I’m going to start with this disclaimer that there are probably people who have a completely different order for the wedding reception, but this is what I’ve found to be the best in my experience.
I also think you should take into account your guests when it comes to planning the reception events–do you have a large group that will want to party all night or do most of your guests prefer a quieter atmosphere for conversation? Is your event happening during the week so people will likely head out early? Will you have several guests want to offer their personal congratulations and stop you for a photo?
If you decided to have an official entrance to your reception and are considering whether to have your wedding party also announced–think about how your bridesmaids and groomsmen will act. Will they ham it up for the crowd or will they awkwardly walk in? If the latter, I would just have the Bride and Groom announced.
It flows so well after an official introduction for the new couple to head straight to the dance floor for their first dance.
Whether from the Father of the Bride or the Groom, this moment thanks everyone for attending and officially starts the reception
Make sure the Bride and Groom (and their photographers!) eat first!
Start these once everyone is out of the line for food if having a buffet (or everyone is served for plated), but guests can still be eating.
Growing up, most weddings I attended were in the church fellowship and had “cake and punch” receptions. Cutting the cake more or less signaled the end of the reception, but at longer receptions, this is great for earlier in the evening because all the grandmas love to watch you cut the cake. Then while the remaining formal dances happen, guests can be served cake and enjoy it without having to stay through the dance part if they don’t plan to participate (or have little ones that need to turn in early but were promised cake!).
Optional: shoe game/etc.
Reverse anniversary dance
You start with the bride and groom dancing and slowly add people based on how long they’ve been married–ending with people and their significant others/dates/what have you–this way almost everyone is on the dance floor at the end.
If you plan for this, have it happen after a few open dances–and make sure if you have any more events planned your DJ knows not to do them until you’re back! Read about the benefits of a Controlled Exit here.
–these have really become optional; I hardly see the garter toss anymore. Largely depends on your guests and if you know you’d have people that would gladly participate. Because these are typically high energy events and mostly involve the “younger crowd” of your reception, it’s fine to have later in the evening.