How To Plan The Ultimate Wedding Reception
The reception is what most guests look forward to, so it needs to be memorable, personal, relaxed and fun.
With careful planning, it can seamlessly come together, and it all starts with the wedding breakfast. When it comes to the celebratory meal, put some thought into your seating plan: getting the right dynamics between people is the key.
It sounds obvious but seat guests with people they know and get along with – they’ll be grateful for not being put next to the ‘bore of the century’.
After all, great conversation leads to a great dance party atmosphere.
A welcome distraction
If you have younger nieces and nephews or cousins put them with kids of their own age rather than sitting them next to their parents – they’ll thank you for it!
Likewise, designate a couple of tables for children and supply colouring books, crayons and small toys or even tablecloths that can be drawn on which will be a welcome distraction. For later on in the evening, have a designated kids room and arrange for a babysitter to set up films and games and look after them. It will keep the children entertained while their parents grab the chance to hit the dance floor.
Everyone expects the first dance to be slow, romantic and, well, rather predictable. Shake things up a bit by starting with a slow dance and switching to something livelier or sexy – you’d better rehearse this to look good. It’ll throw your guests and set the tone for a lively dance party.
Surprises between courses
Plan an interactive food station, as fun food is another crucial ingredient to a great celebration. Customised food means everyone gets exactly what they like, such as a pasta bar, grilled cheese or pizzas where people choose their own toppings and sauces. Instead of the formal three-course meal, serve a more leisurely option by stretching out the wedding breakfast over four or five smaller courses. Have breaks in between the courses and plan small surprises by providing entertainment such as a comedy act or a dance performance. If the food is served into the evening it means you’ll be giving the guests the experience of a fun night out on the town complete with dinner and a show.
Sometimes the best parts of a reception are the things guests didn’t see coming. The range of entertainment is huge; trapeze artists, fire eaters, belly dancers, salsa troupe, street dancing. It’ll get everyone in the mood for a good time.
The bride needs to be comfortable with what she is wearing so, if needs be, abandon the veil and the long train (some are detachable or can be hooked up). Some brides prefer to stay in their gowns while others change for the evening.
The band needs to be good
The same goes for the groom – change into a more relaxed suit and roll up those shirtsleeves. Now the formalities are over you can both relax, dance, chat and have fun.
Make sure the band is good. We’ve all experienced it: the band starts playing, they are fairly dreadful and the party dies because most people remain firmly in their seats. Listen to demo tapes before hiring a band and go on recommendation.
It’s important to ask what happens when the band takes a break? Some turn on filler music; if they do, ask if you can provide the mix as their taste may not be yours, and the same goes if you have a DJ. Music is a major fun factor at a reception and the better the music, the longer your guests will stay. Be clear about what you do and do not like. If you want to keep the dance floor packed, plan playlists that will please the crowd and not just the couple.
Create a chill zone – a lounge area in your reception space that gets guests away from sitting around the same dining tables all night. The change of environment helps prevent people getting restless and helps keep conversations going particularly for non-dancing guests. Depending on your venue, rent or borrow couches, chairs and low tables and have candles and cushions in your wedding colours.
Different areas for a lively celebration
Another novelty at the reception is an expert tasting station. As well as a bar, go for a drink experience where guests can sample different drinks and learn a few tasting notes in wine, beer, whisky or gin; or choose your flavour cocktail bar.
The key to a lively celebration is movement. Encourage lots of dancing with short breaks for mingling and snacking. Do this by dividing your reception into different areas for dancing, sipping, drinks and chatting, getting coffee or bites to eat. Arrange a few cocktail tables near the bar, provide an outdoor seating area or set up a dessert table of bite-size sweets.
On the food front, you could skip the sit-down meal and opt for a heavy hors d’oeuvres reception or favourites such as Spanish tapas. To keep the party going until late, ask catering staff to bring around snack food for your guests to munch on. Or offer a coffee bar – complete with barista – with special syrups and toppings and the odd hot chocolate with floating marshmallows.
End the evening on a high. Have a treat that people will look forward to, such as both of you performing a song with the band but only if your voices are any good, a fireworks show or, as at my wedding, an exit with guests holding up sparklers.