We've gotten through all the formalities, now let's party!
Your guests are there to celebrate you. They are going to talk, laugh, dance, sing and eat. There’s a stigma about keeping them entertained. I promise you, if there’s food and music, they will be entertained. Don’t feel like you need to plan some sort of crazy event schedule to keep their attention throughout the night. It can overwhelm your guests, as well as overwhelm you if you’re trying to relax and enjoy the company of your family and friends and have to be whisked away for an event.
My advice is to do all the formal events, and then open up the dance floor to your guests. Some guests may be more timid to get up and show off their dance moves, so once they’ve mustered up the courage, let them dance. If they’re constantly up and down to watch different events, they may not want to dance anymore- which would leave your dance floor empty.
Also, doing all the formal events first ensures that I’ll be there to capture all of them before I am dismissed for the evening.
Doing the events in this order is something I’d recommend:
1. Announcements / Entrances
2. Go right into cake cutting (while people are still paying attention)
3. Speeches + blessing of the food
5. First dance
6. Other formal dances (father / daughter, mother / son)
7. Any other events (bouquet / garter, anniversary dance, etc)
8. Sparkler send off (if you’re doing one)
9. Open dance floor
The reason why I recommend doing the send off shortly after dinner is to get everyone up and out of their seats after their big meal and get some fresh air. I also typically don't stay til the end of the night, so this ensures we can get those photos before the photo team is dismissed. Once we're done, everyone can head back inside and get the dance floor poppin'!
Doing it this way also guarantees there are more people in your photos, which looks much better!
You can have your DJ make an announcement, or leave a sign out saying there will be a staged exit.
If you do sparklers, I recommend getting the long ones that last for 30 seconds or more. Grab some lighters too! Send off photos take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes depending on how many guests.
Tip: If you don't want to do sparklers- a fun idea is to have everyone grab their cell phones and use their phone flash lights!