Bride Tip! – Best Wedding Timeline Basics 101


My name is DJ Chillin McMillin, and today I want to talk about the perfect wedding timeline. This is a formula that has worked perfectly and consistently over the last few decades while in my practice.

There are three separate major components for your wedding. Ceremony, Cocktail Hour and the Reception. I’m going to break those down for you and tell you what some of those details might entail on the regular.

Most of the time, the ceremony is actually going to be located at the venue. Sometimes it’s outside of nice out, or it might be inside if the weather is just not cooperating. So we’re going to base it on it being outside and it’s at the venue.

The DJ should have a ceremony setup, so that means he has two setups, maybe three and we’ll get into that. The reception area is going to have the main booth, and the ceremony is going to have a smaller kit. Something that’s a little bit more portable, since the DJ isn’t going to be rocking out.

When it comes to ceremony music (See Our Suggestions!), we will start with the prelude music which starts about half hour before your ceremony while guests arrive, or once the first person arrives. This will set that scene in the mood for the rest of the day.

Then you will need a song for the bridal party coming down the aisle, and then you have a song for the bride coming down the aisle. After you kiss and say your “I Do’s”, and you guys are going to be together forever, and everybody’s happy and some people are crying, we’re going to play music for your recession.

Now we have cocktail hour. So this is the magical time where you have all of your pictures taken. Your formals, your creative shots, all the photos that you’re going to want for your album. Remember, just a side tip, make sure your photographer has extra 15 minutes to play with. In total, you should try and budget an hour and 15 minutes for your photographer. They’re going to need it. Trust me.

Ask your DJ how he actually handles cocktail hour. It really depends on the flow of the evening, whether it’s in the same room or not, whether it’s on the patio outside. What I love to do is transmit music wirelessly, from the main reception area DJ booth to a speaker or two in the cocktail hour areas. This provides an excellent transition from one area to the next when it’s time, and provide a great tool for me to welcome guests into the reception using my microphone.

Now we get to the reception. This is where everything happens. All the details come to fruition, all that planning and everything is where it really comes to shine. Your DJ is going to line all of your wedding party up, get them ready for the introductions, and then you guys will come into the room. Typically, there’s a song for your wedding party or your whole wedding party, then another song just for you guys to really highlight you guys this moment. Then you go right into your first dance.

After your first dance, you’ll have speeches. Usually it’s the best man, maid of honor, and maybe the father, mother, step mom, or anybody that wants to say something. This usually happens before dinner.

Let’s talk cake cutting for a second. Sometimes people like to have the cake coming before dinner starts, just so they can get that out of the way. Or you can do it after dinner.

I recommend that we do mother and father dances during dinner, but be sure you eat first. Sometimes, the parents are not in the picture, but you can always substitute with someone really special such as a brother, sister, cousin, stepdad, or whoever you think is appropriate for this moment that means so much.

Now it’s time to bring everything together. Most of the time, we have activities. These are designed to loosen up the crowd, get them comfortable with the atmosphere of the room. I like to get you, the Bride & Groom in the spotlight, then I would put the entire crowd on the spotlight strategically to get them interacting, and comfortable with the dance floor. Now we’re rockin’ into the dancing portion of the evening.

When it comes time for the last dance, I’ve seen a shift over the years go from a nice soft, elegant dance with everyone circling the dance floor, to where it actually starts off with a slow dance, and then that morphs into something truly epic. People really like to go out with a bang, and that is what I would suggest.

Another popular thing to end the night’s celebration is a sparkler send off. Sometimes they have those balloons, (biodegradable) and I must admit, many are frowning on it these days. However, you can do other creative things as well. I have seen fireworks, and even a canon. I will say most of that fun stuff happens outside where you don’t typically have music to really compliment that moment, but if I know about it ahead of time, I can usually arrange music for it.

That’s my example of the best wedding timeline, and thank you for reading!

My name is DJ Chillin McMillin, and I hope to see you on your wedding day, and we’re going to make it epic! Cheers!

Bride Tip – Eat Before Wedding Guests

Be sure bride & Groom eats before guests
Walter & Brittany’s Wedding at Tewksbury Country Club, 1880 Main St Tewksbury MA

The Bride Tips Series is brought to you by New England Wedding DJ Chillin McMillin.

After being formally introduced to the reception and then going right into your first dance, you will glance around the room for a moment here and there and make eye contact with many of your friends and family. Some of them you may not have seen for quite some time and instantly become eager to go say hello and catch up.

It almost seems natural to start walking around the room right after any speeches/toasts or blessing, but I am writing here to highly suggest that you should remain at your sweetheart table and enjoy the moment with your new Husband or Wife. Let guests come to you during this time if you choose.

Bride and groom at sweet heart table
Dan & Sarah Jo at Alyson’s Orchard, 57 Alyson’s Ln, Walpole, NH

So many people may not realize the impact this short period has on the rest of the evening. Why would they? It’s not like they get married everyday of course. Here’s why this tip is so important to the flow of your reception.

I have been a New England Wedding DJ for just over 20 years as of this writing, and have tinkered and practiced with even the most subtle changes in timelines, all leading to a special formula. It’s actually really simple, and pretty much a golden rule. ~ Bride & Groom is served (and eats) first, then the wedding party and parents, then the rest of the guests.

Wedding planning in new england DJ

Here is the magical flow. It looks like a lot, but trust me when I say it goes by in the blink of an eye, and I put how long each typically takes to give you a quick idea.

  • Wedding Party Introductions (1 minute 20 seconds – Depending on party size)
  • Bride & Groom Introductions (20 seconds)
  • First Dance (3 minutes 45 seconds)
  • Speeches / Toasts (5 minutes – Depending on how many hold the microphone)
  • Blessing (1 minute – optional)
  • Buffer time between blessing and when the first plate (salads) drops (about 1 to 2 minutes)
  • Bride & Groom served
  • Wedding Party, then Parents served
  • After Bride & Groom has finished dinner, Mother & Father Dances (6 to 9 minutes)
  • Cake Cutting (1 minute 30 seconds)
  • Any DJ interaction with the guests – This is important. See this article. (About 10 minutes)
  • (– this is the absolute best time to make those rounds – I promise! –)
  • Celebrate!
  • Last Dance
Wedding timeline DJ Chillin McMillin at Spencer Country Inn massachusetts
Bob & Marcia at Spencer Country Inn, 500 Main St, Spencer, MA

This formula works so well because everyone, including yourself is hungry. Especially after all the effort getting ready and looking amazing! Perhaps you have had a few pre-wedding cocktails, and the photographers or videographers had been stealing you away from snacks for those all those very important shots all day. You will only realize how hungry you are after the second person you visit at their table making the rounds.

Let’s back up just a tiny bit and consider a few other things about the kitchen staff. After preparing and timing a meal for a range of 80 to 300 guests, typically they are ready start serving right after your introduction, especially if the meals are hot. Some of the first plates that were prepared will cool fast, so dinner will not wait. This rings especially true for weddings that have 150+ attendees.

Of course, the staff will place your meal on the table whether you are sitting there or not, but I will say that 100% of the time when the Bride & Groom heads out to make rounds at the guest tables before eating, they always come back to a cold dinner.

Dinner served DJ Chillin McMillin at LaBelle Winery New Hampshire
Michael & Megan & LaBelle Winery, 345 NH-101, Amherst, NH

Now when it comes to the flow, imagine that you are at your sweetheart table and you are eating as planned. There are a few of your family members and guests that come up to both of you to say hello, while in the background, the staff is most likely about half way through serving the guests. Everyone is chatting with each other and catching up while your favorite taste of background music being played by DJ Chillin McMillin ~ Shameless plug LOL. Some are at the bar getting their drinks for dinner at this time.

Father Daughter Dance DJ Chillin McMillin Fratellos Manchester NH
Father & Daughter Dance. Ben & Sarah Wedding at Fratello’s Italian Grille, 155 Dow St, Manchester, NH

Fast forward about 20 minutes and you have finished your meals. The DJ should be checking on you to see if you’d like to have your mother and father dances, then cake cutting while making sure your parents and everyone is the room. This is the perfect time to have these dances because all of your guests are still finishing up their meals. Additionally, this is a pivotal moment in the atmosphere of the room. The lights are dimmed slightly, and conversations start to pan out leading up to dancing and socializing.

DJ interacting with guests DJ Chillin McMillin American Legion Medford MA
Matt & Stephanie Wedding at The American Legion, 321 Winthrop St, Medford, MA

After the Cake Cutting and Mother / Father Dances is the perfect segway for your DJ to get the final feel about your crowd, and the crowd to get to know your DJ. This should be a time for a few quick, but effective activities, and should take no longer than 10 minutes for this entertainment spot. I explain the importance of this segment in more detail in this article.

Now is the best time to make the rounds!

Bride with guests DJ Chillin McMillin
Matt & Stephanie Wedding at The American Legion, 321 Winthrop St, Medford, MA

If you didn’t eat when your food comes out, 90% of the time, it stalls the rest of the timeline by about a half hour to an hour and a half. Yes, that means less dancing, and very antsy guests. They will start milling around and will not want to remain seated for those important and key moments in the timeline.

Even to this day I find it both crazy, yet, simplistic when it comes to the science of the evening flow, and I hope this tip has helped, and I wish you the best wedding celebration possible, and a very happy, healthy, and loving future with your new partner by your side through every moment.

Just remember the golden rule, You eat first, and the rest of the evening falls right into place.


~ DJ Chillin McMillin

DJ Chillin McMillin Marc & Natalie's Wedding at Harris Inn Pelham NH
Marc & Natalie’s Wedding at Harris Inn, 65 Ledge Rd, Pelham, NH
DJ Chillin McMillin Get a Quote New England Wedding Dj

Bride Tip – Microphone For Wedding Ceremony

DJ Chillin McMillin Nashua NH

Need a Wedding DJ?

DJ Chillin McMillin is rapidly becoming New England’s first choice in wedding & corporate event entertainment!

The Bride Tips Series is brought to you by New England Wedding DJ Chillin McMillin.

Do I Really Need A Microphone For The Ceremony? — Short answer to this question is YES! Unless your guest list is less than 40, you should have a microphone and speaker set up by your Wedding DJ.

New England wedding DJ quote

There are a few things that will play a role in the determination, but for the most part, the 40 person rule is golden.

Some factors maybe if your ceremony is inside or outside. If your ceremony is outside, the chances of needing a microphone is then much higher since the space is obviously open air, no walls, and will have the typical background noises of the outside world.

Water front ceremony

When your ceremony is held inside, the atmosphere can be a little more forgiving because you have walls for the sound to bounce off from, and much less noise from the outside world.

However, this may not be enough to determine whether or not a microphone should be used, as it also depends on the room size, and how tightly packed or spread out your guests seating are, how high the ceiling might be, and at what kind of angles and materials the ceiling maybe made of.

Bride and groom at ceremony alter outside

Another odd factor that can come into play whether you are inside or outside, is the sound waves being able to penetrate around the bodies of the guests themselves.

Happy bride and groom exiting wedding ceremony

But let’s put aside all those in depth details, and concentrate on the magic number.

“40” is the best and simple rule when it comes to ensuring your guests can hear what’s happening in your ceremony, big guest list or small.

This is me rockin the ceremony to perfection. Thanks for reading, and I hope your wedding g ceremony goes perfectly!


~ DJ Chillin McMillin

The easiest aspect of your wedding ~ Other than saying “I DO!”

DJ Chillin McMillin set up for ceremony

Bride Tip – Lighting Design & Atmosphere

The Bride Tips Series is brought to you by New England Wedding DJ Chillin McMillin.

Lighting is almost always the last thing anyone ever thinks about. When you really think about it, in every production, lighting is so very important. No matter if it’s a concert, a big corporate event, a news station, or even a YouTube show in your basement, or even a good selfie. Even the science of wedding design can’t escape the rules and impact of great lighting design and placement. In fact, it should be embraced!

Lighting ~ and the type of lighting, is key.

There are all kinds of lighting out there, but when it comes to weddings, here is the basic idea:

Natural lighting: (daylight) that usually occurs early in the event. Perhaps supplemented by the venue’s normal light.

Cocktail Hour & Dinner lighting: This could still be some day light and/or venue lights, but more often you could have what are called up lights. One of my favorite brands is a German company called ApeLabs, because there is so much functionality to them while packed into a tiny sleek package.

These are colored accent lighting that can really make your room pop with elegance and will actually change the feel of the atmosphere in the room. (We’ll touch on that in a minute)

Dance lighting: These are meant for exactly that. Dancing. They are designed to bring your atmosphere to the next level, and will actually energize your guests. Dance lighting, when used effectively and timed perfectly at an event, can act almost like a switch that will warm up and turn on all the dancers in the room.

As the owner of DJ Chillin McMillin, LLC, I have always been crazy about lighting design. Even when I first started out as a DJ, I loved lighting so much that I offered free stage lighting shows for several locals bands. I would memorize their recorded music and strategically plan lighting scenes so I could manually play my lighting console much like a keyboard, so it matches every aspect of the song. I even built and wired the lighting console with switches and dimmers. Lighting made a HUGE difference in the overall show and stage presence.

I absolutely love how lighting has the ability to do so many things. Here are just a few:

  • It can bring out subtle structural characteristics that people may have simply passed it by otherwise, such as well designed structural beams, pillars, great wall and ceiling designs, and other aspects.
  • Creatively light oddly dark spots in the room while also making the room uniform.
  • Through color changing, you can actually set a specific tone which can manipulate or heighten a particular emotion in the room.
  • The way light is changing or moving can actually impact behavior and even conversations believe it or not.

Check out this IES Light Logic Table. You can read more about this from

As you can see by this chart, uplighting and dance lighting fits the profile. When you want people to be relaxed and have a feeling of spaciousness… uplighting fits the bill perfectly. The lower the source of the light (uplighting is almost always placed on the floor), warm steady color tones, and shines up the wall onto the ceiling.

When uplighting is used, most venues recognize that they can then lower their overhead lights to really aid the atmosphere, and your DJ will usually locate and test house lighting.

Now… When it comes to dance lighting, it is another animal for sure. You can see in the chart that this might best fit in the “Tense” category since the light is coming from above.

Most of the time, the projected light is moving, and perhaps the uplights are flashing to the rhythm of the music as well. Basically your uplights will convert into supplemental dance lighting, which is AWESOME!

When your emotions become tense, what do you usually want to do? For me, I typically want to get up and do something due to a feeling of being antsy or slightly uncomfortable. If I don’t have anything to do, I might pace with boredom LOL. That’s the Matty in me haha.

But this is where the music and it’s own set of characteristics come into play. You can see in this video some of these practices that come to fruition.

The music at your event is actually the avenue to relieve that “Tense” feeling, and is a perfect match with the lighting. This is what makes most people get up and dance. Especially when the music and dance lighting are working in tandem with each other. The light is dancing to the beat, and changing scenes at the ups and downs of the track.

So essentially the lighting is meant to subliminally energize the crowd, while the music is what will ultimately satisfy the antsy nerves. Such a great trick for the human condition.

Pretty amazing to see the scratch of the surface science behind it right? That’s why I love lighting and music so much, and that is why being a great wedding DJ can be a challenge.

I’ve always jokingly said, “I have the power to make you move involuntarily”. Well, it’s not too far off the truth. It’s all about the level of understanding the science behind each aspect, and having the tools to make it happen.

I hope you enjoyed this geeky post! I had such a blast finally putting my practices to writing.


~ DJ Chillin McMillin