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Wedding Reception Entrances (No, They Don’t Have To Be Grand)


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

I got this excellent question from reader Laura:

I am not a “grand entrance” kind of girl. In fact, I think they are downright silly. And, I’d prefer to stick with the tradition I grew up with (and that my family is used to), in which the first dance is after dinner, not before. The DJ we met with last night and our caterer (who is great, really) are totally confused by this. They think that the party “won’t get started” without a big entrance followed by a dance. Are they right? Am I nuts? I just can’t see making all my guests watch my new husband and me sway like 6th graders for 3 minutes before allowing them to eat.

Um. No. You are not nuts. I actually AM a grand entrance kind of girl, and there was no way that I wanted any part of that for my wedding. We just were not having that sort of party.

So what did our entrance look like? So, after our ceremony, we had our yichud (do this, people) and then our photographers pulled us aside for five minutes of photographs. And then we wanted to party. We were so excited to party. So we just walked over to the cocktail party going on, like so:Wedding Reception Entrances (No, They Dont Have To Be Grand) | A Practical WeddingAnd that was it. I’d tell you our first dance happened after lunch and after cake cutting, and it did, technically. But we also snuck away during the cocktail hour to dance to Nina Simone’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free,” just the two of us. Because that’s what getting married felt like (especially the last two lines):

I wish I knew how
It would feel to be free
I wish I could break
All the chains holding me
I wish I could say
All the things that I should say
Say ‘em loud say ‘em clear
For the whole round world to hear
I wish I could share
All the love that’s in my heart
Remove all the bars
That keep us apart
I wish you could know
What it means to be me
Then you’d see and agree
That every man should be free

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • Anonymous

    Same thing for us. We had alone time with the photographer, and then we wandered into our reception (by the back door) and a few people noticed and someone handed me a drink. I remember my husband's hand lightly touching my back as we stood together chatting with people, and how great that felt. Dancing happened AFTER dinner and it was a mad dance party, so do not worry about that. Do it the way it makes sense to you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05987184147935636439 Emmalinda

    Oh, agreed. We actually booked it out of the church after the ceremony & were probably the first people (other than our amazing friends/family who were finishing the set-up) to the reception. It was nice to get a first look at the finished space together, and then get FOOD before anyone else. We didn't have dancing *GASP* but people were talking and laughing and having a great time w/o any grand entrance by us.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07727291511829658991 penn

    Weird that your caterer/DJ think your wishes are strange. I've been to weddings all over, and everyone had people eating first and then the dances after food. There might be an announcement like "present Mr. and Mrs. whomever," but the food part came before the dancing part.

  • Anonymous

    I did see one of those wedding planning shows on tv where the planner told the couple that in her experience "the party never gets started" if you wait until after dinner for the first dance.

    But I went to a very expensive wedding where the couple danced immediately after the reception line, and then dinner took so long to eat that I really can't say their dance "started any party" at all. No one danced during dinner. The wild dancing really didn't start until after dinner.

    They had a live band and I don't think the band even played dance music during dinner.

    Hope others weigh in on this.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06034775290696442589 Nic

    Your vendors are the crazy ones! The flow will be totally interrupted if you have a grand dance to 'start the party' then all sit down for an hour to dine.

    We were 'announced' as we walked into the reception, had a fabulous dinner with everyone, then cut the cake to serve for dessert and only then did we dance, and invited everyone to join us! It just seemed to be the most logical arrangement. Good luck!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00379596904318935981 Liz

    what "gets the party started" for one group, doesn't work for another. you know what suits your friends and family better than a stranger (no matter what kind of "expert" he is)

    similar but different: my friend gave her dj a list of songs she KNEW her laidback, indie crowd friends would dance to.

    the dj didn't think they'd "get the party started" so he plaid top 40 pop hit trash. by the end of the night, when he noticed noone was lovin the macarena or lil wayne, he FINALLY put their songs on, and FINALLY "got the party started."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00379596904318935981 Liz

    plaid? REALLY?

    lets blame it on the early morning.

    PLAYED

  • MrsGray

    I never liked the "grand entrance" or even the introduction by the DJ or MC. Rain on our wedding day made it so that our ceremony and reception were in the same room. We were taking pictures while guests arrived. Finished taking them after the ceremony, and then enjoyed time with friends. We only had a couple of minutes of alone time right after the ceremony, but we were pretty much in the mix of it all for the whole day! It was awesome!

  • http://www.themaidenmetallurgist.com The Maiden Metallurgist

    We tried to sneak in to to the bar after our ceremony and got picked off and ended up having an impromptu receiving line- all the while our mouths were watering for some bubbly.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06990466546123333194 Kyley

    do. what. you. want.

    i personally think a grand dance before dinner does the opposite of party-starting.

    also, i am terrified of a grand entrance because if anyone ever introduces me as mrs. his-first-name his-last-name, i will punch the mc and then demand a re-do. of course, that is just me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05919042579927071379 Laura

    Thank you for answering my question! I feel confident about sticking to my guns on this now. :-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05919042579927071379 Laura

    Sorry, forgot to add: Kyley, I am 100% with you on that. I might change my name but the first person who calls me Mrs His Name is getting a pop in the nose. Or at least, a very stern passive aggressive stare-down.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11268259116470796202 susie Q

    i didn't even know what a yichud was but we had one! and i highly recommend it. both for the romance & the decompression time because we were not alone together until very late that night.

    i find the whole all-eyes-on-me thing a lot to handle as a shy gal, so we turned our "entrance" into a fun moment by being introduced by our charming best man and entering the room to the Match of the Day Theme. Any Brits/Irish out there or fans of soccer/football will know this. Our way of having a little laugh over the whole idea of us being "grand" in any way whatsoever :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_OKd0Uo3yw&feature;=related

  • KD

    The best way I've personally seen it is where after the dinner the couple does their first dance, about 1/2 way through the song they emcee invited everyone to the dance floor to join them (great for those of us who don't want everyone watching us sway for 4 minutes). So all the couples were on the floor then the next song was a faster fun song and they all stayed out there. I thought it was great how all the singles joined in and all the couples were out there already. Everyone danced the night away together only leaving the dance floor to get drinks or rest for a few minutes.

    I think that would work great with my wedding crowd… My only issue with that is where do I fit in the father/daughter dances with my dad and step dad?

    There will be no grand entrance for me, but that should be entirely up to the couple. Do what feels right to you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11268259116470796202 susie Q

    oh yeah – and we didn't dance right away either. that felt weird to us too. we waltz in to our mexican sports theme tune, hugged people & dug in! dancin' started after we ate.

  • http://caitlindentino.com caitlin

    I think your way makes the most sense… (as that is about how we did it).

    After the ceremony we snuck off to finish pictures and then went back to cocktail hour and mingled as we chose. When people went to sit down for dinner (it was all in the same place), I snuck in the house to change my earrings and truthfully use the restroom. Hubby was with me so when we walked back to our table to sit down people all watched us, but it definitely wasn't intentional and there were no announcements.

    (Frankly I have never understood that anyway – weren't you just "announced" at the ceremony??)

    After a long lovely dinner, we danced and then everyone joined us. And no one sat down for hours… I think any other way breaks it up too much. But maybe that is just me…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08169407356570837365 D-Day

    thank you for this post!! our caterer also said very authoritatively that we need to do the grand entrance and go directly into our first dance because "people will want to see you do something special." or something like that. it just seems bizarre to me to sweep into the room and do our dance and then eat dinner! I really much prefer the idea of doing our first dance to kick off the dancing portion of the evening so we can invite everyone to join us right then..

    I don't know what kind of WIC madness this is (trying to find some way someone could profit from this strange first dance timing??), I was totally going to bow to this as just one of those things I guess we have to do..

    Even after reading this blog for a year I'm still taken aback by all the ways we get bamboozled.

    oh ps I LOVE seeing photos from your wedding Meg. they're so lovely.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17572133516556386284 *Michelle

    We did have a grand entrance (military sword arch) but we still didnt dance right away. We entered, mingled for a few and then my dad gave a quick toast, the priest said a prayer, and it was dinner time! After dinner were the toasts and cake cutting and then the dancing became.. because otherwise you are dancing before dinner, stopping, and have to get the dancing started again after dinner.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11648616424467549705 Ale

    So do we have the same DJ? I JUST had a phone conference with mine (and the MC) on Monday and they said the SAME thing!!

    This brought me back to the whole "whatever makes you happy" really means "whatever makes ME happy."

    To be honest, I don't necessarily "mind" the grand entrance, but the DJ told me (in a round about way) that our guests should wait until AFTER our grand entrance to start eating. But I'm not having a cocktail hour and I'll be doing pics! So suddenly I'm supposed to "find" something (i.e. spending even more $$) to keep them preoccupied while my fiance and I take pictures. All because the DJ thinks "the party won't get started" correctly unless we make our entrance, dance, and then eat with the guests.

    Pffft. You're a DJ and you can FIND a way to get the party started. Isn't that what I'm paying you for?! I'm gonna write a post about this… haha.

  • Anonymous

    I agree that you should do whatever you like best. My advice would be to remind your DJ and caterer every chance you get of these plans before the wedding, and then delegate someone to remind them again the day of and during the wedding how it is going to be done (so you don't have to argue with them in the middle of the wedding in order to get what you want). I loved a lot of things about my band and caterer, but they were also really resistant to some of the things we wanted because they felt really strongly about some things that sometimes didn't really fit our style. For example, we had told them we wanted to walk into the reception from the cocktail hour with everyone else, and didn't want a grand announcement except that once everyone had found their seats they would announce that we would do our first dance. The band leader and caterer kind of teamed up to hold my husband and I back from the rest of the party so that we could walk in after everyone was seated and announce that we were going to do our first dance – creating "drama" as they put it, without technically violating our desire not to be announced since they were announcing our dance, not our entrance. It turned out fine because it was nice to have some breathing time with my husband after a very overwhelming cocktail hour of a room full of people I wanted to talk to simultaneously, but it wasn't what we wanted, and we didn't want to spend the energy and generate the negativity that would have been required to argue with them about it in the moment (we picked our day-of battles).

    As for the debate about when to do the first dance, I have seen it lots of ways and I think they all can work well. We did a first dance at the beginning, then invited everyone up for another slow dance, then did the hora. Stop for blessing over the challah, our dad's toasts, and then a full dance set before the entree was served. We had a ridiculous amount of food at our cocktail hour so I think people liked doing a dance set at the beginning of dinner between nibbling on their salads, to take an eating break before dinner.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16701202722116263906 Chelsea

    I just attended a wedding where the bride and groom were introduced, and immediately went to the dance floor and danced to a very upbeat and fun song and everyone was cheering. They then danced to a slower song, and sat down for dinner. I thought this was fun, and totally worked. But, I will say I think the grand entrance works better for people w/ lots of elves and possibly a coordinator to pull it off…I am a very DIY bride, and consider the formal entrance yet another thing to fret about from a logistics standpoint, so am skipping it altogether.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13811559996670448379 Emily Takes Photos

    We haven't even thought about an entrance; I'm sure we'll just walk back up the aisle and go straight to the food. If we were going to do a grand entrance though, it would probably involve abseiling and the theme music from the A-Team. But I'm pretty sure we'll just walk over to the food.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01739533284860045738 Nicole

    We told our DJ that we wanted the dance after dinner and no grand entrance and he just freaked out. It was totally weird. But, we stuck to our guns and told him no.

    We also had an interesting experience of my mom wanting the first dances to wait so she could do something, and we told everyone to just start dancing but the DJ refused. It was rally strange.

  • fleda

    Yeah, I was vaguely aware of the whole "grand entrance" thing as a tradition that some people did, and that I actively wanted to avoid. Anyone who digs it should of course do it, but to us it feels retrograde and unnatural. We're going with what feels natural to us: all formal photos before the ceremony, no formal entrance, first dance after dinner, father-daughter dance (maybe) at the tail end of the first dance. And then massive dance party for all.

    For me, full cocktail hour attendance is a priority: I LOVE cocktail hours. I mean LOVE. I want to be there from start to finish, circulating amongst all those great people. I think that will probably be my favorite part of the day.

  • http://www.weddingdancesandiego.com/wedding-dance-instructors.html Wedding dance instructor

    I'm a ballroom dance teacher and I say, "Your party, your plan!" :-) I have taught manymanymany couples for their wedding dance, and I have heard both arrangements proposed:

    1. grand entrance, first dance, dinner, toasts, father-daughter & mother-son dances, upbeat dance for wedding party which segues into upbeat general dancing

    2. entrance (whatever kind), dinner, toasts, first dance, father-daughter & mother-son dances, wedding party, everyone

    These both work beautifully. An upbeat dance for the wedding party at some point after dinner is a great lead-in to general dancing and can easily "re-start" the party (if it even needs it). And frankly ALL of the things on the sequences above are optional, even dinner! There have been gorgeous weddings in the history of the world that were strictly dance parties, or brunches, or… whatever!

    Any vendor that insists on something in particular that is not referring to a safety issue can be ignored. Yes, they have lots of experience and wisdom, but they don't get to decide, only suggest. Any adamant declarations of how it must be may be declined. (Including this one ! ;-) )

    Just my two cents. Best of luck with everything!

    Liz

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02567097973987043341 Lauren

    No grand entrance here either. We happened to get to the reception after everyone else had just gotten there, and we walked in the door (me holding my Sigg as I was dying of thirst) and someone noticed and started clapping, and then everyone clapped for about 3.5 seconds and then went back to munching on their appetizers. It was pretty perfect.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12383152078380104490 a mindful bride

    After the ceremony the guests headed to the reception for "cocktail hour," which it really wasn't since we had a cocktail reception, and we snuck of for photos. When we were ready to "join the party" we had my dad introduce us and do his toast/ speech welcoming everyone to signal the beginning of the party. We waited to do out dance until after the main food had been served and kicked off the dancing portion of the evening. It was perfect for us.

  • Blue12rain

    I think doing the dance before dinner kills the party. It's like telling everyone it's time to dance and then saying, just kidding, nobody get up, we're going to eat now.

    We had alone time, then ate, then got all those "wedding" things (cake cutting/dances) out of the way as soon as the dinner was done. We didn't want people to get up and start dancing and then tell them to all sit down so the bride can dance with her dad.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04137547398982007429 Mellyelle

    Haha, when meeting with the site coordinator/day-of coordinator, he told us "OK, this is what I'd generally suggest for flow of the wedding, let's go through together and if you want to change anything that's totally fine." He suggested (and we agreed) the first dance was after dinner. We did have kind of an "entrance" but it was a fun entrance to Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered!" We then got our salads and champagne, did the toast, then had dinner, then had first dance and then the rest of the dancing.

    I honestly have never been to a wedding where there was the first dance before dinner, but maybe it's a CA thing? Hahaha. Overall, everyone should do what they like!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12051581432652556410 Marina

    We had a yichud, then snuck in the back of our party, actually. Like, ducked under a counter snuck in. We found our mothers first and hugged them, then went off and ate food. I think our photographer was kind of pissed at us actually. ;)

    And come to think of it, we never really "got the party started". I spent most of the wedding lounging on the grass outside or hula-hooping to oldies, not shaking my stuff.

    But thinking about it now, holding hands with my brand new husband and giggling as we made our silly attempt to sneak in the back, and the first people we saw and hugged being our moms… It just makes me grin so much. And a non-dancing wedding suited us. So… going by my experience, it's totally fine to not "get the party started" with a big entrance, but maybe if you want a typical party you shouldn't follow my example. ;)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    @Sarah
    I don't know, NO ONE was lethargic at our wedding. I think there is this sense that the wedding is a show, and you have to entertain people, but I think if you do it right it's NOT a show, it's a party, and people entertain themselves.

    People hung out with us at the cocktail hour, and each other and had a grand time. Then we moved right into lunch (no waiting, when the food was served we ate, because we were hungry.) It was not lethargic, not boring, but yummy! No entertainment needed. Then right as everyone finished, there were some toasts, we cut the cake, and then we danced danced danced.

    In sum, it was not boring at all, we were never the entertainment, no introductions were needed. It was easy and natural feeling, and it was good.

    And yes. People WILL leave early, no matter what you do (unless you have a teensy wedding). It is what it is, which is not the end of the world.

  • Cate Subrosa

    Having your first dance after dinner will get the party started way better than having it before. No question.

  • Sarah

    @Kyley and Laura – TOTALLY agree with the Mr. and Mrs. (Husband's Name). *retch!* glad i'm not the only one who gets chills when they hear that. don't get me wrong, i am totally proud to be marrying my guy, but i just feel like it likens too much to ye olden days, when marriage symbolized the loss of a woman's own personal identity!

    in regards to all the previous posts, i think that it is your wedding and you should do whatever you darn well please! that being said, i believe that most weddings i have attended began w/ grand entrance (or at least some kind of entrance), first dance, brief dance set, dinner, toasts, and then a lot more dancing, including the mother/son, father/daughter, cake-cutting, and optional bouquet toss shpiel. personally, i actually do rather like this setup. I feel like, you just came from eating at cocktail hour- you are anticipating some fun time w/ the bride & groom, not just segueing into more eating, and then you are lethargic and starting to get restless by the time the dancing comes around.

    the last wedding that i went to, post-cocktail hour, everyone was seated waiting for dinner for some time, then the bridal party made their entrance, and then there were a wealth of toasts, everyone ate dinner. then their was a weird pause, in which we inquired as to when the dancing would begin, b/c we were all starting to get kind of antsy and bored. then there was some cake cutting, first dance, parent dances, by that time, a lot of people were actually starting to leave (one of my biggest fears!!), and then FINALLY, the dancing started. this was the first time that i had encountered a setup like this (which from reading these comments is actually pretty popular), and IMHO, i did not enjoy it. however, that is just my humble opinion, and if doing it that way is what is going to make you happy, then by all means, you should do it that way. i think i will likely stick w/ the traditional setup, however.

  • Sarah

    like i said.. that's fine if it works for you. i don't know that it would work with the vision that i have for my day, but that's why it's my day and not someone else's! i guess, coming from a theatre background, in part, i do actually kind of want the wedding to be somewhat of a show. as much as it is also an intensely personal moment in our collective history.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07099654516607570108 Lucy

    I'm English and have been to a bunch of weddings in the UK and different countries in Europe and not *one* has had the first dance before dinner.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14716820192261000763 pegasus1177

    So I'll probably catch flak for this but something you said in your post made me take notice and I wanted to comment. In talking about entrances you said you and your husband had 'yichud' prior to the party and encouraged others to do this…now, I think some alone time to reflect on the fact that you just got married!!! is a lovely idea but knowing that yichud really is the orthodox restriction against unmarried opposite gender people being alone together and knowing how incredibly restrictive it is, how misogynistic it is, and what a fear of human sexuality it shows (in my opinion of course), I can't imagine incorporating something with such a background on my wedding day. This may seem very literal but I wonder how others feel. Similarly the idea of the father 'giving' the bride away etc. Are ancient, religious (and sorry, often sexist, practices) an acceptable part of rite and tradition or should we recognize them for what they are and create new traditions? Anyone…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    First-
    It's an emotional and wonderful moment.

    Second-
    Almost every part of wedding planning is finding the way that you want to interact with age old traditions in progressive ways (I wore a white dress, got walked down the aisle by my parents – as did David, said modified Hebrew vows that were once just said by men, signed a progressive Ketubah, actually got legally married in a state that denys that right to the LGBTQ people in my life.) In short, I made conscious choices, like each one of you will do if you choose to participate in an institution with a long and troubled history.

    Third – Discussion is ok, but personally attacking an aspect of MY wedding (which is a real day, just like I'm a real person) is 100% not ok. I don't allow people to attack any of you, and I expect the same respect from you. Uncool.

  • Anonymous

    Right on Meg!

    ps. you've inspired me to have a pribate moment after the wedding. It will actually be a priority in the agenda.

    Oh, and also to everyone else – I see a lot of weddings every year (my job as a wedding elf) and I'd say it's about about a 50/50 split in Chicago from what I've seen as for before dinner/after dinner for the first dance. So neither would be odd here. this last year I would actually say more couples probably did it right after they were announced into the reception… ahhh the joys of everyone getting to choose what's right for THEM! No need to judge others' choices….

  • http://blog.halfacregoods.com Erin

    We're looking at doing our first dance and cake cutting before dinner. It was suggested to us by our photographer as a way to maximize his time there and we will have so many other dances after dinner that I think it will work well. Not to mention our first dance song is a whopping 1 min 20 seconds long. :) No one will have to wait too terribly long for it to be over.

    I think after dinner we will have father/daughter & mother/son dances followed either by the couples dance or the dollar dance. Then work the other one in a little later somewhere. We have so many family dance traditions to uphold that it's getting tricky to fit them all in. But I am excited for all of them, especially the chance to recognize the boy's grandparents' successful 72 yr marriage.

    Having the cake cutting before the meal will also allow our servers to serve dessert after the main course so that no one misses the cake. I always get sad whenever I manage to miss the cake because I wandered too far from my seat for dancing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12051581432652556410 Marina

    Regarding the issues with the yichud that pegasus1177 mentioned, I actually have that reaction to the history of pretty much every Jewish tradition ever. Due to that, the way I interact with my religion is to see if I can re-claim and re-create traditions in ways that make sense to me.

    I mean, if you look at it, the history of marriage itself is filled with misogyny and repression, right? So why get married at all? I chose to reclaim marriage and weddings as an expression of love and equal partnership, acknowledging the historical issues and dealing with them as well as I could.

    Same with the yichud–certainly the original, Orthodox tradition definitely has roots in misogyny and repression. But MY yichud was an expression of love and equal partnership, a time to celebrate my marriage with just the people to whom it mattered most–me and my husband, and a sacred space in which to reflect on the crazy, awesome vows we just made.

    YMMV.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    @Marina
    Exactly.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15338552079938981996 theflashdance

    i have played records at more weddings than i care to admit and i have sen it work both ways but i will say FOR SURE that you DO NOT NEED TO MAKE A GRAND ENTRANCE! this is something that i feel very strongly about… if you fake things to please your family, or god help us, your vendors you are going to be sorry because it will fall flat, be embarrassing, and make you look silly. (not a good look on your wedding day, unless of course you are silly!) be yourself, screw everyone else and you will be happy for it. breath, breath, breath. that's all for now. thanks! -MICHAEL

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14716820192261000763 pegasus1177

    Thank you Marina for understanding my post was not an attack it was my opinion and I appreciate your response and agree that yes there is much of marriage itself that has roots that may go against what many of us believe today and I like the ideas you proferred of reclaiming those as your own with your own interpretation.

    Meg, I sincerely apologize because I must have inadvertently expressed my opinion in a way that made you feel I was attacking you or your wedding. Truly was not my intention at all and I felt a real sinking feeling in my gut when I read your response. I'm sorry. I felt you often have very open, untraditional and free discussions on your blog about weddings, family, marriage etc. and did not think my comment was out of bounds but again, truly and sincerely I apologize if you felt I was attacking you.