Somehow, you don’t worry about the ceremony as much as the reception. Mostly it’s because the ceremony has been pre-planned for you already, but the reception? It’s practically taking up all your planning, time and budget! Well, here’s something you should know: it’s the simple things that make a wedding reception fabulous. Not extra decor, not filling every second of the schedule, and not turning it into a variety show. Simple is the answer. Read our list below, and you’ll probably discover you already have most of these. And if not, they’re easy to add. Here are 12 simple things that make a wedding reception fabulous.
Photo from Jennie & Kevin’s real wedding by Paul Duane Photography
1. Don’t keep the guests hungry and waiting… This has happened to all of us, right? You were going to a great party, and you either didn’t eat anything because you were running late, or you knew there would be great food served so you were ‘making room’ for it. Inevitably, the time until dinner stretched for days, and at some point you probably thought you would faint. Well, some of your guests will be feeling this way too. This is so easy to avoid. If the time between arrival and dinner is an hour or more, serve a variety of bite-size finger food to take the edge off.
2. … but don’t overfeed the guests either. First, mind the season. It’s generally better to keep the fare lighter in the summer and warming in the winter. Then, think about how much food you’d eat on average in a restaurant, and don’t go far beyond that. It’s very tempting to serve lots of amazing food, but then come disco time some guests will still be in a food coma. If you don’t know how much is too much, ask the professionals – the venue chef or the caterer. They’ll know exactly how much to serve so your guests don’t fall asleep.
3. Serve amazing food. Food is, without a doubt, one of the things guests remember the most. It’s really worth investing some time (and a little extra money) into truly extraordinary dinner. And it doesn’t have to be all three courses either. Do an amazing main and keep the rest simple. Or go for great starters and fantastic desserts. We promise your guests will love it! If you want some ideas, here are 15 wedding food stations that’ll make your mouth water.
Photo from Helen & Noel’s real wedding by Photographic.ie
4. Keep the kids occupied. If you’re having children at the wedding, put yourself in their (tiny) shoes. It’s a really long day for them, alternating periods when they have to sit still for a long time, followed by running around like crazy because there’s so much stimulation. As for the parents, they would love a chance to kick back and relax a bit too. A dedicated kids’ table plus goodie bags are always a good idea. A wedding nanny or childcare is an even better idea – FUNtastic Childcare Events and Fun ‘n Frills are two such services. They’ll keep kids safe, busy and happy. It’s one of the best investments you could make for a wedding with small children.
5. Quiet areas away from the music. You’ve probably been to a wedding where a large number of guests went home as soon as the first dance was over and the DJ kicked up the beat. We’d wager it was because they knew their socialising was over. Not everyone will want to dance at the reception, but people love catching up with a glass of wine after dinner, and they can’t do that when they have to shout over the music. If you haven’t checked it out already, ask the venue for help in advance, so they can have it ready on the day.
6. Signs. If you’re at a venue where everything is literally one door away, then this isn’t necessary. But if it isn’t immediately obvious where the toilets, bar or lawn games are located, then you’ll need to put up some signs. Make them as fun or as themed as you like!
Photo from Allida & Evan’s real wedding by DKPHOTO
7. No long gaps between key moments. Standing around for long periods of time and not knowing what’s going on is a total wedding joy killer. Especially when there isn’t anything to drink or enough room to sit down. If you have long stretches of time between any parts of the day (for example, between arrival at reception venue and serving dinner) then go over your day’s timings with your wedding planner or venue coordinator. If adjustments can’t be made, then make sure there will be drinks, seats and maybe some entertainment available to fill the time (budget allowing).
8. Arrange a surprise. If the budget allows, allocate some money to something people aren’t expecting. It could be anything from a singing chef to surprise everyone come dinner time or a magician, or a caricaturist. On the other end of the scale, there are Irish dancers, trad bands or even acrobats or mime artists. Check out more entertainment options in weddingsonline’s directory. When you hear the delighted gasps from the audience, you’ll know it was money very well spent.
Photo of Mark Heng Carciature Artist from Rachel & Robert’s real wedding by David Maury Photography
9. Keep speeches short. The momentum of the day needs to carry on nicely, and very long speeches are the equivalent of cruising down the motorway when a sudden traffic jam appears out of nowhere. That’s easy to sort out, just keep everything at the three-minute mark. If need be, share this complete guide to the wedding speech with all relevant persons.
10. Flat shoes. That includes everyone, even the bride! Make sure to bring a pair of flats to wear for dancing. If you have room in the budget, get a basket of flip flops for your female guests. It’s one of the most appreciated gestures at a wedding, no question about it.
Photo from Nikola & Gary’s real wedding by Zi Fernandes Photography
11. Have a professional in attendance. By a professional, we mean the venue wedding coordinator, your own wedding planner, a master of ceremonies, or anyone else who’ll have authority to step in and sort out any problems. You shouldn’t be sorting out problems by yourself on your wedding day, like calling taxis for uncles who got drunk too fast. Make sure to ask the venue who will be with you for the day or your wedding planner if they’re staying with you throughout the day.
12. Get the music right. This one is easy too: just use common sense. Upon arrival at the venue, people want to chat, mingle, enjoy the canapes and have a glass of wine. Keep the music soft and at low volume, so nobody has to shout. Then, at dinner, turn up the volume and the beat a bit, to create a nice buzz. But just a bit! Finally, it’s time for the DJ or band to do their thing. When you book them, make sure you give them a list of songs you DON’T want them to play – it’s just as important as the list of songs you DO want them to play. The rest of the playlist should lean heavily towards songs everyone can dance to. If you have any particular preferences (for example, you love a bit of punk) then by all means add a song or two to the list, but don’t make the entire evening a tribute to one musical genre. If you want to keep that dance floor full, give every guest a reason to get down on it.
Photo from Jane & Frank’s real wedding by Memories Photography by Magda
Main photo from Aimee & Joseph’s real wedding by David Maury Photography
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If you think the bride should always have the last word, then Rachel is on your side! A devoted fan of everything quirky, unusual, colourful or crafty, she loves scouting WOL's real weddings for unique and fun touches. When not gazing at pictures, she's dispensing no-nonsense advice on everything from reception entrance songs to bridesmaid problems.