Why this “East Coast” Style Wedding Reception is Breaking Tradition (in a good way)

Southwest Airlines has turned the traditional boarding process on its ear.

Travelers board sequentially (based on when they checked-in), and sit in any seat they like.

On other airlines, people have assigned seating, which sure sounds nice. That is, until, as comedian Brian Regan once remarked, “everyone crams the boarding area like this flight is the last chopper out of Saigon!!!”

Either way, some people like the flexibility of being able to choose their seat upon boarding, and other flyers like to rest easy knowing they have that aisle or window seat locked in ahead of time.

At the end of the day, both boarding processes accomplish the same goal — getting butts into the seats.

And just like Southwest broke the mold on the typical boarding process to benefit their business model, implementing an “East Coast” style wedding reception can be a unique and fun way to break tradition and keep your guests on their toes.

What’s an “East Coast” style wedding reception?

You’ve heard of “coursing out a dinner”, so how about “coursing out” your dance party too?

On the East Coast, it’s popular to “course out”, where the entire meal progresses over several hours with various appetizers, soup, salad, etc.

In the rest of the country, we tend to stick to a more traditional timeline — grand entrance into the first dance, then salads, dinner service, and toasts.

But with the “East Coast” style timeline, there’s a sprinkling of mini dance parties throughout the entire evening… even in between courses!

It can be a fun way to shake things up and keep your guests fired up!

The “East Coast” wedding reception is gaining popularity

Adults are just like little kids, they get ants in their pants if they sit too long. Which is one reason that this trend is becoming popular.

Sure, it’s more standing up and sitting down than a typical timeline, but that’s a good thing as it tends to keep the energy up, a welcomed dynamic for your guests.

But it requires careful planning and good communication…

How can I implement this “East Coast” timeline effectively?

After the cocktail hour, your guests are going to be ready to party.

Have your live band hit them with a burst of fun dance music when doors open to the reception area. Four to six songs should be about right before your grand entrance as newlyweds.

Here’s the key: Make sure you communicate the timeline very clearly with your live band/MC and the wedding planner, catering manager, and/or room captain because it’s easy for the dance party to grow legs.

Introduce the MC and the Catering Manager to each other

It’s important that the band/DJ/MC and Catering Manager / Room Captain has a chance to review the projected flow of the timeline together. They’ll need to communicate throughout the evening.

Just keep in mind that there is no such thing as a perfectly executed timeline. Maybe the bride has a wardrobe malfunction causing the grand entrance to be delayed or Uncle Bob’s speech drags on for too long. Be flexible.

But won’t this timeline make the evening feel too choppy?

You may be concerned about this… and rightly so. If there’s not enough dance time in between courses, it can feel like people are sitting down the minute they get to the dance floor. PRO TIP: Make sure there’s at least 20 minutes of dancing time in between courses so people have time to enjoy the transitions without feeling rushed.

Find your flow…

If you choose to go the East Coast route, bear in mind that it is a “progressive dinner”, and it’s meant to last for the majority of the evening. If you keep the transitions on point and your band brings the energy (as they darn well should) to pack the dance floor, then your guests will have a wonderful evening of eating and dancing.

Let’s recap 3 guidelines for a successful “East Coast” style wedding reception:

- Plan your timeline carefully, allowing at least 20 minutes in-between meal courses for dancing so guests can enjoy the transitions.

- Make sure you hire a live band / DJ with a great MC that knows how to get the crowd moving in the right direction — whether it’s on to the dance floor, or back to their tables.

- Introduce the MC and Catering Manager / Room Captain / Wedding Planner so they can communicate about timing during the night.

And remember, there’s no right or wrong way to structure your wedding reception!

Maybe you’re more of an “assigned seat” kind of person and prefer to stick to a more traditional timeline saving the high energy dance party for after dinner.

Or maybe you dig the “Southwest Airlines” style and want to throw a different spin on your wedding timeline.

Either choice can result in a joy-filled evening of love and laughter… it just depends on the flow that best fits your venue, style, and personality.

No matter how you decide to slice it…

It’s still gonna taste like cake, and you’re wedding day will be one of the most magical days of your life!

“If music be the food of love, play on.” — William Shakespeare

Cheers, Ashley

Ashley Leroux is the female lead singer and band manager of Sapphire Sky, a premiere wedding band based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Sapphire Sky has won the Wedding Wire “Couple’s Choice Award” for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. Additionally, Sapphire Sky has 38 5-star reviews on WeddingWire.com because they consistently put on an exceptional show for all ages and create an unforgettable experience for all wedding guests.