Brides and grooms hear it all the time: “Your wedding day will be one of the fastest days of your life”.  Looking back to our reception eight years ago I can agree with that statement. At 4 p.m. we were getting married in Sylvan Beach and took some photos, rode to Utica for our 7 p.m. reception and enjoyed cocktail hour along with dinner.  We started talking to guests at their tables and then it happened: I looked at my phone and realized it was 9:20 p.m.!  Our day was 75 percent over and we still needed to cut the cake and start the dancing…

I’ve realized over the years that my wife and I are not the only ones who feel this way.  Everyone has the same end goal: create a memorable event with lots of dancing.

When I meet with my clients and we talk about the timeline for the day I try to emphasize how much time you really have for dancing.  A four hour reception with cocktail hour, toasts, formal intros and dances plus dinner will usually have 90 minutes for dancing.  A five hour reception with the same events on average will have 2 to 2.5 hours of dancing. Brides will often say to me: “that’s it!!”

Sadly, yes… that’s it.  The question often becomes why and that is what inspired me to write this article: how and why are brides and grooms losing time at the reception.   In my nearly 20 years of entertaining weddings and events I have noticed some common trends. It doesn’t mean this will happen at your event and I am not an expert on this but these are things that are out of the entertainers control.  (As you read this keep in mind my philosophy that every 3 minutes lost counts as one song).

  • Bustle The Dress:   I strongly encourage brides/bridesmaids to learn how to bustle the dress in advance of the reception if it needs to be done. Numerous times the wedding party is lined up and ready to be introduced but the dress just isn’t right or the bustle came undone. Everything comes to a standstill and the wedding party usually becomes unruly or runs off to the bar to get a drink while waiting for their big moment to shine.  (Average time lost: 6 minutes or more depending on the dress).
  • It takes longer than expected to transition from cocktail hour to the ballroom for the reception:   On average it will take 10-15 minutes for people to move from location A to location B, get their seating instructions, get to their seat and be comfortable.  This year I have noticed several couples using seating cards place the cards in order of table numbers vs last name.  If you have 18 tables the guest has to look at 18 different sets of table cards vs searching for the first initial of their last name.  (Average time lost: 10 minutes or more depending on crowd size).
  • Guests find their seat and then get a drink:  It happens all the time.  We’re ready to introduce the wedding party but 15 people (who in many cases had drinks at cocktail hour) are now in line across the dance floor right in the space where the wedding party needs to walk and first dance will be.  You can only ask them nicely to sit down so many times before they think the entertainer is rude but what they don’t realize is they are stopping the entire party from moving forward.  (Average time lost: 5 minutes)
  • Long toasts: This is always touchy as the speeches at wedding reception are some of the most heartfelt or funniest moments at a reception but there is a point where how much is too much. All the articles I read about average speech time suggest each toast/speech should be no more than three to five minutes in length.  If there are three speeches (maid/matron of honor, best man and father of bride toast) I allocate 15 minutes for the three toasts. Brides will tell me that they told the speakers they have 3 or 4 minutes.    As you likely guessed, that rarely happens. Colleagues have had weddings this season where 3 toasts/speeches took up 40-50 minutes of the reception. Again, that may be right for some crowds however in most situations 20-30 minutes (or 6-8 songs) were lost.   (Average time lost: 25 minutes)
  • Talking To Tables: Let me start by saying it is absolutely the right thing to do.  Couples should find a way to thank their guests for coming, visit with them, take photos, etc. Some guests drove hours or flew across the country for your special occasion.   This takes time.  I encourage brides and grooms to start talking to tables when the newlyweds are finished eating.  By the time you start with the first few tables the rest of the tables should be finishing eating and this allows for a smoother transition vs waiting for all the tables to be done eating before starting. My rule of thumb for my clients is expect to spend 4-5 minutes per table but when you look at your table numbers this is what it averages out to:  15 tables = 75 minutes and 20 tables would be near 100 minutes.  Crazy isn’t it!  Again it is the right thing to do but I encourage couples to think of ways they can save time after dinner to get to dancing.   (Average time lost: 20 minutes)
  • The transition from cake cutting to throwing the bouquet: Many couples I coordinate with have eliminated the garter/bouquet toss but for the couples who keep it this is usually the final time killer.  Why?  Cake smashing.  We’ve all seen the bride who spent hundreds of dollars on hair and make-up with a beautiful dress only to have their partner smash frosting or cake on their face, in their hair, ear and who knows where else…. It takes a few minutes to clean that up.  The other way many couples lose time is the guests will watch the cake cutting and then want to take photos, talk, etc as the bride is headed to the dance floor to throw her bouquet.  Again, talking to everyone and seeing friends/family is the right thing to do however the cake cutting and garter/bouquet are usually the last things we need to do before opening the dance floor. (Average time lost: 7 minutes)
  • Total Average Time Lost:  67 minutes aka 20-21 songs

As I mentioned towards the top of this article I am not an expert on solving the issues addressed here. Some clients are totally OK with having things come a little off schedule.  Other clients want to maximize their dance time and want to stick to a tight timeline.  I work for and with my couples and will do what they desire but I believe it is important to understand some of the things that can have a big impact in your day that the DJ can’t always control.  I will never tell a couple they can’t talk to people or take photos but I will point out what time it is and that we have several things to do before the photographer leaves so that the happy couple have photos to look at from the fastest night of the life in the future.

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