Congratulations! You are now newly-weds.
First to arrive at the reception, you wonder what happens when?
Don’t fret! The professional toastmaster (if you have booked one) or the venue’s Banqueting Manager can advise you, but here’s a guide from your local civil celebrant to put your mind at ease.
There will normally be a receiving line to greet the guests, consisting of the bride’s parents (the hosts), the groom’s parents, bride, groom and, if desired, attendants (in that order). (If it’s a smaller reception, it might just be the newly-weds.)
This can take quite a time, and it may be preferable to dispense with this – PROVIDED that the newly-weds (and, possibly, parents) circulate during the meal. Everybody will want to congratulate them!
At a sit-down reception, the bridal party occupy the top table. They should be (from left to right as viewed by the guests): chief bridesmaid, groom’s father, bride’s mother, groom & bride, bride’s father, groom’s mother and best man.
There ought to be a table-plan and/or place-cards for guests. Obviously, ensure there are enough chairs available for all!
If it’s not too formal, or a buffet, bride and groom will circulate, as I’ve suggested, briefly thanking guests for coming. They will return to the table for the cake-cutting, speeches and toasts.
Cutting the cake
The bride places her hand over the groom’s and together they cut the cake. (It may be worth cutting it in advance, if the icing is very hard!) Someone else will cut the cake up and distribute it to everybody. (You may want to send some pieces to absent friends, so reserve these.) You traditionally keep the top tier (for the christening of the first child).
Speeches and Toasts
Ideally, they will not be too long! Incidentally, some tips on presenting are at https://vowsthatwow.co.uk/?p=507
The bride’s father will toast the couple; the groom replies on behalf of himself and the bride (thanking the bride’s parents for the wedding, the guests for attending and for their presents and toasting the bridesmaids); the best man replies on behalf of the bridesmaids and reads out any messages from absent friends.
At the end
The bride and groom normally leave first (announced by the best man).