After your wedding, it’s time to celebrate! There are just as many ideas about what a wedding reception looks like as there are brides. You can be elegant, you can be intimate, you can be fun, it’s entirely your choice. Keep in mind your guest list as you decide what the reception looks like. Will there be children in attendance? Do you want to make a statement? Do you want it to be fun?
Assuming you have already picked out the reception venue (we have a two part blog post to help pick a venue), it’s time to move on to planning how your reception will flow. Today many receptions follow a standard pattern: cocktails during the bridal photography session (and in some cases setup of the reception area after the ceremony), then a sit-down dinner and then maybe dancing and/or all the fun traditional things such as cake cutting, bouquet throwing, etc. This is a very trendy way to approach it, but you don’t have to follow this formula.
Food and Drinks
First you will want to decide upon your menu. Do you want a full dinner or are finger foods and appetizers more in line with the time of day or theme? You can work with your caterer for these decisions. If you have the right guest list and venue you can even consider a potluck dinner (more info on our blog post about how to pull of a potluck reception).
Once you’ve determined the food, you will want to decide upon the drinks. Will you serve alcohol? If so what kind; if not what will pair with your menu? Read our post for more in-depth advice on bar services.
You need to also consider entertainment. There are so many options available, and it all begins with music. Again, you need to consider your venue, whether it’s indoor or outdoor, the guest list and your style. And remember, no music is an alternative. You have many possibilities for music divided into three categories: DJ, Live Music or DIY.
Whether you use a DJ or live music, be sure everything you decide is included in the contract. And be sure to have a contingency if there is a problem on the wedding date, and have that contingency spelled out in the contract as well.
Choose a DJ
You will want to meet with several DJs to determine if they are a good fit. Ask for references and determine what they can do to make your day special. Get a list of questions together ahead of time. For example:
- Do they have the versatility to play the music you want?
- Can they read a crowd and pump them up to help your less out-going guests have a great time? What type of equipment they use and do they have backup equipment.
- Do they include extras like lighting and an HD screen?
- Will they act as the master of ceremony for you, announcing the big events like the cake cutting and bouquet toss, first dance and when you are leaving? And will they work with you on the appropriate music selections in these instances?
You also need to decide if you want the guests to make song requests. If so, how will the DJ handle it? Have the performed at your venue, and if not will they visit your location and discuss placement of the equipment and dance floor? Will you be able to choose your DJ or is it whoever is available on your wedding day?
Choosing a DJ comes down to how compatible they are with your personality and style and if they fit into your budget. Be sure that everything that you discuss is spelled out in your contract, including the price, the length of the job, setup and cleanup, music genre and any extras you’ve discussed. Checkout All About the Music. They are a one stop shop for DJ/ MC Services. Repeatable DJ, Photobooth and VR is also a good option with DJ and Photobooth services!
You can get your guests involved and consider compiling a playlist from family and friend’s requests – you can even include a song request with your RSVP.
Choose Live Music
Whatever genre you’re into, nothing beats the experience of music played live. But choosing a live music may take much more time and effort than choosing a DJ. And the same list of questions for DJs apply to bands. And additionally you’ll need to be sure the musician(s) play the style of music that you want, and some cases you need to verify they can play classics in addition to their own music.
It is possible that live music will cost more than a DJ due to the number of people and equipment involved. You’ll also want to discuss whether they will need to be fed, the song catalog and what their experience is with weddings.
There are many choices with live music; for example:
- Local Band – Have you seen local bands that you love? Ask for references from friends and your venue.
- Harpist – One of the most romantic sounds of all time, harpists are perfect for ceremonies and sophisticated drinks receptions. You won’t expect a harpist to act as master of ceremony, so you will need to make additional arrangements.
- String quartet – If your budget will stretch a little further, the enchanting notes of a string quartet will give your ceremony so much atmosphere.
- Jazz band – One of the easiest ways to ensure a packed dance floor is to choose a genre that people just can’t help but dance to!
- Tribute band – If you are a super fan of a particular band, hire a tribute act.
DIY (Do It Yourself!)
If you want to have the ultimate control over your music, you can consider doing it yourself with Spotify. Spotify is music app that allows users to create playlists and it can share playlists, favorites and suggestions to other users. It could be very touching to share some of the night’s biggest moments (father/daughter, first dance, etc) with all of the guests or allow them to make suggestions.
What you need:
- A Spotify premium subscription.
- A playlist.
- Speakers or sound system and someone who knows how to hook it up.
- Someone to operate it that you trust. Go over the playlist and a script of how the reception will go and be sure they understand they will act as the emcee or master of ceremonies. Choose someone who is up to the task.
You could also consider karaoke, but if you combine it with your own playlist and save karaoke for later in the night you’re are almost sure to get hilarious and enthusiastic results! But be aware, it could be risky, depending on the amount of alcohol consumption.
Reception Entertainment Ideas
16 Fun Entertainment Ideas for All Ages
- Photobooths are all the rage these days and you send your guests home with their very own memories. Be sure that the Photobooth that you hire has appropriate props to provide your guests with all they need for their perfect memory. Check out The Photobooth Company if you’re interested in this trending idea. Repeatable DJ, Photobooth, and VR can provide both DJ and Photobooth services as well as recording your ceremony for Virtual Reality playback.
- Consider hiring a balloon artist to create equally exciting balloon entertainment for children at your wedding.
- You could hire jugglers, have a petting zoo, plan a scavenger hunt while your videographer shoots the search.
- Hire a magician to entertain the younger guests and the young at heart. A magician could also mingle with the crowd during the drink reception doing small magic and card tricks.
- For an outside event consider fireworks or sparklers. Be sure that you are aware of any local regulations and have liability insurance. You can find wedding sparklers online at The Wedding Sparkler Store.
- Leave an advice card with each place setting and see what words of wisdom your guests give you. This can be an alternative to place names that will keep guests busy. You can also incorporate a calligrapher to produce the notes in a very elegant way that you will want to keep forever.
- Consider table trivia, stock up on trivia cards or have your DJ host a Mr & Mrs quiz to entertain guests between courses and find out just how much your guests know about you.
- Think about Origami projects at each table. You can find origami projects at Amazon.
- Consider a caricaturist for a fun take on wedding favors!
- The new rage is Giant Jenga! This could keep your guests entertained for hours.
- Check out Sid & Olive for a range of vintage garden games including ring toss.
- A picnic can embrace the trend for more relaxed and/or rustic weddings. This can fit very nicely into an outdoor venue. Pack up hampers of charcuterie, freshly baked bread, cheese, salads and drinks to serve up a low-key feast or try the potluck reception with this theme.
- A candy bar could double up as your wedding favors, or offer a sweet finish to your evening buffet. You can start choosing your Wedding Candy Buffet Colors at CandyStore.com!
- You could match a piñata to your theme. Think a suitcase piñata for a travel-themed wedding, or a giant rose for a more traditional big day.
- For your younger guests you could create a dedicated face paint area to amuse the kids. Just make sure they know that under no circumstances can the face paint transfer onto anyone’s outfits, not least your dress.
- A finger print guest book is interactive although a little messy. But it creates a guestbook that couldn’t be more personal.
Help us out! Give us more ideas in the comments, or share this article on social media to help other brides.
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