What is a wedding reception runsheet?

Also known as a run sheet, run order, running order or an event order — a wedding reception runsheet is a document that tables how you want your night to play out. Starting from when your wedding ceremony ends through to when your guests leave the venue at the end of the night.

In one column, you’ll have times. In a second column, the activities. In a third column, the key people involved. And in a final column, you identify an ‘owner’: someone who’ll take responsibility the activity (and don’t forget to tell them about it!) Often there are multiple activities happening at the same time. Make a note of these.

A run order will organise your thoughts, act as a checklist, and help you brief your vendors and key people. When it’s finalised — share your wedding reception runsheet with everyone who will play a part.

How do I create a wedding reception runsheet?

You can create a run order in Word, but it’s best done in Excel or Google Sheets.

When you book me as your MC — I will share my copyrighted template with you. My wedding reception runsheet has been honed over the years in my capacity as an events manager and has been used as the basis for many couples’ weddings. It’s simple to use, and covers off all the things you need to think of.

Tips for developing your wedding reception runsheet

  • Make sure it’s easy to use. As one thing is certain: it will change. Often.
  • Manage drafts by dating, so you’re always referring to the most recent.
  • I recommend creating your run sheet in Google Sheets in a Google Drive or Excel shared in your Dropbox.

This way, your partner, wedding planner or your MC can view and comment on the most current version.

If all this sounds like a foreign language to you — don’t stress, it’s not that hard even if you’re not great at computers.

What to include in a wedding reception runsheet:

  • Ceremony end time
  • Wedding photos
  • Welcome drinks
  • Wedding party announcements
  • Meal service
  • Speeches (the business end)
  • The party end
  • Other traditions
  • Closing the night

The order can be changed around (despite what your venue coordinator tells you). The number one thing to remember is: Don’t pack too much into the time you have: allow some ‘breathing space’ between activities.

Wedding photos

Between the ceremony and the party starting is a common time. But have you thought about doing your photos before the ceremony?

Many couples surveyed by Easy Weddings said they didn’t get enough shots of close family. Getting them together all ahead of all the formalities is a great idea.

Welcome drinks

Often, drinks and canapes are served to your guests until you arrive and the night begins in earnest. The only thing I’d say is make sure you don’t miss out on too much time here.

Wedding party announcements

Your MC will announce your arrival. The newlyweds will be the last to enter the room — generally to an up-beat tune and a standing ovation. Depending on the number of people in your wedding party — this might take around 5 mins.

If you’re not one for grand entrances — don’t feel obliged. Just wander on in when you’re ready and start mingling straight away.

Meal service

Depending on what you’re serving, and to how many people, I’d allow around 1.5 — 2 hours for two courses to be served and consumed. Chat with your caterers for more information.

Wedding speeches

How many wedding speeches / toasts?

Always a big focus of the more ‘formal’ part of the proceedings. There’s lots of ways you can approach this — and it depends on how much you want to stick with tradition. More broadly, here’s how it works:

  • Someone should formally welcome everyone (usually the ‘host’ / person paying for the event)
  • Someone should thank key people (one of the newlyweds)
  • Someone should congratulate the newlyweds (person of your choice)
  • Someone should close the speeches (usually the MC).

A welcome to the family (usually based on the premise of taking on a family name) can also be added into the mix. Whatever you do: keep the number of speeches to a minimum. The optimal number of speeches is four.

And please don’t force anyone to give a speech. It never ends well.

How long should wedding speeches go for?

Suggest you time all wedding speeches to approximately 5 minutes each. They will always run over by a minute or two. So, for four people — you’re looking at nearly 30 minutes of speeches. More than this, and I guarantee your guests will get bored.

What about the MC’s speech?

This may come as a surprise but a speech by the Master of Ceremonies is not necessary. Prioritise your VIPs’ speeches. I just weave in little stories that I collect during our pre-planning conversations, to make it feel personal. Naturally, if you want me to make a speech, I would be honoured.

When is a good time for speeches?

Short answer is: Before everyone has too much to drink.

If you’re having a seated meal — consider breaking up the speeches between courses.

If you’re having a cocktail reception — do them all together and keep them to under 20 mins. For some reason, people get rowdier when they’re standing.

Don’t forget

Tell your speechmakers about their time limit. Let them know how the MC will silently let them know if they’re running over.

Ask them to rehearse it with someone else timing them. Someone who will provide feedback on speed, clarity of voice, and appropriateness of jokes, etc.

I read an awesome piece of advice somewhere: If you know someone will give a great speech — ask them to go last, so you’ll end the speeches on a high.

The party

Bear in mind, it can sometimes take a few songs before everyone is up on the dance floor. You want at least two hours for getting around to your guests and generally celebrating. Trust me, the time will fly.

Other traditions

The cutting of the cake

The cutting of the cake is a symbolic gesture traditionally done after dinner. But there’s no reason why you couldn’t do it directly after you make your entrance. Last of the formal photos out of the way; goes back into storage out of harm’s way until it’s ready to be cut up & served.

The first dance

The first dance serves as an excellent marker between the ‘business end’ and the start of the party.

Garter & bouquet

Some would say a little outdated. But if you want to keep with tradition, then consider doing this right before you leave. Everyone will have had a few drinks. And it will provide your emcee with a fun segue to announce the closure of the night.

Closing the night

Your MC should give you a heads up when the party is due to end.

Saying goodbye to your guests is traditionally done with a ‘guard of honour’ or a circle. The good thing about this is getting everyone into one spot so you can say your goodbyes all in one hit. Depending on how many guests you have, I’d allow at least 20 minutes. I’ve seen these take a lot longer.

Another idea is to gather your closest in a separate room for an intimate goodbye. Afterwards, the MC announces to the reception you’re due to leave. Newlyweds take the mic and say a quick goodbye to the rest of your guests with a very short & sharp speech.

Don’t forget your gifts, wishing well, cake and table decorations need to be collected on the night or the next morning. This should go in the run order as well. I offer this as one of my additional services.

Who needs a copy of my wedding reception runsheet?

Share your run order with the key parties ahead of time; and the final version on the day before your wedding.

  • The venue coordinator
  • Caterers (if different to the venue)
  • Your Master of Ceremonies
  • Your DJ / band
  • Your photographer / videographer

I’d also give a copy to the most organised personality in your wedding party.

If you have a wedding planner, they should be creating this for you. If they’re not, sack them and call me straight away.

Need more help?

Email me for a free review of your wedding reception runsheet. I’ll take a look, make a couple of comments, give you a few things to think about. This is a free service. No strings attached.

I often receive feedback that I help people think of things they hadn’t even considered. Naturally, I’m hopeful that after you see how I can help make your life easier — you’ll want to book me. But I can’t emphasise enough, there is absolutely no obligation.

So, if you have any questions, get in touch with me here.