Creating a Memorable Wedding Reception

Photo by Ambiance Photography

An estimated 2.2 million weddings take place every year in the United States.  With that figure, most adults will attend between 6 to 12 receptions in their lifetime. 

So planning a memorable one that stands out from the crowd can be challenging, but not impossible.  Below are some really fun examples you may want to steal to keep your reception from becoming one giant blur to guests.

  • Invest in an artist to create a beautiful image during the reception, and guests can watch as their own image comes alive on canvas.  Plus it’s a keepsake for you and your husband to be enjoyed for the rest of your lives.
  • To get the crowd moving, have a good old fashioned scavenger hunt.  Coordinate a few items hidden in various places around the venue and the DJ calls out what the items are.  The guest with the most items wins a prize.
  • A high end photo booth that also captures video is a great way to add life to any party.  Guests enjoy the process of posing with friends and leaving video messages to the happy couple.  Plus they get to leave with a keepsake of their own smiling faces.
  • Wedding Couple Trivia: Write down several questions and answers about you, your fiancé or you as a couple.  Then have your DJ ask the audience some of the questions.  If anyone calls out the right answer, they either get a prize, a free drink, or perhaps a trip to the buffet line before it opens to the crowd.  Continue this between songs and or throughout the night, if there are enough questions.
  • Hire a comedian.  Give him some background on the two of you so that he can come up with some relevant material on your relationship or just have him stick to wedding/honeymoon/marriage material.  Have him perform right after dinner and if possible, keep it a secret so there aren’t any expectations.
  • Pick a theme and run with it.  If it’s based on a particular movie/story or historical time frame, heavily decorate to reinforce the theme and have everyone dress the part.
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Achieving The Perfect Wedding Guest List

So many couples have such a hard time with their guest list that figuring out who to invite becomes a daunting task. 

With family from both sides to invite as well as close friends, they wonder if they have to let their “invited” guest bring a date.  While others wonder if it’s rude of them to only invite the people they like from their workplace.  Or if they need to invite practically everyone they know to avoid offending them.

Questions like these always come up because most couples have to keep their guest list to a certain number or they’ll break the bank.  

Of course, you don’t want to offend people, but yet the more people you invite, the costlier the reception becomes.  But don’t stress, here are some easy rules to live by:

1. If the invitation is addressed to just one person, without the words, “and guest”, most people understand it’s meant just for them.  But having said that, if you know your guest has a “significant other”, even if you don’t know them personally, it’s important to invite that person as well.  However if you do receive an RSVP for two from a dense invitee, just pick up the phone and explain that you are on a strict budget and are limited to the number of people you’ve invited.  They should understand.

2. As for inviting co-workers; If you don’t socialize with them after work, then don’t bother.  As the work friendships you have from 8-5 will probably not continue if/when you change jobs.

Plus if you invited everyone whom you were not close to, you run the risk of looking like you’re fishing for wedding presents. 

Now with that said, if NOT inviting a particular co-work or supervisor to your wedding would be akin to committing career suicide, then you should suck it up and invite them. 

3. And finally, if you are still having trouble cutting down your list, divide it into two catergories.  A MUST HAVE and a WOULD LIKE TO HAVE.  Then start trimming down your WOULD LIKE TO HAVE list.  Start by asking yourself, “How well do I really know this person?  If we sat down together over coffee, could we carry on a fun, stimulating conversation for an hour or so?”  If the answer is no, then cross them off your list.  When you’re done, there shouldn’t be anyone you’ve crossed off who would be offended they weren’t invited as they probably feel the same way about you!

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A Toast To The Happy Couple…

But is the toast hosted, semi-hosted or non-hosted? 

When it comes to serving alcohol at your reception, you’ll be faced with the decision on whether or not your guests will pay for their own drinks, or if you will pay for them.

Usually your pocketbook makes the decision for you.  But for those sitting on the fence, keep in mind the following “average” consumption rate: 1 guest will drink 2 drinks the first hour and 1 drink every hour afterward.   Another type of drink calculator can be found at:

For example, if you are considering a hosted bar, and 100 guests are attending, and your reception is scheduled to last 6 hours and the average drink costs $7.00 then the cost to you to host those drinks would be roughly $5,6801.00  (100 guests x $7 x 7 drinks x 20% service charge).

For many couples (or their parents), this figure is not an option so they would have the choice of purchasing a pre-set amount of alcohol or allowing their guests to pay for their own drinks.

Purchasing a pre-set amount appeals to many families as it allows them to offer complimentary drinks but there will not be any bar tab surprises at the end of the night.  

You can either pre-purchase particular cases of wine and or beer kegs from your venue or  tell them a dollar amount the bartender should not go over, thus allowing guests to order whatever they want (except for a shot of 70 year old Scotch, that is).

The final option is to allow your guests to pay for their own drinks (and bartender tip).  Many call this a cash bar or non-hosted bar.

In the end, there is no right or wrong choice and your guests will undoubtedly have a great time no mater what you decide. 

As for the wedding toast, historically champagne is the chosen libation, but that my friends, is always hosted.

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Who Pays for What? Financial Wedding Etiquette

Unless you’ve been married before, it’s hard to keep the financial wedding rules straight.  Historically, the bride’s family paid for most of the expenses, and the groom’s family got away with just paying for the rehearsal dinner. 

However in 2011, with weddings growing more and more expensive for the average family and the economy what it is today, we are finding that both sets of parents, along with the happy couple, are contributing equally whenever possible.  This is a much more equitable division of expenses, and may become the new trend going forward.

But fostering this new idea takes a lot of communication.  Don’t assume the groom’s parents won’t help just because they aren’t cracking open their checkbook.  They may not know you need help, or may simply want to be invited to take part of the planning process…so the first thing to do is ask.   By involving the groom’s parents, you are inviting them to enjoy the benefits of the occassion, as well as the obligations needed to make it happen.

For those of you who want to know the traditional breakdown of expenses, the following rules would apply:

Bride’s family pays for:

  • Engagement party (optional)
  • Wedding invitations and other stationery (announcements, thank-you notes, etc.)
  • Services of bridal consultant
  • Wedding gown and accessories
  • Flowers for ceremony and reception sites
  • Bouquets for bridesmaids
  • Music
  • Photography
  • Videography
  • Ceremony
  • Reception
  • Bridal party transportation to ceremony
    and reception
  • Family’s wedding attire

Bride pays for:

  • The groom’s ring
  • The bridesmaids’ luncheon
  • Gifts for the bridesmaids
  • Wedding gift for the groom

Attendants pay for:

  • Bachelor and bachelorette parties
  • Gifts for the bride and groom
  • Wedding attire and accessories
  • Transportation to and from wedding
Groom’s family pays for:

  • Engagement party (optional)
  • Rehearsal dinner
  • Their own wedding attire

Groom pays for:

  • The bride’s rings
  • The marriage license
  • Officiant’s fee
  • His formalwear
  • Personal flowers: the bride’s bouquet, boutonnieres for wedding party, corsages for mothers and grandmothers
  • Gifts for the groomsmen
  • Wedding gift for the bride
  • Gifts for parents
  • Honeymoon
  • Transportation to the honeymoon
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Brunch Anyone?

Who doesn’t love brunch?  Breakfast and lunch fare all in the same place – a virtual cornucopia of flavors to please everyone! 

But did you know that a brunch wedding reception can actually help you save money?

Here are 4 reasons why:

  1. People drink less during the day, so that means a smaller bar bill for you (or your parents). 
  2. Many reception venues reduce their room rental or waive it entirely since the room could potentially be rented out in the evening as well.   
  3. Items on a brunch menu are generally less expensive than evening menus.
  4. Dancing usually not a high priority during the day, so you can save what the DJ would have cost.

Another way to save money is by ordering cupcakes instead of a traditional (and usually expensive) wedding cake.  They cost less and are less formal for the time of day.        Display  them in a tiered fashion that emulates a wedding cake shape and you’ll still have a wow factor.

Having a wedding brunch also allows you to take advantage of the additional day light, frees up your time in the evening to spend with close family and friends, or gives you the opportunity to jump start your honeymoon. 

But be prepared for more children attending due to the time of day (unless you indicate that your reception is a kid free zone).

The key to a great brunch is to balance breakfast and lunch items.  Below are some winners in our book:

  • Waffle Station
  • Omelet Station
  • Doughnuts/Muffins/Croissants
  • Assorted Yogurts with fruit and granola toppings
  • Cheese & Chocolate Fountains
  • Jumbo Shrimp on Ice
  • Salmon with cream cheese, onions & bagels
  • Charcutterie Board (lots of different kinds of sliced meats & cheeses)
  • Vegetable Tray
  • Fruit Tray
  • Deviled Eggs
  • Crab & Artichoke Dip
  • Breakfast Potatoes
  • Bacon /Sausage
  • Roasted Baron of Beef or Ham, carved to order
  • Mimosas
  • Bloody Marys
  • Espresso Station
  • Juice Bar


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Let Them Eat Cake!

A lot of brides wonder if they really need to feed their photographer and or DJ at their wedding reception and some even forget about these folks all together.

Although they may not be guests, the people you have contracted to work during your wedding reception are performing a job during a time they would normally need to eat. 

You certainly don’t have to feed them, but it’s a really nice gesture, and would almost certainly promote better service from them.  Not to mention it’s considered a perk in the industry. 

However read the fine print in the contracts you sign with them, as many wedding professionals have the provision that they must be fed, so be prepared. 

If you still can’t stomach the idea of offering a $50.00+ plate of food to your DJ or photographer, you can always coordinate a less expensive meal for them with your caterer if need be. 

But know that you are not obliged to offer them free alcoholic drinks.  After all they’re on the clock, working for you.  And nobody likes a drunken DJ, anyway.

So let them eat cake, and anything else you deem fit.  As a well fed photographer is a happy photographer…and that makes for better wedding pictures.

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Current “Royal” Wedding Trends

Even though the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton is over, their influence on current wedding trends, from fashion to decor, can already be felt. Like his parents before him, William and his future bride-to-be are setting the tone for wedding style this spring. Brides and grooms from England to Canada, to America are jumping on the royal wedding bandwagon, planning their very own prince and princess themed nuptials.

Elegant gowns that accentuate a long lean look with minimal flash will soon be cropping up in bridal gown designs and in magazine spreads, as women try to copy Middleton’s simple, yet elegant style with understated gowns that are both chic and modern.  But the jury is still out on Tiaras as word on the street is that Kate is opting for flowers in her hair, rather than crown jewels. 

One trend which has already emerged since the royal engagement is engagement rings featuring non-traditional gemstones like sapphires, and fancy diamonds in colors like yellow, pink, blue and chocolate. These stones make for more personalized rings and is something brides seem to already be embracing.

A return to more traditional wedding elements seems to be the biggest influence the dashing royal couple are responsible for. Couples-to-be, who are tying the knot this summer, are incorporating richly royal features into their wedding such as elaborately designed invitations, over the top lighting, lush floral displays, and classic gowns and suits.

Whatever royal trend you might gravitate to, know that you don’t have to spend a fortune to make it elegant.  There is always a deal to be found if you look hard enough!

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