So, the time has come. You and your significant other are engaged to be married and there’s a lot to be planned. You’ve got the date to choose, the guest list and subsequent invitations to battle with, and the location and theme to decide… I could go on forever.
But let’s face it, the thing most people will remember is the wedding reception. So how can we make the reception an event to remember? For the right reasons?
Here are a few things to consider and a few tips to help things run smoothly when planning a wedding reception.
Set a Budget and Stick to it
This seems simple and obvious, and it is. But having a definite budget before any serious planning of the wedding day and reception can make things much easier. This gives you the best start for planning a wedding reception.
Who is Going to be at the Reception?
Having a guest list figured out is a vital step in planning your wedding reception. Once you have the numbers figured out, you can work on everything else. The amount of people at a reception can vary from a small, highly personal affair to a huge party.
Obviously, a smaller reception is much more conducive to keeping costs down, but it depends entirely on the wishes of the couple. The average wedding has around 150 guests.
Choose a Theme
When planning a wedding reception, deciding on a theme is the step that brings things into reality. The theme can be as simple as being a generic black tie event, or as elaborate and detailed as a star wars themed wedding.
This is where your personality comes into play and where you can have some fun. Even if you decide on a generic theme, the odd personal touch is what elevates a reception from ordinary and forgettable to a truly special event.
Decide on the Venue
There are a few things to consider when choosing the venue for your reception. This is where the budget comes in handy.
Choosing an all inclusive venue can make things much easier, and could even work out as cheaper than not. With a full-service, or all inclusive, venue, you won’t have to worry about the furniture or the linens which you’d otherwise have to either buy or rent yourself.
Also deciding whether the reception is held at the same place as the wedding is an important decision. A different location lends itself to more flexibility, but it’s best to ensure that people can get there easily.
However, this depends on the individual venues. Also, your personal taste, it could be that you want to provide everything yourself.
DIY or Buy?
One fantastic way to save money is to do a lot of the work yourself rather than buying in. Decorations can be made yourself, favours and table runners can be quite simple (and even fun) to put together as long as you have a decent production line.
Doing these things yourself also allows for a lovely stamp of individuality, making the reception more special for you and your guests. However, planning a wedding reception is a big enough job as it is and it can be easy to drown in all this extra work. Also, some jobs are definitely best left to professionals.
Have the Order of Events in Mind
Most wedding receptions have a set order and having this planned out is essential for an effective reception. Obviously, you can choose to do what you like, but it can help to know the general timeline of the average wedding reception.
Often, the wedding party will go off and have photographs taken, leaving the guests to fend for themselves. This is the perfect time to start plying the guests with drinks (alcoholic or otherwise), or canapes. Anything to keep them occupied.
Once the wedding party arrives, this is when they’ll be introduced as husband and wife.
After the Grand Arrival, there will generally be a meal served. After everyone is fed, speeches will be given. Deciding who gives the speech is an often overlooked step, too many speeches and people will be bored and restless. But a good speech can add to a very special reception.
After the speeches come the first dance and the opening of the floor to the guests.
We now have the cake cutting ceremony, and finally the bride and groom leave for greener pastures.
This is just a basic checklist to look at when planning a wedding reception for the general expectations to have in mind. Let’s focus on a couple of these points.
Feeding the Masses
Food (and drink) are a huge part of the wedding reception and can tip the scales between failure and success. A lot of venues offer the main meal as part of the package, but the quality should certainly be tested beforehand. This is another aspect where, yet again, the budget looms large.
Some people also choose to have a potluck buffet style wedding, which can be a mixed bag. It’s certainly cheap, and ensures many of the guests can feel involved, but it can be a huge thing to arrange. Alternatively, a separate catering service can allow you both flexibility and security in the quality of the food.
Of course, the main meal is not all the guests will be imbibing in. Many receptions include smaller bites to eat and dessert is a must. Some people choose to have a combination of professionally prepared food and a more communal affair, having guests provide smaller bites while trusting the meal to a caterer or in-house kitchen.
Finally, alcohol generally plays a part in the reception. A dry reception certainly has its benefits, being the cheapest option and reducing the chance of rowdy guests. However, if you choose to serve alcohol, it’s best to consider who will be paying for the stuff. An open bar will be popular for sure, but expensive.
Bringing the Party to the Reception
So, everyone is marvelling at your beautifully decorated venue. They’ve had a nice meal and perhaps a drink or two. Now is the time to consider the best wedding entertainment ideas. One absolute must is good music, the best way to manage this is to hire a wedding band. A live band provides a fantastic atmosphere and interaction with the guests. Remember to provide a playlist to the band and definitely provide a list of songs to not play.
This is also where you want your first dance planned out. Choose a song that’s special to you.
Don’t Forget the Smaller Points
It can be easy to forget about the seemingly unimportant and fiddly parts of the wedding reception, but these things can make or break the day.
For example, how many cups do you need at the wedding? If the venue is providing these things, it can still be best to have backups. A general rule is around 3 disposable cups per guest.
Do guests have any allergies? Someone having an allergic reaction can really put a damper on the day, the easiest way to check this is to ask.
Will you have a photographer, a recording or will you just leave things to the guests?
When planning a wedding reception, just remember one thing. This is your special day. If you start to feel overwhelmed, just stop and think. This is going to be one of the happiest days of your life.
Image Credits: Alasdair Elmes, Allie
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