The Ultimate Guide: What Guests Do at a Wedding Reception

Wedding receptions are joyous occasions where friends and family gather to celebrate the union of two individuals. These events are filled with love, laughter, and memorable moments. As a guest, there are several activities and traditions that you can expect to participate in during a wedding reception. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the various things guests do at a wedding reception, from the moment they arrive until the last dance of the night.

1. Arrival and Greeting

When guests arrive at a wedding reception, they are usually greeted by the couple or their families. This is a time to exchange warm greetings, offer congratulations, and express well wishes for the newlyweds. It is customary to bring a gift for the couple, which is often placed on a designated table or presented to the couple directly.

2. Cocktail Hour

After the initial greetings, guests typically proceed to the cocktail hour. This is a socializing period where attendees can mingle, enjoy drinks, and indulge in appetizers. The cocktail hour sets the tone for the rest of the evening and allows guests to relax and get to know each other before the formalities begin.

3. Seating and Dinner

Once the cocktail hour concludes, guests are directed to their assigned seats for dinner. The seating arrangement is carefully planned by the couple to ensure a harmonious atmosphere and facilitate conversations among guests. During dinner, guests enjoy a delicious meal, often consisting of multiple courses. It is customary to toast the couple during this time, with speeches given by the best man, maid of honor, and sometimes the parents of the couple.

4. Dancing and Entertainment

After dinner, the real party begins! Wedding receptions are known for their lively dance floors and energetic entertainment. Guests are encouraged to hit the dance floor and celebrate the couple’s union through music and dance. Professional DJs or live bands are often hired to provide a diverse range of music that caters to different tastes and generations. This is the time when guests can let loose, have fun, and create lasting memories.

5. Photo Booths and Guest Books

Many couples incorporate photo booths and guest books into their wedding receptions to capture memories and well wishes from their guests. Photo booths provide a fun and interactive experience, allowing guests to take pictures with props and instantly print them as keepsakes. Guest books, on the other hand, give attendees the opportunity to leave heartfelt messages and advice for the couple to cherish for years to come.

6. Cake Cutting and Dessert

The cake cutting ceremony is a traditional highlight of wedding receptions. Guests gather around as the couple cuts the first slice of their wedding cake together, symbolizing their shared future. After the cake cutting, guests are served slices of cake or other desserts, such as cupcakes or pastries. This sweet treat is a delightful way to end the formal part of the reception and transition into the more relaxed and celebratory atmosphere of the evening.

7. Bouquet and Garter Toss

The bouquet and garter toss are playful traditions that often take place during the wedding reception. The bride tosses her bouquet into a crowd of single women, and it is believed that the one who catches it will be the next to get married. Similarly, the groom removes the garter from the bride’s leg and tosses it to a group of single men. These activities add an element of fun and excitement to the reception, and guests eagerly participate in the hopes of being the lucky catchers.

8. Farewell and Send-Off

As the wedding reception draws to a close, guests gather to bid farewell to the couple. This is often done through a grand send-off, where guests form a pathway lined with sparklers, bubbles, or confetti. The couple walks through this pathway, symbolizing their journey into married life. The farewell and send-off are emotional moments filled with love and well wishes from the guests.


Attending a wedding reception is a special experience filled with various activities and traditions. From the arrival and greeting to the farewell and send-off, guests play an essential role in creating a memorable and joyous celebration for the newlyweds. Whether it’s dancing the night away, leaving heartfelt messages in a guest book, or participating in playful traditions like the bouquet toss, guests contribute to the overall atmosphere and help make the wedding reception a truly unforgettable event.


1. What should I wear to a wedding reception?

It is customary to dress formally for a wedding reception. Men typically wear suits or tuxedos, while women opt for elegant dresses or gowns. It is always a good idea to check the dress code specified on the wedding invitation or consult with the couple if you are unsure.

2. Can I bring a plus one to a wedding reception?

Whether or not you can bring a plus one to a wedding reception depends on the couple’s invitation. If the invitation specifies that you are allowed to bring a guest, then you can bring a plus one. However, if the invitation is addressed only to you, it is best to respect the couple’s wishes and attend the reception alone.

3. How long does a wedding reception typically last?

Wedding receptions can vary in duration, but they typically last between four to six hours. The exact length depends on various factors, such as the number of guests, the schedule of events, and the couple’s preferences. It is best to check the wedding invitation or consult with the couple for specific details.

4. Can I take pictures during the wedding reception?

While it is generally acceptable to take pictures during a wedding reception, it is important to be mindful of the couple’s wishes and the professional photographer hired for the event. Some couples may request an unplugged wedding, where guests are asked to refrain from taking pictures to ensure everyone is fully present and engaged in the celebration. If in doubt, it is best to ask the couple or the wedding planner for guidance.

5. What are some unique wedding reception activities?

Wedding receptions offer endless opportunities for unique and personalized activities. Some couples choose to incorporate interactive stations, such as a DIY cocktail bar or a dessert buffet, where guests can customize their drinks or desserts. Others may surprise their guests with live performances, fireworks displays, or even themed costume parties. The possibilities are endless, and couples often get creative to make their wedding reception truly memorable.