Alright - your mother said she’d jump off a bridge if you didn’t get married in a church, but she said
the wedding reception is up you. Perfect. The wedding reception is your big chance to have the party
of your dreams. Now, there’s plenty of room to get creative here, but you have another, even more mission
critical goal: make sure your guests have fun. Balancing a memorable, uniquely you wedding reception with
one that has just enough convention and comforts for wedding-weary partygoers is the key to a fabulous
after-wedding celebration that everyone will remember for all the right reasons. Stay focused on some
of these opportunities to put your own personal twist on one of the most storied traditions in
Wedding Reception Decoration Ideas
Wedding reception decorations will likely be the first area to start planning after you have the wedding
ceremony squared away. Choose a theme that may or may not be related to your wedding ceremony’s theme.
Feel free to make it seasonal (i.e. fall or spring, Christmas or 4th of July) or personal (i.e. your
alma mater, if you met in college or your honeymoon location). Make your decorations subtle, but
noticeable. Centerpieces are the traditional focus.
Wedding Reception Food and Drink
After sitting in a church for an hour or longer, and then milling about making small talk while you
take pictures, your guests are going to be hungry. Placate them with manageable fare that fits the
mood and atmosphere - even if that doesn’t mean a sit-down, knife and fork dinner. Barbecue picnics
can be a real crowd pleaser for an outdoor reception. A family-style Italian dinner with platters
to pass around the table can be a hit for close-knit extended families. Whatever you do, avoid
anything that’s going to elicit complaints or the heebie jeebies. Now isn’t the best time for ethnic
foods or a raw sushi bar, if that’s not up your guests’ alley. If you must get creative, try it
with the hors d’oeuvres.
Another good idea to reinforce your theme: signature drinks. Manhattan’s for night on the town themed
wedding receptions make sense. Pina colada or mai tai for your beach themed wedding reception will go
over well. Or, you can choose a microbrew to have on tap or a special wine from a nearby vineyard
to serve with dinner.
Wedding Reception Party Favors
Party favors also reinforce the theme, as well as remind guests that it’s okay to get goofy and
have fun. Choose something that will be a nice keepsake, and/or serve as an entertaining prop
throughout the night. Consider including instructions - for example, top hats for guests to don
during the kick line for “New York, New York” or noisemakers for goading the newlyweds to kiss.
Guest Retention is Everything
Some wedding goers are notorious for eating and running. Others just get uncomfortable or antsy
sitting at their table all night long. Some get hungry again after picking at their dinner or
missing out on hot h’or dourves. And then there are the guests with kids, nicotine addictions,
claustrophobia and other hang ups that may cause them to duck out early. Think of this and
incorporate relief in fun and memorable ways. Bring it another round of snacks near the end of
the night, and put coffee out near a cookie table. Create a lounge area for people to catch
their breath, have some conversation with those that aren’t seated near them or just get
chance of environment. Let people know where they can smoke and make sure it’s not so remote
that it seems like half the party has left whenever someone goes to grab a puff.
Add Surprises with a Twist, but Avoid Radical Departures
There are some events that we’ve all come to expect at a wedding - the first dance, the entrance,
the exit, the toasts, the garter toss. If you think these traditions are trite, you can skip
them. Or you can snazz them up with your own twist, such as cutting the cake when your first
walk in, or having the best men do a barber shop quartet number in tribute, rather than a boring,
old “remember when…” spiel. But make sure your personal touch works at least somewhat within the
parameters of your guests’ expectations. Don’t replace the toasts with a 20 minute lecture on
deforestation. Don’t turn the first dance into a dramatic reenactment from Star Wars. And don’t
go overboard with the twists and turns - otherwise, your wedding will quickly go from quirky to
Overall, feel free to personalize your wedding. But don’t worry too much that your big day will
turn out generic. Your genuine emotion and your unique mix of wedding guests should add enough
personality all on their own. But if you are determined to be creative, first think of what
normally goes into a wedding reception, and then apply dashes of your own unique style
throughout. Don’t reinvent the wedding reception - just make it your own.