How to Plan Your Own Wedding Reception… and Stay Sane!

Calendars and office supplies around a laptop.

Planning a wedding reception is not for the faint of heart. Between managing the (typically) large guest list, communicating with vendors, and dealing with the societal pressure to make this once-in-a-lifetime day absolutely perfect, it can often feel like tying the knot will take away your sanity—particularly if you’re planning it for a long period of time.

However, it is possible to have a beautiful wedding reception without going totally batty. If you’re brave enough (or budget-conscious enough) to go without help from a pro, here’s how you can keep yourself sane while you plan.

Be Realistic

We all have that ideal wedding reception in our minds. Maybe you imagined a garden party in a national park, surrounded by strings of fairy lights. Maybe you dream of a party so opulent that Marie Antoinette says, “Stop being so extra.” In my case, I envisioned a Woodstock-style concert with all my favorite bands, where all my friends and relatives (yes, even the ones in their 80s) could dance well into the night.

While all our wedding fantasies sound great in our minds, it’s important to do several reality checks while you plan the real deal. Pesky logistical issues like the weather, space constraints, your budget, or that fact that your favorite bands didn’t answer your Instagram messages will determine what you can and can’t do for your wedding reception, so it’s best to keep those details at the top of your mind. If you have a clear, realistic picture of what you have to work with, you’ll have an easier time finding the right venue and vendors for your wedding.

Get Organized

Planning a wedding reception means working with a lot of different vendors. Unless you opt for an all-inclusive package, you’ll wind up making contracts with your venue, caterer, florist, entertainment (either a live band or a DJ), baker, photographer/videographer, and transportation (plus all the other vendors I probably forgot about). What’s more, you’ll end up talking to several companies for each of these services as you plan and price match. If you don’t keep yourself organized, you’ll be in over your head.

Keep track of every vendor you’ve talked to (and the services and prices they offer). You can use a spreadsheet, an app on your phone, or good old fashioned pen and paper, but it’s important to keep all the information in one place. Not only will this keep you from scrambling to find that brochure you left on the kitchen counter last week, but it will also make comparing similar vendors much easier.

Learn to Delegate

Two young women with sunglasses on looking at a phone.

One of the hardest things about planning your wedding reception on your own is realizing that you’re not really on your own. Sure, you may not have a professional with all the vendor hookups at your fingertips, but you do have friends and family who would be happy to help make your big day even better. Don’t be afraid to ask your loved ones to help you get quotes from vendors, make DIY favors, or set up décor.

However, it is important to note that delegating does not mean demanding. Your mom and your bestie may be willing to tackle a few tasks, but that doesn’t give you license to go full bridezilla and start ordering them about! In fact, it can be useful to appoint a bridezilla “bouncer” — a trusted friend who can tell you to cool it when the stress makes you a bit too high-strung.

Trust Your Vendors

A baker frosting a wedding cake.

You and your fiancé will probably spend hours—no, days—agonizing over which vendors to use. Do you want a DJ or a 5-piece jazz band? Should your dinner be a hip food truck or more traditional fare? Do you want to rent additional lighting or stick with what the venue has? Eventually, you both will come to an agreement and book the vendor you think is best. Then, it’s time to let it go.

It can be tempting to check up on your vendors and make sure they’re doing their part to make your day perfect. But that sort of micromanaging will only add stress to the planning process and take away energy from the rest of your to-do list (and it won’t make you popular with your vendors, either). The fact is your vendors know what they’re doing. They do this for a living, and they’ve probably taken part in more weddings than you ever will. Just relax and let them do their thing!


A young woman doing yoga

If you take only one piece of advice from this article, please let it be this one. You’ve got to take time to relax! Yes, your wedding reception is a big deal, and yes, planning every detail on your own is a lot of work. But if you spend the planning process feeling stressed and overwhelmed, you’ll never be able to enjoy yourself on the big day!

Make sure that the wedding doesn’t overtake your life in the weeks (or months) leading up to the day. Take time to decompress with your favorite self-care activities. Spend a weekend away with your sweetheart—and don’t discuss wedding stuff even once. And if all the planning starts to feel like too much, take a deep breath and focus on what it’s all for: celebrating you, your future spouse, and the beautiful life you’re beginning together.

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