When deciding what we wanted from our Nashville reception, we knew that we didn’t want a formal sit-down dinner. Not only did the space not allow for seating for all our guests, we wanted everyone to entertained the entire night. When you’re stuck at a table you find yourself only conversations with those around you. We wanted guests to mix and mingle with everyone all night. Of course you’ll always find comfort and gravitate to those you know, but a more mobile reception options gives you the opportunity to run into others, meet new people and not be confined to one area.
Having never been to a post-destination wedding reception or party we weren't sure what would be expected of us as hosts, but we knew that a good time—ney a GREAT TIME—would definitely fit the bill!
Traditional receptions have guests enjoy cocktail hour, find their seats, watch the first dance, eat dinner, listen to speeches and toasts, then head to the dance floor. That’s all well and good, but it seemed to formal for our reception.
After research on research about reception styles we stumbled across ideas like “east coast,” “strolling,” “cocktail,” and “progressive” receptions. Now we’re talking! In these styles guests are invited to enjoy the receptions in their own way. Throughout the night different food stations are opened so guests can grab food at their own leisure, hit the bar whenever, and get down on the always-open dance floor.
Obviously since we hosted an intimate wedding not everyone was invited and we didn’t want our reception guests—people we love dearly—to feel like they weren’t important to us so a big focus of the reception was our guests!
We had our wonderful videographers (Dallas Wilson Wedding Films) put together a short video of our wedding day, mostly beautiful shots of LeBraun and I together, which we looped on monitors around the room. This way guests may feel like they were apart of the ceremony which typically would have been moments before. A little something to get them in the wedding celebration spirit, ya no!
Since a cocktail hour wasn’t necessary as we weren’t taking wedding party portraits or moving locations, we decided to start the evening with a 30 minute cocktail style reception before our entry so guests could grab a drink (or two), enjoy some appetizers, and mingle a bit to loosen up.
Then we did the traditional wedding party introduction followed by our entrance and first dance. We wanted to keep some of the traditional reception elements so guests felt like it really was a true wedding reception. We did father-daughter/mother-son dances, bouquet/garter tosses, and a speech or two!
We honestly had the best time! And since we had a tough time finding timelines for unconventional style receptions we wanted to share our Nashville progressive, strolling reception timeline in the hope that others will find it helpful in planning their big days no matter how traditional or unconventional they may be. Your wedding day is all about y’all so do whatever works for you!
11am: Deliver and set up decor pieces at the venue
2pm: Bride’s Hair and Makeup
S+L Note: At this point we were already behind as some signage got damaged on the way to the venue in the morning so I had to re-calligraph a couple which took more time than we hoped.
4pm: Check in to hotel
S+L Note: LeBraun and I were staying at the hotel where our venue was the night of the event so we brought our overnight bag as well as all the things we needed for the reception in a few hours.
4:15pm: Review venue // Set up looping video on monitors
4:45pm: Photographers photo details (dress, invitations, shoes, etc) and venue before guest arrive
Quick Tip #1: If you want photos of the invitations, remember to bring a copy with you.
4:50pm - 5:15pm: Finish getting dressed in our room // Family and wedding party arrived dressed and ready for photographs
5:20pm - 5:50pm: Couple, family, and wedding party portraits at the venue
5:50pm: Couple and wedding party chill in hotel room during cocktail half-hour while guests arrive at the venue
6pm: Eat food delivered to room, brush teeth and final prepping // Doors open for guest arrival // Passed appetizers are served // Bar opens // Background iPod music is played
6:25pm: Couple and wedding party escorted to venue
6:30pm: Grand Entrance // Band emcees wedding party introductions followed by the new Mrs. & Mrs. entrance
6:35pm: First dance // Father-Daughter dance // Mother-Son dance
6:40pm: Passed appetizers end // Small plates & salad stations open
6:45pm: Welcome speech by bride’s father
6:50-7:15pm: Band plays lively background music
8:10pm: Small plates & salad stations close
Post-Event Note: A timeline of the evening was on entry signage, but we wish we would have asked the band to make announcements throughout the night in regards to food changing over, reminders about the photo booth, guestbook, etc.
7:45pm-9:15pm: Band plays first dance set
Quick Tip #2: Appoint someone to help “move” you to and from conversations. I wanted to stay and chat with everyone, but because of I didn’t have anyone helping me there were some people I never got around to see.
8:20pm: Main stations open
Post-Event Note: We should have asked someone to bring us food throughout the evening because the only food LeBraun or I ended up eating was what had been brought to our room before the reception started. Everything smelled so good, but I was doing my hostess duties. In hindsight, as the bride I should have taken advantage of asking people for help.
9:15pm - 9:30pm: Band break // Requested iPod dance songs played
Post-Event Note: It would have been nice to add a time for taking photos in the photo booth to the timeline so we we didn’t miss it. By the time I made it back inside (which was 10:30pm), the photo booth had already been packed up. LeBraun and I never got a fun photo strip from our own reception. :(
9:30pm: Bouquet & garter tosses // Guestbook switched to favor table
9:35pm - 11:30pm: Band plays second dance set
9:50pm: Main stations close
10pm: Dessert stations open
11:25pm: Last dance is played
11:30pm: Dessert stations close // Guests filter out as reception ends // Band packs up
12pm: Intimate After Party // Late-night snacks are served // LeBraun connect Spotify playlist and put on Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince on the monitors
1:30pm: After party ends // Bar closes // Tear down and clean up begins