Next to saying "I do" at your wedding ceremony, your wedding reception should be one of your favourites parts of the whole day. You'll be married, surrounded by friends and family and finally ready to let loose and enjoy yourself after all the wedding planning stress is behind you. But before you can get to that blissful time, you'll want to make sure you plan thoroughly so that you can enjoy the evening without worry that you've missed something.
Here are few basic tips to outline the process and handy Free Printable Wedding Reception Details Tracker:
You can also download our full Wedding Planning Binder for more helpful wedding planning resources.
Numbers & Venue
Before you can really get started on your planning, you'll have to decide on how many people you will be hosting and what the mood/style you are going for is.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when picking your venue:
- How many guests will we have? Write out a first draft of your guest list before looking at venues. Even though you might be thinking "this will be small", you might be surprised how quickly the list grows and grows.
- What is my budget? This will help refine your venue candidates to a manageable amount to actually visit. There is no sense looking at venues that you simply can't afford, so pick a range and stick to it.
- What is the style/mood of the day? Are you looking for romance in an intimate setting? A fun urban vibe that is unique? Or maybe a connection with nature? Define your style to help narrow down where to look. Some venues can be transformed to whatever vibe you like but the right venue will make decorating much easier.
- What type of service/food will there be? Do you want a full meal or cocktail style? Buffet line or table service? Deciding these things first will help you pick the ideal venue.
Once you've narrowed down your venue contenders list, visited the locations, made contacts and tried the food at each one, you should have the information you need to pick your venue and set the date!
So you've visited your chosen venue, tried the food and discussed options with your venue content. Now it's time to make the big decisions.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when deciding on food:
- Try to pick options that will appeal to everyone. Food is one of the most memorable and talked about parts of the wedding. Your guests are getting all dressed up, coming out to support you and it's generally a long day, so food is big part of it. You might be vegan or think carbs are the enemy, but the majority of your guests might be disappointed without some traditional options.
- Take note of any severe allergies. Add a line to your reply cards for allergery alerts so that everyone is safe and fulfilled on the big day.
- Don't skimp on the late lunch. Once the dancing gets going and everyone is burning calories and having a few drinks they'll need some sustenance it keep them going. Nacho or poutine bars are popular as well as good old-fashioned pizzas!
If you chose to offer bar service at your wedding you'll need to decide if you want to have it open or cash. A lot of people may frown upon cash bars but if it's not in the budget to have it open, it's at least nice to give guests who would like a drink the option to purchase one. If it is cash only, be sure to let your guests know.
- Stocking the bar: A red and a white wine, beer, and a signature cocktail a good start but some traditional spirits with mix are always a good option to satisfy everyone's taste.
- Service: If you're having a cocktail hour or if the whole reception is cocktail style, consider wait staff that circulates beverages as well so line-ups don't become an issue.
Speeches are one of the most critical parts of the reception because they are probably the most personal aspect of the day and the most emotional. Be sure to plan who's giving what toast at least 2 months in advance so that the people giving them are well prepared and have an open conversation with each person about what is expected and what isn't. Of course you don't want to tell them what to say but a few helpful guidelines will help to keep them classy, interesting and not too long.
Pass on these Wedding Toast Do's and Don'ts to those tasked with a speech on your big day!
All the paper pieces that help to inform your guests are an opportunity to set the mood and show some of your style at the event. Typically they should match your wedding invitations if possible or at least play into the same theme. From the table menus and place cards to programs and favor tags, there are a lot of paper details required. To keep it eco-friendly, choose recycled paper or plantable paper to give your guests the bonus gift of symbolic wildflowers!
A tradition that was designed to show gratitude to your wedding guests should never be overlooked. Start thinking about your wedding favors at least 4 months before your big day and try to order them 6 - 8 weeks before. Not only will they show each and every guest a personal thanks but they also make the table setting a little more interesting. Some guests can't wait to take their seat to see how the bride and groom chose to say thank you. Consider something that shows personality or is symbolic. As makers of seed paper, we like wedding favors that grow and don't leave waste behind!
A tradition that everyone loves, the wedding cake, is a highlight and a key photo opportunity. Not only are cakes wonderful and delicious, but how often in your life do you get the chance to order over the top dessert custom made just for you! Not very often, so take advantage of the opportunity and treat yourself and your guests to a beautiful dessert.
- Start planning it early but not before you have made major style decisions. You want your cake to fit in with the theme and style of the event so you baker will want some details about the venue, stationery, dress and colors.
- Consider the temperature. The last thing you want is melted buttercream on a hot July evening if your wedding is outdoors. Ask your baker for recommendations.
- Taste them all. Have fun trying some different flavors and think about what goes with the meal.
- Coordinate the delivery. This usually requires a refrigerated van and a gentle touch so be sure to book somewhere that delivers and doesn't expect someone to pick it up.
- Show it off. Cakes are expensive so you'll want to feature it somewhere are part of the decor on a well-lit table.
Your table settings and centrepieces will be the main focus when decorating so they are generally the best place to start. There are so many options out there so to get started making style decisions, be sure to do a lot of wedding inspiration sourcing. You might be surprised but some of the ideas and combinations that you'll fall in love with.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to get started:
- Are the tables round or rectangle? The shape of the table should be determined before deciding on how you dress them up.
- What is my place setting budget? Deciding on how much you want to spend will help you narrow down what to include on each place setting.
- What flowers and organic elements work with my style, colors budget? You can also think about what is in season to reduce costs and be more eco-friendly.
- What does the venue already have going for it? Consider any existing features in your venue that can be taken advantage or played up such as large fireplaces, tall windows with dramatic drapery, fountains, archways, stages etc. Strategic lighting can help with this.
- Where will I get my linens? Sometimes the venue will have the basics but if you want a specific style in mind you'll likely need to use linen and drapery service for chair covers, table clothes, runners and napkins.
- Do you need a guest book area? Guest books are not what they used to be, there a now tons of creative ways to capture who attended and their well wishes. Take a look Pinterest to get some idea that fit with your style and theme.
NOTE: Keep in mind, less is more. You want to draw attention to the right places without being distracting or over the top.
Capturing The Memories
A lot of couples set a side a couple hours for posed photos on their wedding day but forget about the reception itself or only capture a few moments of it. Considering having a reception photographer that focuses less on the artsy, stunning, frame worthy photos, and simply walks around to capture your guests having fun for photo albums. Use a friend of a friend or someone trying to get some basic photography experience so it's not a huge exppence. A photo booth is also a great way to make sure you get some fun shots of everyone who attended.
The Clean Up
Don't forget to have a clean-up crew in place and determine who is responsible for what. You don't want to leave yourself with any of the take down headaches so be sure to plan ahead who has to do what so you can ride off in the sunset without worry.