10 Tips for a Stress-Free Wedding Reception

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If the moment the officiant announces the happy couple to the world is the highlight of a wedding day, then the wedding reception is surely a close second. Naturally a bride or groom wants everything about the big day to go perfectly, but with the many moving parts involved in a reception, it’s often viewed as the one part of the wedding where things can go wrong. Following these ten tips can help ensure that your wedding day goes off without a hitch (except for the “getting hitched” part.) 

#1 Consider full-service – Many wedding venues offer options of full-service catering, decorating, entertainment, etc. While the price is usually higher to have one point person handle the entire event for you, it’s usually worth it. Acting as your own general-contractor of sorts, and planning out everything from hors d’oeuvres to the guest book can be exhausting. If it works for your budget, and if you don’t want to be too involved behind the scenes at your own reception, then consider going full-service.

#2 Keep expenses realistic – You may be tempted to go overboard with reception planning. Afterall, you want all of your guests to be as happy with the day as you are. But, nothing will bring you down more during your reception than counting costs in the back of your mind. Your attention should be on your new partner and your family and friends, and not worrying about whether or not you’re running out of free alcohol. There’s nothing worse than counting on wedding gift cash to help pay for the party. Making reception plans based on a realistic budget will help keep your event stress-free.

#3 Have options for food – You might think it’s easier to have just two or even only one option for food at the reception, but consider going with more options if it works with your venue and caterer. The more options for food at the wedding, the happier the wedding attendees are, and the more successful the whole day can be. While beef or chicken are the staples, be sure to consider vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, and other options. It’s a great way to let your guests know that you’re thinking of their dietary needs, and want them to have a good time too.

#4 Be careful with seating – Let’s face it, you already know your spouse’s uncle Larry shouldn’t be talking politics with your cousin Diane, and so on. It’s best for everyone if those two are seated as far away as possible. It’s your day, and you control the seating chart, so feel free to use those powers for good. We all have those certain family members who are invited basically just because they’re a relative. Got a chatty aunt? Pair her up at a table with your spouse’s hard-of-hearing sister. You never know, you might just be kicking off a life-long friendship between the two.

#5 Preview the entertainment – If you’re hiring a band or a DJ to play your wedding reception, ask for an opportunity to see them live. You’re not necessarily inviting yourself to someone else’s wedding reception, but just ask if you can just peak into the venue and see them in action. Likely they’ve already shared with you a YouTube highlight reel, but there’s nothing wrong with asking to see for yourself. Many DJ services have a number of different DJs working for them and you don’t know which one you’ll get until they show up. If you’re promised Johnny Rocker and end up with Suzy Sad Songs, you’ll wish you had checked ahead of time.

#6 Double check the playlist – Speaking of music, keeping the audience in mind will help avoid a potentially embarrassing situation. The music of choice of the wedding party may not be the favorite songs of the grandparents in attendance, and that’s OK. But, consider the grandparents (and parents, aunts, uncles, children, etc.) when choosing dance songs. It’s OK to make a rule with your DJ that no “adult language” songs be played until after a certain time to ensure that both the old folks and the young kids have left for the evening.

#7 Keep parents busy – If there’s one thing that stresses couples out on wedding days, it’s the parents. Consider that a busy parent is less likely to want to meddle in too many plans or make too many last-minute recommendations. Give each parent (or parent figure) a project, and tell them it’s really important to you that the one thing they’re in charge of goes well. That gives each parent enough to do to keep them out of your way, and also lets them feel like they’re contributing as an integral part of the event.

#8 Get pictures – While official wedding photographer albums are great, you’ll also want to remember the day through the eyes of your wedding attendees. Encourage everyone to take pictures and share them, whether through social media, or emailing them to you after the fact. It’s a great way to catch all the action you may have missed while you were deep in wedded bliss. A catchy hashtag can encourage social sharing of the photos and allow you to find them on social media after the event. 

#9 Enjoy in moderation – It probably doesn’t need to be said, but we’ve seen enough weddings that we know—it needs to be said. We’ve all been to that wedding where the bride is no longer allowed to hold the microphone because she drank enough to out-swear the old men in the room, or the wedding where the groom is in the back trying to sober up with a cup of coffee. While those receptions certainly may have seemed fun to the wedding party at the time, there were likely a lot of people rolling their eyes in the room and questioning the maturity of everyone involved.

#10 Stick to the timeline – The day is all about you, and everyone there knows it. But, everyone also knows there’s a certain expectation of the timing of events. When the reception is supposed to begin, it needs to begin. While it’s great for the wedding party to take a limo cruise from the wedding to the reception, be sure to keep your guests in mind before you make a stop off at your favorite bar along the way. The reception venue is likely already filled with people expecting food and refreshments and the presence of the happy couple.