Step-by-Step Guide: How To Plan A Wedding Reception

The wedding reception is the centerpiece of the party. This guide will help you plan the perfect wedding reception that your guests will never forget.

Step 1: Before you start searching for venues for your reception, set the wedding date

You should start searching for the right spot for your wedding as soon as possible. Some venues can be booked up to one year in advance. Be prepared to search for another date or alternative location.

  • It is possible for venues to be unavailable at certain times of the year. Also, it is generally easier and less costly to plan a winter wedding during peak season.
  • Although Saturday is the most common day for marriage, a Sunday ceremony could be a good alternative. This will save you money and also allow you to keep your budget low.
Step 2: Determining your reception budget

After you have set the date, it is time to start considering your budget. You will find that many venues have a minimum requirement so make sure you ask when looking at potential venues. To give you an accurate estimate of the cost, the receptionist will need to know how many guests you have.

Step 3: Choosing the most important elements for your reception
  • Are you planning an outdoor or indoor reception? 
  • You should have an alternative plan in place for rain if you are planning an outdoor party.
  • Which type of reception would you like? 
  • A sit-down dinner is still the most popular type, but there are other options, such as a cocktail reception or breakfast or brunch or afternoon tea. These are some considerations when selecting the type of reception.
  • Would you like to have a receiving phone? 
  • A receiving line allows you to greet your guests, and gives them the opportunity to thank you. It can be time-consuming, so many couples prefer to visit each table. 
  • If you choose to have a receiving-line, it should read: Mother or parents of bride, father or mother of groom, bride, groom and maid of honour, then bridesmaids.
  • Would you like to be officially introduced as you enter the reception?Alternatively, you could simply be introduced by the bandleader or DJ for the first time as married couples. If you’re not sure, you can ask your parents to join you on the dance floor and watch you do your first dance.
  • Are you planning to make toasts? 
  • Toasts are a great moment for guests and the couple, but they should be short and sweet. Toasts should be made between or just before dinner, and limited to one or two people at a time. 
  • Ask that everyone who gives a toast keeps it short. Also, designate someone to watch the time in your wedding party. 
  • Before they cut the cake, the bride and groom can say a few thanks.
  • When does dancing start? 
  • Nowadays, dancing is done after the dinner has ended, and not between courses. You should select music that everyone will like, so there is something for everyone.
  • What kinds of photos would you prefer? 
  • Another opportunity to take great photos at the reception is when you can gather with family and friends. If you have any requests for specific shots from the reception area, let your photographer know.
  • Do you want to make a bouquet or garter toss? 
  • This tradition can be very fun and will get your guests involved. However, some couples skip the reception part.
Step 4: Make seating arrangements

It can be difficult to arrange seating for a sit-down meal.

  • Either the bride and groom will sit at their “sweetheart table”, which is usually in front of their guests, or they may join their bridal party at an even larger table. Some couples choose to place the table amongst their guests, which gives the event a modern touch.
  • Parents and close friends will often sit together at their respective tables.
  • You should think about the elderly and where they will be placed so that they aren’t too close to speakers or in an inconvenient location.
  • Place cards are not the most formal way of arranging seating. However, they can be useful if you’re concerned about people being placed next to each others who may not get along. If you don’t want to use place cards, escorts with the names and numbers of your guests are another way to arrange seating. They can also choose their own table.
Step 5: Deciding on your reception menu

Many couples and their guests consider food to be one of the most important aspects of the reception. It is something they will always remember and treasure for many years.

Choose the food:

  • It can be fun to choose a menu and offer something unique to your guests. However, it is important to remember that not all guests have the same dietary requirements as you. Discuss this with your caterer in order to discuss your options. It is a good idea for your guests to let you know in advance if there are any allergies or other special needs.
  • It is common to have printed menus at the table for a sit-down meal.
  • It is important to determine whether a buffet or plated meal will be served at the table. You can also discuss other options, such as buffets or stations of food, with your caterer.

Decide where and when you want the wedding cake to be placed.

  • You will usually find a small table for the cakes and you will need to decide when they will be cut.
  • You can decide if the cake will be served as a dessert or if it will be taken home by guests at the end.
  • You can cut the cake at any time you wish. Some couples do this right after dinner, while others do it earlier in the evening to avoid interruptions to dancing. Another alternative is to do it about an hour before the end.
  • Make sure the photographer is aware of your plans so they can capture the moment you cut the cake.


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