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The Reception Etiquette Guide


Your reception is a beautiful chance for both you and your brand new spouse to entertain your loved ones as a married couple. From drinks and refreshments to dancing and toasts, the reception is often a favorite time for everyone; it’s more relaxed than the ceremony and couples have the chance to interact with their guests.  This etiquette guide will help ensure that things go smoothly for your reception.


outdoor reception
Photo by William Innes PhotographyVenue: Hartley Botanica


The Reception Toasts
Typically, the reception toasts give the wedding party a chance to wish the couple well and reminisce about special memories – from the couples’ childhoods or when they met each other. 


The bride’s father usually starts the toast, since the groom’s father typically takes the role of host. The bride’s dad may recall sentimental or humorous memories from his little girl’s life and either way, the guests are sure to be brought to laughter or tears. After the bride’s father, the groom will say a few words. He may thank guests for attending and talk a bit about his new wife before the best man shares his two cents. 


This toast usually brings laughter and a few sidelong glances from the nervous couple.


It’s important that the best man refrain from bringing up past relationships of the groom’s, or anything that would truly embarrass or upset the happy couple. 


Most best men are aware of this little unspoken rule – but you may have to warn yours! After the best man speaks, the maid of honor will offer her blessings and the happy couple may want to thank their guests again for attending.


The Reception Music

The reception music will set the tone for the first dance, the father and daughter dance, the cocktail hour and more. It’s important that the music is not only representative of the bride and groom – but that it doesn’t offend anyone attending.  Consider your guest list before creating your music list and remember that your reception music must be enjoyed by people in a range of different age groups and with different personalities.



If children will be attending, be sure that the music is child-friendly. Remember also your parents and grandparents before playing anything they would consider disrespectful or rude. If you keep everyone in mind, you can select reception music that will be enjoyed by all.


The Reception ‘Mingling’
If you and your soon-to-be spouse will not have a receiving line for your reception, you should be sure to speak with each guest at least once. If you’re going to have a large reception with a lot of guests, you should consider the receiving line.  Trying to make sure you have spoken to everyone throughout the night can be difficult – especially if more than 100 guests will be attending.

Consider which avenue will allow you to at least say hello to every single guest which attends your wedding.  This can be an exhausting task, but the possibility of someone’s feelings getting hurt is too great when you speak to only some guests attending your reception.

The Reception Gifts
If you would like to open your gifts in front of your guests – wonderful!  However, there is no etiquette rule which states that you must. Before deciding whether to do this, consider a few things. Will guests who did not bring a gift feel embarrassed?  Also, if you will be hosting a very large ceremony with a lot of gifts, will the gift-opening take up the entire reception? 

If the reception will be an intimate one with only family and a few close friends, opening the gifts in front of guests will be easier. Just be sure to display the same excitement for each gift and never allude to the fact that you don’t like a guest’s gift.

By following this handy etiquette guide, your reception will go very smoothly and everyone (including you) should have a wonderful time!


Last Updated: October 6, 2014 at 8:25 pm
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