“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
Dinner (Requires serving and background music)
Wedding Cake and Cutting
- Bridal party announcement
- First dance
- Song for any reception surprises
- Bouquet and garter toss
- Mother-son dance
- Father-daughter dance
Wedding Reception Planning Tips
- Consult the venue before finalizing the wedding reception timeline. Many venues have firm set-up times that vendors have to abide by.
- As soon as possible, communicate your wedding reception timeline with all vendors (i.e. venue, caterer, band, dj, etc.)
- Start planning your entertainment 14-18 months before the wedding date. (This list of pros and cons can help you choose between a DJ and band.)
- Always research and meet vendors before signing a contract (use these tips for hiring the right vendors).
- To avoid surprise overtime charges, always ask vendors about overtime fees. Some vendors charge additional fees for any time over a set time span. If you are concerned about overage costs, choose a vendor that has a set fee for the reception (no matter how long).
- Ask your wedding DJ if they include background music for dinner in their services; a wedding DJ can make the transition from the dinner to the dance seamless and serve as an emcee during the dinner.
- Don’t forget to plan for ways to entertain children at the wedding reception.
- For a fun twist, add one of these wedding surprise ideas to the timeline.