Have you started to imagine your wedding day yet? How all of the moments are going to play out? Certain things about your wedding timeline are going to be obvious. You’ll get your hair and makeup done before you put on the dress. Then the ceremony will usually be followed by a cocktail hour while you take photos. Once that’s finished it’s time for dinner and dancing. There are quite a few little details and pro-tips I’ve learned over the years that I’d love to share with you as you plan your wedding timeline.
One key element some people tend to look over is the timing of sunset in relation to the wedding. If you’ve looked at any photographers so far you’ve probably noticed that some of the most stunning images are taken right around sunset, or the golden hour as it’s often referred.
What does that mean for your wedding timeline?
Ideally, you would want the ceremony to end so that you can capture as many photos as possible during that magical time, and then have dinner begin as the sunsets. As the dj, I provide the perfect playlist for that time for many of my weddings, with your taste taken into account. I often help line up many of the details with the venue and other vendors to help bridge the ceremony and reception. The time for sunset changes depending on the time of year, so it might not be reasonable in the middle of summer, but you should still account for a time to sneak away and get some photos either before the dance party starts, or after it’s underway for at least 15-20 minutes.
After Cocktail hour there are a few different ways of organizing the reception events. Typically after guests find their seats, a grand entrance will re-introduce the newly married couple. It can be as subtle as eliciting some applause for just the couple, or can get rather elaborate with the full bridal party being introduced to a hype song and all gathering on the dance floor.
Roughly half of my clients choose to do their first dance after the entrance. The other half prefer to wait until after dinner. Some reasons to do it before dinner:
-You will look as fresh as possible for the photos – If you’re a messy eater or drinking red wine, this is definitely something to think about…
-The spotlight and excitement would be high after the entrance
-Some want to get it out of the way early
-Maybe there are a lot of events happening after dinner and you’d like to chop it up a bit.
Alternatively, the reasons to consider doing it after dinner:
-People might be hungry after a long day.
-It can be used as an excellent tool to start the dance party.
-You have some time to relax a bit during dinner if it’s been a busy day.
-It can work in combination with the parent dances if you want to do all the spotlight dances as a single segment of the evening.
In either case, the next step I often recommend is a quick “Thanks for coming” or “Welcome” speech from the newlyweds. You probably haven’t had much of a chance to speak to everyone yet, and it’s nice to address the room briefly if you feel comfortable with that. Additionally, a family member/parent may want to do that as well, and someone may want to bless the food or say grace.
Dinner will typically be served at this point, and often times even if it is a buffet the caterer will make it a point to serve the newlyweds first. People will most likely want to come and talk to you, which is great, but I always try and stress to clients the importance of eating. Your adrenaline might be pumping and you might not feel hungry, but it is a long day and if you’re drinking especially you’ll be thankful you ate by the end. Once you’ve eaten, it is somewhat common to walk around the room and do some quick table touches and just say hi to everyone individually. It can be super easy to get caught up talking to your favorite people, so it might even be wise to have a quick timer on your phone if you are trying to stick to a schedule. If you are more relaxed about it, that’s fine too of course, but it’s definitely something to think about before the big day. Tips for a smooth wedding dinner
As dinner is winding down, the next item will typically be toasts. Some people like to cut the cake before toasts as well… it’s easy to get pictures if you aren’t looking to make much of a show out of the cake. If champagne is going to be poured it is usually best to check with the catering/bar staff and see if they are waiting to pour for everyone until all plates are cleared, or what their strategy is for that. Other events will just have the dj announce for everyone to make sure they have a drink to cheers with as dinner is still happening. Wedding toast tips
After the Toasts, it will typically be a good time for spotlight dances (first dance/parent dances). The toasts will make sure everyone is paying attention, and often create some emotion, which is excellent before a sentimental moment.
I think after the spotlight dances is a great time to get a dance floor started. People can begin to get antsy if you hold their attention for too long after dinner. They may need the restroom, a drink, a smoke break, or just to stand up and move around. Beginning the dance party is a perfect way to keep everyone happy and engaged in many cases. There are some tips in my previous blog post for how to maximize this moment to help keep the dance floor active for the rest of the night. 3 Pro Tips To Get A Fun Wedding Dance Party Started
I usually recommend to let the initial dance party go for 20-45 minutes before proceeding with the other moments of the night. Even a somewhat brief dance party will heighten everyone’s mood and set the tone for the rest of the evening. Cake cutting, bouquet toss, garter removal toss, and any other traditions you decide to do will appear much more lively in photos than if everyone just got up from dinner and tried to participate. These should take place early enough to include kids or elderly people who may not be able to stay all night. Also, not all photographers are booked til the end of the wedding, so it might be necessary in that regard as well. I typically recommend finishing this portion of events with the bouquet/garter if possible to get the younger crowd active before transitioning back to open dancing. Is the dollar dance dead?
If the wedding has a niche style of music that needs a segment this is a great time to do that as well. Some clients have family from another country, or maybe there are swing dancers, polka fam, or something else that isn’t easy to mix with most music, and this is a great spot to let that style shine.
Every event is different, and there isn’t really a format for open dancing, but after filling out our planning form we will have everything we need to make great decisions to keep your friends and family going til the end of the party!