What Happens at a Wedding Reception?

During a wedding reception, which is a longer event that follows the ceremony, guests gather to celebrate in honor of the newlyweds. While the order and type of events at a reception vary depending on the preferences of the couple and the cultural traditions they follow, there is usually food, music, mingling and dancing. 

What is a Wedding Reception?

The purpose of a wedding ceremony, which is usually a short event, is to officially and legally marry the couple; the wedding reception is a longer party hosted afterwards to celebrate the couple’s marriage. After the wedding, the reception begins immediately after or later in the day, sometimes at a different location. This is a gathering of family and friends to celebrate the newly married couple, and typically involves a meal, anything from a light snack spread to a formal sit-down dinner, drinks, music and dancing. 

If there’s a gap in between the wedding ceremony and the reception, couples often use this time to take wedding photos or allow time for guests to make their way to the reception party, especially if it’s at a different location. The reception, which is usually planned by the couple or their families, is an opportunity for the newlyweds to thank their guests for attending their wedding and to celebrate their new life together. 

The reception may be held at a hotel, banquet hall, an outdoor tent, a restaurant, or even the couple’s home to ensure a comfortable space and amenities for guests. Traditions that are often included at a wedding reception include: a receiving line, the couple’s first dance, speeches, cake cutting, a bouquet toss, etc. Some couples may opt to ditch tradition or create their own, but the reception will always be some sort of celebratory event. 

Wedding Reception Order of Events

Although every celebration will be uniquely different, here are some common events that you’ll likely encounter at a wedding reception. 

  • Receiving Line: the newly married couple greets and thanks their guests and receives well wishes as they embark on their new journey. 
  • Cocktail Hour: guests arrive and enjoy drinks and appetizers while the newlyweds take photos with family and the wedding party.
  • Grand Entrance: the wedding party and couple make their entrance to the reception, usually to music and cheers from the guests.
  • First Dance: the newlyweds share their first dance as a married couple, often followed by dances with their parents or members of the wedding party.
  • Dinner: guests are seated for dinner, which may be a sit-down meal or a buffet.
  • Toasts: speeches are typically given by the best man, maid of honor, and other members of the wedding party or family.
  • Cake Cutting: the newlyweds cut their wedding cake and may feed each other a slice.
  • Dessert: guests enjoy traditional cake, ice cream, cupcakes, donuts, pies, or any other sweet treat served or grab and go from a bar. 
  • Dancing: guests are invited to dance, usually starting with a song that gets everyone on the dance floor.
  • Bouquet and Garter Toss: the bride throws her bouquet to the single women in attendance, and the groom removes the garter from the bride’s leg and tosses it to the single men.
  • Last Dance: the newlyweds share a last dance before saying goodbye to their guests and exiting the venue.

Some couples may decide to scrap traditions like the bouquet toss or the receiving line, and do things their own way like incorporating additional elements like games, photo booths, or other entertainment into their reception. Here are some modern twists to traditional wedding receptions. 

  • Personalized Touches: couples might incorporate personalized touches into their wedding reception, such as custom décor, monograms, and unique centerpieces.
  • Non-traditional Venue: newlyweds made opt for non-traditional venues, such as art galleries, rooftop bars, and rustic barns, to make their reception unique.
  • Food and Drink: instead of traditional plated meals, modern couples may offer food stations, food trucks, or other unique catering options, specialty cocktails or craft beer selections.
  • Interactive Experiences: modern receptions may feature interactive experiences like photo booths and lawn games.
  • Social Media Integration: personalized wedding hashtags, Instagram stations, and Snapchat filters might be a feature of a modern reception.
  • Alternative Entertainment: instead of traditional bands or DJs, modern couples may opt for alternative entertainment options such as live performers.
  • Sustainable and Eco-friendly Choices: some couples are making sustainable and eco-friendly choices for their reception, such as using recycled materials for décor, serving locally sourced and organic food, and reducing waste.

These are just a few examples of how modern couples are adding their own unique twists to traditional wedding receptions.

Historic Acres of Hershey is located along the rolling hills of rural Pennsylvania, offering the perfect backdrop for beautiful indoor or outdoor wedding celebrations. Contact our team to learn more.