Here are some pointers for those of you who do not have a wedding planner. Dinner reception itineraries can vary in many ways depending on what you need. You will definitely need at least one coordinator, so hire one for the day or rope in a friend at the last stage of your planning so he or she knows what you have finalised with your vendors.

In Malaysia and Singapore, dinner receptions tend to start around eight. Avoid starting any later unless a very important guest hasn’t arrived yet. Having the wedding ceremony right before the reception is a great way to make sure your guests are on time. If your wedding is on a Friday evening, do factor in traffic and the fact that some girls may need to go home to doll up before coming. If it’s on a Sunday evening, remember that people tend to leave earlier so your programme should also end slightly earlier.

Once about 70 percent of your guests have arrived and the bride is ready, notify your banquet manager, as the caterers will normally need 15 minutes to heat up the food. Get everyone into position for the grand entrance, and from then on, unless it’s a buffet, you should use the dinner courses to pace your programme.

For the purpose of this article, we will be using a regular hotel nine-course banquet menu as an example.

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1. If you have a second change, you should change no later than the third course. Keep your guests occupied with your childhood montage or a bridal portraits video. Since the lights are normally dimmed for this, it will be less noticeable that you are not there. You should be there for all the speeches since they are usually intended for the bridal couple rather than the guests.

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2. Consider arranging for the staff to stop serving the food during your main toast and speech so you have your guests’ undivided attention. If you intend to visit every table for a toast, please do so no later than the fifth course. For nine courses reception, the maximum number of tables you can visit is about 40. If your parents have a lot of guests, decide in advance whom you can visit and allocate those guests to tables that are in the centre. Instead of taking photos at every table, set up a photo booth.

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3. If you want to open up the dance floor, announce it in advance and make sure the key people hit the dance floor before dessert is served. The moment you serve dessert, some of your guests will start heading for the exit. Avoid having anything important after that.

“You have to weigh up what is important and what is not. Try not to upset your elders without spending the whole evening doing only what is obligatory and not having fun at all. Strike a balance and keep it memorable.”

Alternatively, you can have a casual, fun celebration with your friends, separate from your family dinner reception. Smaller receptions tend to be more personal and meaningful, both for the guests and yourselves.

We hope this guide is good enough to help you draft your dinner reception itinerary. Feel free to comment and leave us questions. We might not have all the answers, but maybe someone else does and we will try to assist as much as possible.

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