so don’t plan on just one form of wedding entertainment. Give your guests choices, such as table games, photo booths, yard (or hall) games, and dance floor games (your DJ can give you ideas) that’ll make every guest enjoy the reception (and talk about it for days or years after-ideas for wedding entertainment here). For guests that are enjoying themselves all night (like those dance floor regulars), plan a late night course that fuels your guests and keeps them going.

Plan surprises!

This phrase sounds like an oxymoron; at a wedding reception it’s a really cool way to make your special day more memorable—and a lot more fun! Plan a surprise at your wedding reception that no one sees coming (and make sure you keep it a secret) for an over-the-top wedding reception (here’s a few fun surprise ideas you can use at your wedding reception). If you’re completely lost, don’t hesitate to ask your wedding vendors for ideas (we can help!) that’ll make your wedding reception feel like a night to remember.