Tips for a Successful Wedding Reception

After months of planning, one of the biggest wedding disasters would be a reception where the guests didn’t have a good time. Planning a successful wedding reception is no easy task—in fact, wedding planners make their entire careers out of it. Today we’ve got some tips to make your wedding reception a success.

Choose the right wedding reception venue.

A successful reception can come down to something as simple as having a wedding venue that works. The size matters—a venue that is too small can feel crowded and stuffy—as does the layout. If you want people to dance, it’s a bad idea to put the DJ or band and dance floor in another room. Guests need visual encouragement to hit the dance floor rather than stay in their seats and chat.

Remember your guests.

The wedding day celebrates the bride and groom, but your guests have traveled from near and far to celebrate. While you want your reception to showcase your personality and style, you must take a guest’s needs and desires into account. For example, you might like the laid back atmosphere created by not having a seating chart. However, instead of easily mixing and mingling like you hope, guests are more likely to be confused and try to squeeze 10 people at one table while leaving four empty seats at another. With every wedding decision you make, ask yourself: “Will this be inconvenient or problematic for the majority of my guests?” Naturally, you can’t make everyone happy, but only offering vegetarian menu options when the majority of your guests are omnivores might create an unhappy vibe.

Don’t skimp on the food.

Speaking of the menu, make sure it’s planned out well and there will be plenty of food for all the guests. With few exceptions (such as a dessert reception), a guest attends a wedding reception expecting a full meal. Deviate from this plan, and you could have some guests deserting your wedding to make a fast-food run.

The speeches

In the end, the bride and groom don’t have much control over the speeches. However, you can minimize them to just the key players, so your guests don’t have to sit through too much talking. You can also ask them to avoid any topics that might make you or any of your guests uncomfortable (such as exes or embarrassing college party stories).

Vary the music.

Your college buddies might enjoy dancing to latest hits, but your older guests wouldn’t mind hearing some tunes from their generation, too. Some planners recommend starting the night with wedding standards, and then slowly transitioning in to newer beats. However, this is a good way to drive your older guests out before they’re ready. Ask your DJ to vary the music between classic and contemporary all night. Additionally, you might hate choreographed dances like “The Electric Slide” or “The Macarena,” but they really do get people on the dance floor. Don’t forget our previous tip—remember your guests—and play a cheesy song or two to get people smiling and dancing.

Finally, don’t stress out.

If the bride and groom aren’t having fun, the guests won’t have any fun. Put a big smile on your face, despite anything that might go wrong, and relish in the excitement of being a newlywed.
Ensure a successful wedding reception by following a wedding reception timeline. Below is a sample showing the timeline for an average wedding:

Sample Reception Timeline

The typical wedding reception is approximately five hours. Whether it’s a mid-morning reception or an evening affair, here’s a breakdown of the standard order of events:

Hour one: Cocktail hour.You said “I do,” he kissed the bride, and now it’s time for the guests to make their way to the reception, which will either begin immediately with a cocktail hour if it is at the same venue or after a certain amount of travel time. The new couple, the bridal party, and their families will follow the photographer to take post-ceremony shots. However, if you choose to do a receiving line, this is the time to line up outside the ceremony location.

Hour two: The newlyweds arrive.After the guests have taken their seats, the DJ or band leader announces the new Mr. and Mrs., along with their bridal party. Take this opportunity to go right into your first dance, as the guests are standing, cheering, and watching the two of you. Once finished, begin greeting your guests at their tables (if you didn’t do a receiving line). About halfway through, dinner will be served. Take a break and eat some food—you’ve been planning this meal for months! Let the bridal party and family (specifically, those who are making speeches) eat first, because about 20 minutes later, the toasts should start, led by the best man. Next up is the maid of honor’s speech, followed by the two fathers’ speeches.
Hour three: Dance, dance.Wrap up the speeches, and then it’s time to hit the dance floor. If you decided not to do your first dance after you were introduced, now is the time. The father-daughter dance follows, and then the mother-son dance. The DJ will ask the bridal party to join the newlyweds on the dance floor, and the party really kicks off.
Hour four: Traditions.As the dancing continues, it’s time for all the single ladies to put their hands up and catch the bouquet, and the single men to catch the garter. If you plan to incorporate any other reception traditions, such as the Hora at a Jewish wedding, an anniversary dance, or a money dance, this is the time to do so. About halfway into the hour, it’s time to cut the cake (smashing it into each other’s faces is optional).
Hour five: Take a bow.As the dancing continues, the guests will start trickling out. Last call at the bar should be around 45 to 30 minutes before the reception ends. To avoid steep overtime charges, start encouraging guests to leave about 15 to 20 minutes before the reception officially ends. Do this by having the bridal party coordinate a fond farewell outside the reception hall, complete with bubbles or sparklers.

Plan for the unexpected!

It Could Happen to You! Hopefully, the worst thing that will happen on your wedding day is that your bouquet will be slightly the wrong shade of pink. But in case disaster strikes, be ready for plan B.
If the wedding cake melts (or never shows up),send a bridesmaid to the store to pick up a batch of cupcakes. Your guests will just think you’re following the cupcake trend!
To avoid it,make sure that your outdoor wedding has a cool place to store a buttercream cake. Ask your cake designer what preventative measures are put in place to avoid a meltdown.
If you spill your cocktail on your white dress (or a clumsy guest spills it on you),quickly get a damp cloth, blot it out as much as you can, and try not to let it ruin your day.
To avoid it,stick to champagne, white wine, or water. And keep an eye on your careless Aunt Marge with her glass of Cabernet! Keep in mind that even if a spill appears to have disappeared, it is still there, and you really must have your gown professionally cleaned as soon after your wedding is over.
If the best man says something embarrassing during his speech,move on quickly. Talk to your groom beforehand and let him know that if you tap his knee twice during a speech, he should quickly raise his glass and exclaim, “To my lovely bride!”
To avoid it,give your toast-makers boundaries in advance.
If a wedding guest has had one too many cocktails,designate someone (not you!) to handle them. This is the perfect job for a wedding planner or, in his or her absence, a close friend or family member. Take away their keys and ensure the bartender knows not to serve the guest anymore spirits.
To avoid it,offer plenty of food and nonalcoholic beverages. You can also limit the bar to one or two signature drinks and beer and wine to discourage shot-taking or heavy drinking.
If the weather doesn’t cooperate,grab an umbrella, throw on a cute pair of rain boots, and get some adorable photos. This is a photo op to remember!
To avoid it …you can’t do much to control Mother Nature. so always ask the venue coordinator what might happen if the weather turns.
Finally, if you keep your guest in mind and don’t stress and hire the best wedding professionals, your wedding reception will be a success!
If you are looking for a great wedding vendor check out the members of All About Weddings Omaha. We highly recommend all of the members of this group!
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