20 Tips for a Great Wedding Reception

As my first blog post I wanted to share some of my favorite tips and secrets with all of my brides and grooms and families looking to throw an epicly successful wedding or event celebration. 


Photo by Ajit Singh Photography

Photo by Ajit Singh Photography

1.       Customize Wedding Traditions to Fit You

No two weddings are the same, so feel free to customize the various wedding events and traditions that typically happen during the day to best fit who you are as a couple. If a garter toss is not your style, leave it out, or if you prefer to have a couples dance instead of parent dances do it. Maybe you would like to add a traditional element like a tea ceremony or a traditional dance. Just make sure you keep the flow of the evening smooth and don’t add too many other events that will interrupt dance time. 

2.       Think About Your Music

Find a band or DJ who gets your style and the type of music you love. Send them a few songs or artists that speak to you and then let them manage the playlist. Think about the mood and tone you want to set for each part of the evening; Arrival, Ceremony, Cocktail, Dinner and Party. Just make sure you plan music that everyone can dance too as an obscure song you love may clear out the dance floor. To keep the dance floor packed plan a playlist that will please the crowd too.

3.       Serve Only Great Food

Great tasty food means great conversation, means a great party, which means great memories. The End.

4.       Plan Fun Additional Entertainment

Having a DJ all night is fine but taking your entertainment up a notch will make for an unforgettable party. Think about adding a strolling magician, a live caricaturist or party mural painter to cocktail hour or even an aerialist, shapologist or video mapping to your reception.

5.       Create A Little Seating Lounge

If your venue and budget allows for it, set up a cozy little lounge nook in colors and style matching your wedding. This will create movement and a change of environment for your guests so they don’t have to hang out at the dinner table all night or for guests who want to take a break from dancing.

6.       Plan Seating  Arrangements thoughtfully

Give some extra thought into where you seat your nearest and dearest who have come to share your special day with you. Playing matchmaker might be fun but your guests will be more comfortable with a thoughtful combination of couples they know and other people they would enjoy getting to know. Great conversation leads to a great party and great memories. So consider seating your uncles and aunts at one table and seat teenagers together.

7.       Plan Something Fun for Kids

Have a special area or room designated as the kids corner, set up with games, movies, crafts and even a party facilitator or nanny for the evening. This will keep kids entertained and will give the adults the opportunity to shake things up on the dance floor.

8.       Add an Interactive Element to your Dinner

Seated dinners are classic but can be formal. Adding an interactive station to cocktail hour or dessert whether it’s a dessert flambé or baked potato bar allows guests not only to customize dishes to their liking but also encourages movement and guest interaction with one another. Good food makes for good memories.

9.       A Dress Change is a Great Idea

You can’t enjoy yourself if you’re not comfortable. So if your wedding gown is heavy or if you have a long train, think about slipping into a little white dress, jumpsuit or second gown that allows you to move about freely and comfortably as you dance the night away. The same goes for shoes. Comfort is key but that doesn’t mean you can’t be stylish.

10.   Hire A Wedding Planner or Coordinator

Hiring a wedding planner is probably the single smartest thing you can do if you haven’t done it already. Hiring a wedding planner can help you save time, money and add peace of mind. If you haven’t already hired a planner search for top event planners, wedding planner nyc or wedding planners in your area to assist with the final details and coordination 4-6 weeks leading up to your wedding so you can start relaxing and enjoying the process.

11.   Keep Speeches Short & Sweet

Your wedding guests may enjoy hearing short stories or anecdotes about the couple, but you don’t want to bore your guests to sleep either when they have come to celebration and catch up with one another. Keep speeches and toasts to 3 minutes per person and no more than 15 – 20 minutes total throughout the evening.

12.   Keep the Temperature Comfortable

Keep things on point temperature wise, your event space should not be too hot or too cold. Review the temperature with the venue manager in advance and make adjustments as needed. If guests are wearing 3 piece suits and dancing all night things may heat up. Or if you are having an outdoor ceremony on the beach, provide hand fans or mini umbrellas to your guests. With an outdoor reception where temperatures drop at night plan for heaters , scarves or blankets.

13.   Guests Love Surprises

Anticipation is half the reward so keep your guests guessing and plan a fun surprise for the end of the night. Maybe a surprise performance or act or a fireworks display outdoors that leave a memorable end to a great wedding celebration

14.   Offer Midnight Snacks

Don’t let your guests go hungry. Plan for a midnight snack bar or pass around on the dancefloor.  With classics like mini burgers, noodle boxes, fries with cheese or a coffee bar your guests will never want to go home.

15.   Plan a Good Flow Within Your Venue

Movement is crucial to a successful event. Walk through your event venue for each portion of the wedding as a guest would with your venue manager and nyc wedding planner or event coordinator. Divide your reception into spaces for dinner, cocktail, dancing and maybe an outdoor lounge for chatting to encouragement movement and guest interaction.

16.    Lighting is Key

Lighting is everything Don’t underestimate the important of proper event lighting. You table display and centerpieces will shine far better with pinspots and ambient uplighting will set the mood while fun dance floor patterns and moving lights will make for a fabulous party.  

17.   Plan to Say a few Words

Your guests want to hear from you. Plan to say a few words towards the end of the evening for example before you cut the cake and thank your guests for sharing your special day with you.

18.   Plan Plenty Party Time

Don’t make the mistake of cramming your wedding with events and speeches so that there is not enough time left for guests to enjoy, dance, eat, drink and mingle which is what they want to do. Keep in mind that schedules can run late so leave a little window for extra party time.   

19.   Let Go

You can plan like crazy leading up to your wedding but on your wedding day, let go, be happy and enjoy your special day. The day will fly by and you don’t want to spend it upset, worried or fretting about unimportant details. Don’t sweat the small stuff like your cake topper getting lost or a corsage getting crushed. Let your wedding planner and vendor team of professionals take over from behind the scenes and have fun getting married.

20.   Favors Should be Thoughtful

If you are doing favors, make sure you let your guests know how much you appreciate them by handing out something memorable, fun and useful. Ladies would love a cute colorful bag with a lipgloss or lip balm, everyone loves sunglasses, or trendy earplugs. Even salty taffy bags or cool totes all make great wedding favors. For destination weddings you could distribute fun flipflops, beachbags or even a sweatshirt.