We’ve included our general recommendations for the minimum amount of time you should allot for each part of the reception:

  • Cocktail Hour (15+ Minutes) although 30 or more minutes is ideal
  • Grand Entrance, Welcome Remarks, Blessing of the Meal (15 Minutes)
  • Dinner Service (45-60 Minutes) Ask your catering and venue staff what they estimate for this based on their processes, but 45 minutes is a great estimate to start for the sake of keeping the timeline moving.
  • Toasts and Speeches (15-30 Minutes) Best Man, Maid of Honor, Father of the Bride, Words of Thanks from Bride + Groom
  • First Dances (15 Minutes) Bride + Groom, Father + Daughter, Mother + Son
  • Cake Cutting (5 Minutes) Note: this can also take place during cocktail hour or during the dinner service once the head table has finished eating so that it does not "add" extra time into your timeline
  • Special Exit (15 Minutes)
  • Sunset Pictures (15-30 Minutes)
  • Open Dance Floor (Varies)

Timeline for the Reception

Couples often schedule cocktail hour to begin for their guests long before the couple joins it themselves. While guests are entertained by hors d’oeuvres and drinks, it gives you a chance to finish any remaining photos that weren’t captured before the ceremony (eg. wedding party, newlywed/sunset, family pictures). In lieu of photos, some couples also use that time to simply travel around the city in a party bus or make a stop at the bar as a way to spend quality time celebrating with their wedding party.

You’ll want to plan a minimum of 15-30 minutes into your schedule when you arrive to the reception location in order to:

How much time do YOU spend at cocktail hour?

  • Bustle the bride’s dress
  • Bathroom break
  • Announce guests be seated for dinner
  • Wedding party lines up for grand entrance

Other couples want to be present and participating in the cocktail hour action - visiting with their guests and enjoying a drink with them. In order to do that in a relaxing way, it is important to complete as many pictures before the ceremony as possible. For mingling with guests and getting extra candids of your guests, plan instead for being at cocktail hour for 45-60 minutes.

If there are any other photos or activities that you want during this time, please allocate additional time into the timeline.

Couples spend months (or even years) planning their wedding Often times it is your family members, the venue staff, and/or a wedding coordinator who are actually doing the work of putting the reception room together. A room reveal gives you a private moment to see that vision come together, before guests are seated.

A room reveal is easiest to pull off if the venue has the separate room or space to host cocktail hour.

As photographers we love it as a chance to capture your expressions, capture overview shots of the whole reception space (without guest jackets/purses/plates on the chairs or tables), and to get our camera settings ready for the grand entrance.

Optional: Room Reveal

During Cocktail Hour is a great option because it allows the catering staff time they need to cut and serve the cake out with the dinner service. 

Before Toasts & Speeches is another good opportunity to cut the cake, particularly if it is more of a ceremonial one and guests are being served a separate one. Once speeches are finished, you can then say a few words of thanks for all the guests coming out to celebrate with you and invite them to eat cake and get ready for the first dances to begin shortly.


Depending on the type of dessert you’re serving, you may or may not be doing a formal cake cutting. Some cakes are purely ceremonial for the couple to enjoy and other times the cake you cut is one that will be served out to all of the guests.

cake cutting

Ask your bakery if they offer an anniversary cake!! It can take the stress off of “saving the top tier” tradition. We tried and can definitely say it was not worth the hassle and eating a fresh one in the same flavor was way better in the end!

Pro Tip

We need to receive our food right after the head table to ensure we have enough time to eat it before toasts and speeches begin. That can be counter intuitive to catering teams who typically serve vendors after the last guest, however, eating last prevents us from properly doing the job you’ve hired us to do! Since toasts and speeches often run directly into the first dances, it can often be 30+ minutes before we get to return to our food and by then the catering staff has cleared and disposed of it.

Meal Timing

You can seat us anywhere you have space, whether that is with your guests at a formal table or in the lobby. If we are seated in a separate room, please make sure the DJ lets us know before the speeches begin!!! We don’t want to miss them because we are served food late and couldn’t hear what was going on in the main reception space.

Seating Vendors

In the event that Katzie is pregnant while photographing your wedding day, her diet may be restricted for what she can eat, which is why we always ask for it to specifically be a HOT meal just in case! For example, many cold food items such as deli meat can be harmful to pregnancies due to the risk of bacteria and therefore need to be avoided.

Hot Meal

The proper etiquette is to feed your all day and evening vendors a hot meal at the reception. This includes photographers, videographers, DJ, day-of wedding coordinator, wedding planner, etc.

As photographers we rarely get a chance to eat a full three meals on a wedding day because we leave our house early and are serving you at every point throughout your timeline, so we really value having a hot meal to keep our energy and focus high through the very end.

Feeding vendor team

Encourage each person to keep their speech under 5 minutes. This helps them stay on track and avoids too many embarrassing stories.

Traditionally, toasts and speeches are given by the maid of honor, the best man, and the father of the bride.

When it is nearing time for speeches on the wedding day, be sure to take a few minutes to clear the head table of dishes, napkins, and other clutter. Remove all plates, napkins, empty cups, butter dishes, salt and pepper shakers, etc. off the head table. The clutter can be distracting when we want the focus of these images to be on your reactions and emotions. Alternatively you can move your chairs to a different location altogether. We also encourage moving the bride’s bouquet down the table so that it isn’t blocking our view of you two!

We prefer if the speakers stand directly beside you so that we can capture your reactions and the speaker all in one photo. This ensures that the speaker isn’t standing in an awkward location away from you with clutter in the background (exit signs, trash cans, doors, etc). It also helps us deliver better photos with more consistent lighting.

Toasts and Speeches

Once the dancing portion of the evening starts, it is typically kicked off with the traditional dances such as the:

  • Bride and groom
  • Father + daughter
  • Mother + son

Encourage your DJ to play a variety of songs in the first 30 minutes of the dance floor so that you get photos of most guests in the time that we are still there. The anniversary dance gets multiple generations on the dance floor. An upbeat song like Macklemore's "Can't Hold us" will get the millenials on the dance floor throwing their hands up in the air emphasizing the party feel. Include something upbeat too will bring the little kids out there along with their parents. 

dancing the night away

Your photogaLlery


Emergency Kit
Vendor recommendations
Sample timelines

catholic wedding tips
hair + Makeup trials
dress fitting 


tips + tricks
feeding vendor team
cocktail hour
cake cutting
special exits


Out of sight time
timing & logistics
Nuptial blessing
receiving lines
aisle Reveals


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