The Reception

You walk into the room to your favourite song, everyone cheers and applauds – this is your moment – and this is when the party starts. But there are still a few formalities and timings to be aware of:

Food Timing
The timing for dinner depends largely on the type of food service you’re having (the most common being buffet and plated) and how large your guest list is. It takes about 20-30 minutes for one hundred guests to get through a buffet. Plated courses are usually spaced about forty-five minutes apart. Plan this time accordingly—I highly suggest starting with a minimum of bread on the tables to give guests something to fill their bellies while they wait for their turn at the food. Plated salads can also be a great way to start out an otherwise buffet meal for the same reason. Always discuss the timing with whoever is actually serving your food—they should have the best idea for your particular menu.

Speeches & Toasts
The traditional speeches are from the Father of the Bride (or representative), Best Man & Groom and these can be done in between meals.
Toasts during dinner can be a good idea if you have quite a few extra speakers—you will have a captive audience, and people are in a headspace to be attentive, plus you don’t have to carve separate time out of the day for them to happen. (Make sure the first person to give a toast tells all of the guests to please continue to eat while people are speaking!) And also make sure to tell the catering staff that they should continue to serve/clear/etc. while people are speaking (they’re good at doing this discreetly).

Don’t forget to tell me if this is the plan! I usually eat when guests eat (because face-stuffing photos are unattractive) so I will need to be kept in the loop so that I’m not stuffing myself with the lasagna when toasts start.
This is why at many weddings I have shot, the wedding coordinator or matridee will let me be one of the first to go through a buffet (even before the guests!!) so that I can quickly eat before toasts start. Or if it’s plated they will organise to serve me once toasts are done.

First dance/Cake/Dessert Timing
Traditionally it is considered acceptable to leave a wedding once the first dance is done and the cake has been cut—at that point you know that nothing else major is going to happen (it’s just the party left) Some couples forget that some of their guests need to get back to the baby sitter, or that they are over sixty-years-old, and the music is loud, but they will wait for you to cut the cake or for dessert to be served. So don’t wait until too late to do it. I mean, no one wants to leave without watching the first dance & of course, a piece of cake.
My suggestion would be to cut the cake shortly after the main meal & last speech of the night, and straight afterwards, go into your first dance, to officially open the dance floor.
The other side of it is that people love to dance, so you don’t want to leave that too late either!