10 Tips to Planning the Perfect Reception

Bride and groom dance during reception

So you’re engaged, now you just have plan the perfect bridal party, the perfect ceremony, the perfect cocktail hour, and last but not least the perfect reception. Piece of cake, right? Not for everyone, it’s not as if we’re all expert party planners. And yet, when those engagement rings slip on, you’re expected to also slip into the role of fully-functional wedding planner. Of course, this is why some couples opt to hire a professional to map out their big day, but if you’re brave and going it alone, why not check out some tips about the reception planning? Sometimes it’s easiest to think and plan your wedding day in sections so let’s take a moment and focus on the best ways to plan your perfect reception.

Making a Reception Book

Start by getting yourself organized. I know, more stuff to gather and make. This is especially unappealing if you’re not the type to keep a planner. But if you truly want to have a breeze planning you’ll want to consolidate all your info into one conveniently labeled and colored-coded place. Grab a cheap binder from your local office supply store and let the organization begin.

DJ working at a wedding reception with people dancing

Getting the Best Vendors

This is a huge part of how well a reception goes. Honestly a reception is lost without its vendors. Arguably the two biggest vendors at this stage are your caterers and DJ. It’s important to note that not all DJs and caterers are created equal. Sometimes it seems easier to cut corners here and gloss over certain people. Instead, really try to vet your vendors before hiring. Your DJ will be the emcee and that’s a big deal. Trust me, if your DJ is a bore or your food is subpar, no one will be happy.

Deciding on Booze

Alcohol is a big part of the planning process whether or not you’re having any. And that’s precisely the question you should be asking: are you serving alcohol at your reception? What kind and for how long? Are you sticking to purely beer and wine or a full bar? You going cash only or open bar? It’s a lot to think about. You can even create your own custom couples cocktail. Not only are there a lot of details, but it could end up being a large part of your budget. Try deciding these questions succinctly and early on.

Do the Research

Let’s talk about venue. It’s arguably the biggest and often first piece of planning you take care of for your reception. How do you decide where to have the party? It’s easiest to start with research. Isolate what specific needs you have for a space to fulfill. Start by getting a list of all the venues around you, then systematically rule out those that aren’t what you’re looking for. It will then be much more manageable to reach out to the remaining places to talk more about cost and availability.

Worried bride on cellphone with wedding dress in background

Don’t Drive Yourself Nuts

This tip can really be applied to the entire wedding planning process. Don’t go crazy visiting every place and tasting every cake. In the research phase you’ll have ruled out some spaces that can’t handle your number or aren’t within a reasonable distance. Hopefully you’ve ruled out enough options that all those left are good choices. If you allow yourself to check out too many places, you’ll get overwhelmed and you may start to feel as if you’re never going to find the right place. While it’s good to know all your options, you’re going to get sick of venue tours.

Also try not to forget that a venue doesn’t have to be perfect right away. Remember that you’ll be putting your own touch on things. I’ve seen barn venues fashioned into a rock ‘n’ roll theme. You can do the same with a venue that doesn’t exactly match your perfect idea. Don’t be afraid at the thought of customizing a space that fits most requirements. As long as you know the venue’s rules you’ll know how much you can put your own flair on the space.

Know Your Space

Once you’ve chosen the hot spot, get to know that venue inside and out. Have you asked what services are available and what customizations they provide? Maybe take a few visits here and there to your venue as the planning progresses. You’ll want to be able to visualize exactly where things can be placed and moved. Trying to do this kind of investigative decorating the day-of is not a good idea. I’ve seen many a couple freak out because of this exact problem. Save yourself the drama and know your space enough to know what will work and what won’t.

Know the Rules

Not knowing the rules can lead to some serious miscommunications between party and venue. To avoid disaster, become the expert on your venue’s rules. Knowing things like how loud you can be or how long you’ll have to set up and tear down is crucial.

Outdoor wedding with candle lit aisle

Set Up Help

Don’t put everything on yourself. It’s your big day. How about putting some of that pressure and stress on other people, like your wedding party. The more people you can get to help, the better. This is especially true of set up and tear down. A lot of couples forget how big a job this part of a reception actually is. It’s more than just moving stuff around. If your venue takes care of this for you, great! You’ve hit the reception lotto. If your venue doesn’t off that service, don’t fear, just make sure you assign people to help with this task. Waiting till the last second trying to recruit volunteers is not the stress-free way to go.

Make a Schedule

When it comes to receptions, a little organization goes a long way. Do enough scheduling so that you know at least that you’ll get everything done that you need to. I’ve been to weddings where the cake was cut so late that most people had left or were no longer interested. So keep your timing in mind and maybe even assign someone else to keep track for you. You don’t want to be watching the clock all night, but you also don’t want to miss anything.

Make a List of People

This sounds a bit impersonal, but try making a list of the key people you know you’ll want to spend a moment with at the reception. Of course it’s polite to at least greet every guest, but there are some guests that you’ll want to spend that extra moment with. For instance, you’ve done your mother and father dances, but what about your grandparents? You know your grandpa wants to dance with you at some point and so on. Just make a mental note of all the people you won’t want to miss a special moment with so you can ensure you won’t leave disappointed.

It’s easy to plan when you have the right steps in front of you. Hopefully you feel a bit more confident with these tips. I know planning is scary when you’re just dying to get everything perfect. Hang in there, breathe, and when you’re actually at the reception, don’t forget to dance!

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