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Classic New York Style Wedding Timeline

New York has always stood apart from the rest of the country in the way we intermingle food service, music and “festivities” to create the illusion of non-stop dancing (and fun) from beginning to end. This time-tested model has recently come under attack.  Until the past few years, maitre d’s could be expected to control the “day of”  flow  with a firm hand and communicate instructions to all the vendors (band, photo, video) in a timely manner. Increasingly we are being approached by clients regarding the “flow” of an event when their questions to their caterers are being deflected with “we will do whatever you want”  or “ask the band.” A band that is on stage singing and performing is in no position to monitor the timing of food coming out of the kitchen or keep tabs on a photographer who has the couple or key family members outdoors for extra pictures. Back in the day maitre d’s were compensated extremely well for exactly these duties and we’re not quite sure why so many are MIA. In conversation, a few complain that they have been so barraged by clients with “great ideas they found on the internet” or photographers so anxious to get all their work done in the first 45 minutes of the event that they just “shut down” and become laissez faire. The pattern has been striking and undeniable. We therefore feel the need to share our long experience and perspective.  Below is a tried and true timeline and formula that guarantees that guests remain involved from start to finish..




  • Non-stop action, high energy party/ wedding where guests go away thinking “wow, what a great time, I feel like I never stopped dancing.”
  • Avoid circumstances that restrict guests to their seats for long periods
  • Multiple dance sets not to exceed 90 minutes. Most wedding guests can dance but for so long without a break, therefore it never makes sense to front load all food, toasts and formalities to the first 45 minutes leaving 3:15 of uninterrupted time on the back end. We’ve heard this formula suggested by photographers and planners. It all sounds great until one stops to consider that no matter how good the band is, people will seek a breather and if there are options outdoors or outside the main ballroom (especially if there is a bar!), parties can lose momentum. Such timelines run the risk of guests leaving early or drifting off into cliques. If you are OK with such a scenario, we still think it prudent to have a sure fire plan to draw them back in.  Leaving parent dances or even a “thanks’ for coming” speech by the bride and groom until well AFTER entree can be a useful tool and safety net.

 SAMPLE TIMELINE (Old School…the one that was never broken but someone felt the need to fix):

6:00-7:00              Cocktails

7:00-7:15              Wedding Guests enter ballroom/bridal party lined up

7:15-7:25              Wedding Intros and first dance

7:15-7:35              Hora and/or short dance set to set that all important upbeat mood and allow guests to get blood flowing

7:35-7:40              Blessing/Motzi

7:40-7:55              Entree orders taken; Best Man, MoH toasts

7:55-8:30              Dance set. Band plays through salad. Entree food may begin at 8:25 so those not yet served can still dance

8:30-8:50              Entree (vendors served early and resume their duties; dead last is a “party” killer).

8:50-9:20              Dance set

9:20-9:30              Cake cutting

9:30-9:40              Parent dances (bouquet/garter if applicable). Dessert and coffee served.

9:45-11:00            Dancing resumes to end

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