Planning your wedding reception requires more than just picking out a menu, deciding on linens and chair decor, and finalizing a centerpiece! In order to have a successful wedding reception, especially in the eyes of your guests, we suggest a lot of time and care go into the planning of the evening's events. After all the time, hard work and money you've invested in your wedding, your reception is for most guests the "Make it or Break It" factor. That being said, here our some of most valuable tips to help steer you in the right direction:
1) Have a plan - If you're not working with a professional wedding coordinator, ensure that you sit down with your fiance and come up with a detailed time line for everything that will happen from bridal party introductions, and speeches, to grace and the champagne toast. Have a plan for when everything is going to happen throughout the night and ensure that those involved in speaking as well as your dj, mc and venue are all on the same page. Give your dj your special song list well in advance too!
2) Don't overload your reception in content - Some of the biggest mistakes we've seen couples make is pack too many speeches, slide shows, photos presentations, games into their reception. Guest will loose interest easily and once you've lost their focus, there really is no getting it back... Limit yourselves to no more than 1-2 video/photo presentations and spread them out. Have no more than 6 short speeches (Ex. both parents, maid of honour, best man, bride and groom). Stick to no more than 2 forms of live entertainment (i.e a violinist during dinner and dancers during the reception). Guests want to be entertained while they eat, but don't want to feel bombarded with a variety show.
3) Make sure that the people who have been listed on your timeline know what is expected of them and at what point in the evening. You never want to catch someone off guard with saying grace, giving a speech or a toast.
4) Be thoughtful when creating a seating plan. Don't put people who wouldn't mesh well together together. Don't put a single guest at a table of couples, and do try to keep important family members close to the parent tables. Once you've created your seating plan, check it over again, and again and again. Cross reference with all RSVP cards. We've seen it happen and it's so awkward: A couple shows up to table 7 as indicated on their seating card, only to find all seats filled. All guests at table 7 double check their cards and confirm they are in the right place and look sympathetically to the seatless couple. When you're dealing with a couple hundred guests, mistakes are easily made; try to catch them before your guests do on the day of your wedding. There is nothing more awkward that feeling like you don't have a place to sit.
5) If you are serving beef, serve it medium. While yes, most true red meat lovers prefer their meat no more than medium rare, many guests are turned off by bloody meat and we've seen far too many guests turned off as oppose to turned on by the appearance of their red meat. When you're aiming to please large groups, play it safe and serve it medium.
6) Don't have cocktails last longer than 1.5 hours. If you reception starts at 5:00pm, by 6:30pm most guests will be ready to find their way to their seats and get the night going.
7) Take care of all formal items before opening the dance floor. All speeches, presentations, centerpiece give away games that require guest cooperation (silence) or participation should be done before you "release the crowd". It's ok to interrupt dancing for the cake cutting, bouquet or garter toss, but expecting dancing, smoking, drinking, and mingling guests to return their seats and pipe down for a speech after 45 mins of high energy activity is unrealistic. It simply won't happen.
8) Make sure you serve enough food. While most weddings leave guests full to the brim, the odd reception has come and gone where guests are left wanting more. It's poor etiquette not to satisfy the taste buds of your guests. Imagine having friends/family over for dinner only to find out they hit up McDonald's right after they left.
9) If you are giving away your centerpiece, make sure it's something easy to take away. Large vases filled with liters of water almost always cause problems when guests try to remove them from the table. Likewise, if you plan to only give away the floral topper, make sure it's something guests can actually reach! We've seen guests knocking over centerpieces, spilling large vases of water, or dropping them all on their attempts to bring that centerpiece home. While we love the idea of giving it away, you want your guests to be able to easily take it away.
10) As the bride and groom, write a speech or at least put down points on paper. The climax speeches of the night are hearing from the couple themselves. There is nothing more disappointing than watching a couple ramble, mumble or stutter through an impromptu speech, only to end it then come right back on because you've forgotten something important.