10 Tips for the Ultimate Wedding Reception
by Robert Houle
The experts at California DJs know all the secret elements - and the “not-so-secret” ones too – all to help you plan the ultimate wedding reception that is perfectly you! Use these 10 essential elements to create the perfect day for you and your guests.
1. Generously Invite
Writing the guest list… what a challenge! How do you agree on whom to invite and still stay within your budget? Here’s the bottom line. You are preparing for the most magical day of your life and in the end only one thing will matter – the public declaration of your love and commitment… and each and every person there to witness it.
We encourage you to invite every person you love. Your guests are the focal point of this very special day. Cut back on the cost of the dinner, limit the hours of the open bar, but don’t cross off names. As you fondly remember your wedding day, you will not remember the per-person cost. You will remember glowing faces of the people celebrating your union… the buzz at the reception… the clink of toasting glasses throughout the room congratulating your marriage! The extra veggie platter, shrimp apps, and extravagant centerpiece won’t be the center of attention – the people will be.
2. Designate Your Celebratory Space
Before you plan your reception know exactly where you want people to mix and mingle. Fantastic receptions brim with family and friends who feel comfortable, meet, talk, dance, and become acquainted with one another. Don’t let guests leave early, slip away to check out the impressive surroundings of your location, or run outside for a smoke and then never come back to join the party. Define the space with ribbons or closed doors. Don’t be afraid to close off certain areas or rooms. The liveliest receptions have a common area where guests are mingling and activities are taking place. A designated space ensures guests catch and capture each wonderful moment as it unfolds.
3. Special Activities Just For The Joy Of It
Remember, 80% of your guests won’t know each other. The greatest wedding memories are the new friendships and extended family bonds created at your wedding. Use interactive games, specialty dances, bold announcements, or fun activities during the reception to break the ice and help people get to know one other. Suddenly you’ll see people laughing and enjoying themselves instead of feeling shy or retreating on the sidelines.
4. Let Go, Have Fun & Toss Your Worries Aside
The bride sets the stage and the tone for reception party. This is the time and place for all brides to let go, have fun, and toss any last minute worries aside. Let the months of planning and masterful professionals you’ve selected take over and do what they do best. You only have one job - to be the most radiant and loveliest guest of honor. Show up and celebrate! If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, your guests will sense it and feel uncomfortable too. You have the power and pleasure to give your guests permission to let loose and have a great time!
5. Dance Your Little Heart Out
One saucy shoe must be the first to step out on the dance floor. Guests will be looking to you for permission and timing to dance. As soon as you get up and dance, they’ll let loose and do a little rumba too! People are typically shy and most guests are very careful not to offend or overstep their boundaries. Plan to play music you love so you are comfortable. Your physical cues can create a safe space for them to dance, toe-tap, celebrate, toast, and party. Watch friends and family get up and dance, thoroughly enjoy themselves, then talk about what a fabulous reception it was in the morning.
6. Embellish, Adorn, and Decorate
The décor sets the mood at the reception. Simple décor is not only best, it is marvelously elegant. Elegant doesn’t have to mean expensive. Think sentimental instead of expensive and you’ll amaze yourself with the brilliant ideas that come to mind. Since flowers are typically 15% of the overall wedding budget, you can save money by intermingling silk flowers. Want a discount, ask for one! Many places give quantity and wedding discounts. Use your imagination and let your creativity take over.
7. Invite Groups of People That Know Each Other
No doubt your guests will be coming from many different walks of life - but the more people you bring together with common bonds - the more alive the reception will be. People feel safest when they are surrounded by people and situations that are familiar to them. Watch the twinkle in the eyes of your family members sparkle as they greet familiar faces from way back when. Notice work friends create a “tribe” of sorts and fill up the dance floor. Birds of a feather flock together. Invite groups of people that know each other and see a warm, wonderful, and happy vibe wash over the reception.
8. Serve Thirst Quenching Libations
Every reception should have beer, wine, or alcoholic beverages available. Hesitant??? Think again. Cocktails loosen people up and lessen inhibitions. Even people who do not drink, often make exceptions at weddings. Your wedding is a once in a lifetime event and rules can and will be broken. Keep the cost down. Serve beer on tap, inexpensive bottles of wine (Charles Shaw for $1.99/bottle), or have a “cash only” bar with free soft drinks and water. All the fun at a fraction of the cost.
9. Early Notice and Save The Date Announcements
Your invitees won’t want to miss your big day, but with very busy schedules advance notice is not a luxury – it’s required. Invite people well in advance. 30% of guests that don’t show decline because they didn’t get enough advance notice. Send an electronic “save the date” message via email or try a unique and money saving “save the date” photo postcard for as little as $.65 a card including postage. Avoid disappointing “Will Not Attends’ that arrive late in the mail or worse yet embarrassing “Yes” response cards from people who don’t show up. As rude as this is, people hate to say no. Giving people advance notice – a minimum of 3 weeks - will minimize disappointment and embarrassment and bring all your favorite people together.
10. Use The One Hour Gathering Rule
Party "kick-off" starts one hour after the official start time. Many people will show up late so use the one hour “gathering rule” to account for lateness and all the other influences out of your control… traffic, distance, directions, babysitters, weather, and other unknowns. Begin with an intimate one-hour cocktail or champagne reception to entertain before the party officially starts. Play inviting music and host an open bar if you choose. Because most guests will arrive late, serve food or appetizers toward the end of the “gathering hour.” This will give the effect of a perfectly planned and welcoming entrance.
Bonus Tip: Plan for a Grand Entrance Showcasing You!
We call it the dazzling “ta-da” entrance! This is where it all comes together. You arrive relaxed and ready to have fun. Your mood is joyful and sets the tone for an utterly enjoyable reception. Your guests haven’t waited longer than one hour. You’ve planned ahead with the photographer and the photos are archived in the camera forever. Now before your big entrance, remember all the love you feel inside and visualize the joy inside of you sweeping guests off their feet.
Hear the melody of your favorite music fill the room and feel the anticipation of the guests expecting your arrival. Let every bit of warmth, happiness, and radiance come through as you flitter into the room. Your grand entrance will set the tone and prepare your guests for one of the most talked about wedding receptions of the year. Create ambiance and fun by lining the walkway with fresh petals, a bubble machine, or doing something personal, silly, or heartwarming that is uniquely you.
Then, let the DJ do what he does best. You’ve hired the best and planned well in advance. Let your vision come together as the reality of this marvelous day unfolds. Hear each and every guest say,
“It was the best time since we can remember!” Andrea Wolf
California DJs has over 4,000 happy customers. Go to http://californiadjs.com/tips.htm to get your free reception planner and see more than 60,000 wedding songs Owner and author Dr. Robert Houle writes the popular "The Dr. Is In" column for the American DJ Association magazine.
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