Planning your wedding reception can be overwhelming and take a lot of effort, but it can be very enjoyable if you approach it in a methodical fashion and start planning ahead instead of doing different tasks at random. A wedding reception has to be planned in the right order because many decisions are interdependent. One of the most important things that you need to do first is decide who is going to be your coordinator. Your coordinator does not necessarily have to be a hired professional, but it does need to be someone who understands what you want and is dependable to help you in the planning/prepping stage of your event and is able to completely take over during the event so that you can enjoy your day… I would not recommend it be your mother either because she needs to enjoy the day also!
Set the date for your wedding before you start looking for Venues for the reception. Many reception sites are booked six months to a year in advance. Wedding receptions are seasonal. For example, professionals in wedding reception business know that June is the busiest month for wedding receptions. So selecting a date for a reception will affect the cost of renting a Venue as there is a lot higher demand for Venues in spring/summer time than in winter. Which day of the week you chose is also very relevant. Most receptions and parties are arranged on Saturday evenings. It will generally cost you more to host an event on a Saturday evening due to supply and demand situation.
Fix your budget. A big factor here is to decide on number of guests you want to invite. Cost of many things like catering, venue rental and decorations depend on head count and how much you plan to do yourself.
Nowadays the two main types of reception are sit-down meal or cocktail party. Sit-down meal is traditional and formal, and requires formal tables and chairs and more space in the venue. A cocktail party is hip and less expensive, since guests can stand and mingle. Meal can be formal cuisine, snacks for a cocktail party, or an in between option is heavy hors d’oeuvres. There are many choices, if you choose that route, which are attractive and satisfying allowing your guests a variety of choices to nibble on throughout the event. These can vary from the traditional veggie platter with humus or dip in the center and standard cheese and salami platter to meatballs with a variety of sauces to stuffed grape leaves or stuffed mushrooms. There are many resources at your fingertips on line as well as some caterers that may be of assistance. Remember, there is no reason to limit your choices when there are so many options out there that are not only delicious, but also beautiful adding that little extra personal touch to your event.
Decide on things you want to do at the wedding reception because the venue you choose should accommodate. For example, do you need a stage for speeches, do you need sound system for music, do you need space for a DJ, do you need a dance floor, do you need special space for cake cutting, and are the bride and groom going to sit on a raised platform?
There are many legal and practical matters to consider when it comes to serving alcohol to your guests at a wedding reception. The easiest and most expensive option is to hire a professional bartender, who can bring the alcohol and trained staff to serve. Check that the bartender has a permit to sell mixed beverages from ABC commission of North Carolina, ask for a copy of their permit and liability insurance. Liability insurance is good for your peace of mind and financial protection. If the bartender option is not affordable, then in North Carolina you, as a host of the party, can obtain a special occasion permit from ABC Commission of North Carolina. This permit allows you to serve liquors. Third option is to serve beer and wine only since it does not require any special permit in most states. You can buy one time liability insurance online for a special occasion, if you want that peace of mind.
You can rent a venue that provides food as part of the package. This option can be more expensive and, your cuisine options are limited and dinnerware options maybe limited too. Of course it’s convenient to have the venue provide everything rather than dealing with two separate vendors. Second, a more versatile option is to rent a venue that allows you to cater food from a caterer of your choice. Caterers can bring in food with all the accessories, like dinnerware, linens, food warmers and tables, along with trained staff to serve.
Photography is very important and fun. You can hire a professional to capture all the right poses and events. Backgrounds are very important to decide ahead of time. Digital photographs can be displayed on large screens at the venue in real-time. Make sure pick a venue with large display screens and bring your Chromecast to send pictures from cameras to the screens through WiFi. Yes WiFi is a must have these days for any reception venue. Another fun option is to have disposable cameras at each table and ask your guests to snap moments of your event for you, all of the photos may not be perfect but it will capture a perfect memory.
There are also several things that you can do to add your own personal touch to your event like printing your own invitations using a font and style to reflect a little of your personality, cocktail napkins with you and your new spouse’s name and wedding date on them, an anniversary piñata to be opened on your first anniversary with messages from all the guests, and then for the wild and crazy receptions, there is always the hangover helper kits that contain in a small bag a small bottle of water, an Alka-Seltzer, a Tylenol individual pack, peppermint and breakfast coupon for McDonald’s!
The most important requirement about a dance floor is extra space in the main venue. There are affordable options to have vinyl custom decals made for the dance floor with design or bride and groom’s monograms. Lighting from the ceiling also adds glamour. It’s important to check what type of media can be used to play your songs, like the music system in the venue has a CD player or do they have options to play from your mobile phone or a USB flash drive. If you are using a DVD player for video songs, is there an option to send DVD audio to the sound system as well.
Finally, your best secret weapon is a reception cheat sheet. A cheat sheet will help you plan, organize and stick to a schedule on the big day. The trick to cramming all your events into a short time frame is to be judicious with what you include. For example, a father-daughter and mother-son dance is fine, but you probably aren’t going to have time to waltz with your brother, grandfather and favorite uncle, too. You also need to be realistic about how long each event will last. Once you determine the time allotment, work a few more flexible minutes into the schedule. If you think the cake cutting will take five minutes, allot 10 just to be sure. Giving yourself and your guests a bit of extra time in your time line will help ensure your reception stays on track, and this wiggle room could even give you the ability to extend a few of the more popular events like unplanned toasts from some of your guests.
Even if you’re planning an afternoon reception, you don’t have all day (or night). You might wish it could last a lifetime, but no matter how grand the party is, after a few hours, your guests will want to go home.
- 4:00 p.m. – guests arrive at the reception site/cocktail hour begins
- 5:00 p.m. – introduction of the bridal party and the bride and groom
- 5:15 p.m. – guests are seated
- 5:30 p.m. – champagne toasts from father of the bride, best man and maid of honor
- 6:00 p.m. – announcement of dinner/buffet opening
- 6:10 p.m. – dinner is served
- 7:00 p.m. – first dance
- 7:05 p.m. – father/daughter and mother/son dances
- 7:10 p.m. – bridal party enters the dance floor
- 7:15 p.m. – dance floor opens to everyone
- 8:10 p.m. – cake-cutting ceremony
- 8:45 p.m. – bouquet and garter toss
- 9:00 p.m. – send-off for the newlyweds
Using a cheat sheet doesn’t guarantee that everything will go as planned during your reception. A cheat sheet will, however, help keep your reception running smoothly, and despite months of planning and preparation, that’s all you can really ask for.