3) Have a cocktail hour. Even if they are dry, cocktail hours are great for making up time for anything that got missed or any family photos where everyone wasn’t present earlier in the day. I will typically also use this time to photograph the reception space and details. Don’t skimp on this important chunk of time — it allows your vendors to regroup and align everything for dinner start time.
4) Make a detailed reception schedule. Plan out the schedule of events with your DJ, band or emcee, allowing adequate time for guests to eat. Ask people giving toasts to limit speaking time to stay on schedule. Don’t leave too much downtime between dinner and other events like cake cutting, first dances, etc, because some guests won’t want to stay too late. A lot of places will have you cut your cake now during dinner, so they can begin cutting the cake and serve it immediately after dinner, which I think is a great idea!
A great DJ will keep things on your tight schedule, and keep things moving. Be sure to communicate your wishes to stay on schedule. I am a big fan of constant music, less “mic” talking, and NO dead air! Dead air (as Urban Dictionary describes it is “an uncomfortable period of awkward silence that usually occurs in a tense social setting"). I am happy to supply you with a list of my favorite DJs that do all of these things!
5) Google sunset time. I do this before every wedding, but it’s important for the couple to add it into their own reception timeline also. I just search “sunset time for xx/xx/xxxx date in xxxxxx city” and that specific time is how I track the timing for sunset pictures that night. I prefer the sky to be just a little darker/colorful (so after sunset), so about 5-10 minutes after Google’s time is usually perfect.
6) Bonus tip: Note your photographer’s end time. If your photographer is booked for a certain amount of time, be sure their end time is in your reception timeline so the DJ or emcee knows. I usually will check in with the DJ when I arrive to the reception, but it still helps for them to know that info ahead of time. That way they can be sure to get in all the important events before the photographer needs to leave.