00:00 | The Cocktail Hour
It could start immediately (if the ceremony and reception are held at the same venue), or it might start more than half an hour later (if there's travel involved). Cocktails will kick off your reception and will last for at least an hour. During this time the staff will serve stationary or passed appetizers and drinks, which will get people mingling and in the mood.
01:00 | Newlyweds' Arrival/First Dance
You make your grand entrance. The coordinator should make sure guests are seated before the MC alerts them to your imminent arrival. Generally, both sets of parents and the wedding party are introduced, followed by the announcement of you both for the first time as husband and wife. In many cases, your newlywed first dance will begin as you step out onto the floor and into the spotlight after being announced. Since everyone is already cheering you as you enter the reception, use the applause as encouragement enough to skim away any shyness and step on out.
01:20 | Cheers & Toasts
Following your first dance, you might want to take the opportunity—while all eyes are still on you, since hopefully no one yet has had too much to drink—to thank everyone en masse for taking part in your wedding. A family member, often a parent of the bride, will say a blessing (depending on the families' faiths). Then, since toasting signifies a transition in the course of an event, the mother and father of the bride will thank guests for attending and invite everyone to enjoy the celebratory meal. Keep in mind that the toasts given by the best man and the maid of honor should occur between courses, to spread out all the high-emotion, much-anticipated moments and keep guests in their seats.
01:30 | Mangia, Mangia
Time to dig into the main course. If you're having a seated meal, the DJ will play subdued, conversation-friendly background music as the waitstaff makes the rounds. If you're having a buffet, your coordinator, DJ, or bandleader will dictate how the rotation will work by calling each table when it's time to head to the front of the line. Just remember: You need to do everything possible to take their seats and eat!
02:45 | Party Time
Monkey-see, monkey-do is how this game is played. Guests are going to follow your lead. Once dinner dishes are cleared, you should be the first ones on the dance floor so people know it's time to start partying. Throughout the dancing, the music will stop for any extracurricular activities you've planned (also known as the bouquet toss, the garter toss and whatever else you've dreamed up). If you do choose to toss the bouquet, make sure to get a tossing bouquet from the florist so you can keep your original one as a memento.
04:00 | Cake Cutting
About one hour before the conclusion of the reception, when the party starts getting a little rowdy, your waitstaff should start preparing tables for coffee and dessert. Since the cake cutting generally signals guests that it's okay to leave soon thereafter, don't do it too early or things could start wrapping up before you're ready.
04:15 | Shake a Leg
Once the cake is cut, the band or DJ should jump right back in to more music for those wanting to trade in their slices for another turn on the dance floor.
04:45 | Last Dance
End your wedding on a high note and choose a dance song that will leave a lasting impression. You'll want everyone to have a chance for one last twirl, so select something fast and festive.
05:00 | Final Farewell
Now it's time to say goodbye. Your coordinator will usher everyone into the foyer or onto the steps outdoors so that as you make your grand exit from the reception, friends and family can blow bubbles, light sparklers, or toss rose petals—and cheer to your successful celebration and future together.
1. Keep it simple.
Follow the guidelines of your DJs music request program and focus on what songs you personally like, don't worry about the rest. You can fill in "up-to" whatever your DJs selection program allows for understanding that time may not allow them to all be played. Isolating your selections for dancing to about 20-30 would be an ideal number based on a 4-5 hour reception, of which about 2-3 hours or less will be dancing. This will make for roughly a 65-70% mix of your choices and a 30% mix of DJ and guest request choices.
2. Play the right songs at the right times
If you know some of your favorite songs are not danceable, then see if your DJ can maybe fit them into your cocktail or dinner hour (if appropriate) as background music. Keep in mind that you can add these type of selections over and above the recommended amount for dancing. Many of the DJ request list programs, like ours, will even allow you to attach a note to the requested song. So you might attach a note that says "Play For Dinner" or "Play For Cocktail Hour".
3. Select songs that will fill the dance floor
For dancing, choose as many widely familiar songs as possible. Receptions have a vast age range of guests. If you get too obscure with your choices, from any era, many of your guests will not recognize them. Generally, your guests will most likely dance to songs they are familiar with. Obviously, you should also choose some of your very current favorite dance songs too, even if they are not familiar to everyone, but try to make sure you have somewhat of a mix.
4. Don't lock your DJ into playing only your requests.
If you want him/her to play 80% or 50% or 20%, that's OK, but be sure to give the DJ a little room to move your crowd if and when he needs to. This also plays a significant role in helping to make your requests be even more successful on the dance floor. The more people start to dance, the more they become willing to dance to less familiar tracks. Just because a track is popular, does not mean that everyone at your reception is familiar with it.
5. Remember that you hired a professional DJ for a reason
If you only have a few requests, or none at all, this should never be a problem with any professional DJ service; if it is, look elsewhere. An experienced pro will have no issue with this whatsoever, and will in many cases end up creating exactly the atmosphere you are looking for anyway. Don't feel stressed about the music request list and most certainly don't choose random songs just so you fill the list, this can create negative results.
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