How to Plan a Wedding Reception


Planning your wedding reception can take a lot of effort and it all begins with deciding on the location of the reception and the type of reception. Here is a step by step guide to help plan the perfect wedding reception your guests will remember.

Set the wedding date before you actually start looking for locations for the reception.Keep in mind that many sites are booked a year or even two in advance, so you may need to fine tune the date decision dependent on the availability of your desired reception location, or be ready to change to a different reception venue.

Once you set the date, you should also start thinking about your overall budget. Many venues carry a minimum so be sure to ask this while you’re looking at venue options. The reception site will also need an estimate of your guest number so that they can give you a better idea of the total cost.

Decide whether your event will be indoors, outdoors, or both. If you want an outdoor event, you’ll have to consider the possibility of rain and have an indoor alternative.

  • Will you have an indoor or outdoor reception?
    If you choose an outdoor celebration, be sure to have an alternate plan in case of rain.
  • What type of reception do you want to have?
    While a sit down dinner remains the most popular type of reception, other choices to consider are a cocktail reception, breakfast or brunch, a luncheon, or an afternoon tea. Here are some things to consider when choosing the type of reception.
  • Do you want to have a receiving line?
    The good thing about a receiving line is that you can greet all your guests and it gives them an opportunity to congratulate you. However, it can be very time-consuming and many couples today prefer to visit each table instead, which is a less formal alternative to this tradition.
    If you do choose to have a receiving line, the order should be: mother or parents of the bride, mother or parents of the groom, bride, groom, maid of honor, then bridesmaids.
  • Do you want to be officially announced as you enter the reception?This can be a fun way to start off the evening and you can simply be introduced by the DJ or bandleader for the first time as a married couple. Sometimes the introductions include both sets of parents and the bridal party as well, and you can have them all line up on the dance floor to watch you in your first dance, if you choose to go straight into that.
  • Do you plan to have toasts?
    Toasts can be a wonderful moment for the couple and guests, but it’s best to keep them short and sweet. Ideally, they should be made during or in between dinner courses, and kept to two or three at a time.
    Request that anyone giving a toast keep it relatively short and assign someone in your wedding party to keep an eye on the time.
    The bride and groom can also say a few words of thanks just before they cut the cake.
  • When will dancing begin?
    These days, dancing usually begins after dinner is finished, rather than doing dance sets in between courses. Other than your first dance, be sure to select some music that all guests will enjoy, providing a variety for all ages.
  • What types of photos would you like?
    The reception is another opportunity for great photos, so think about any groupings that you might not get to earlier in the day, with some family and friends. You can also let your photographer know if there are any particular details shots you’d like from the reception space.
  • Are you considering a bouquet and/or garter toss?
    This is a tradition that can be fun and get your guests involved, but some couples choose to skip this part of the reception altogether.

If you’re planning a sit-down dinner, seating can grow to be a bit of headache so it pays to focus on it early enough.

  • The bride and groom can sit at the dais or raised platform at whatever goes for being the “front” of the room. The bridal party sits with them and they all face the rest of the room. This is not as popular as it once was, as placing the table amid the guests is beginning to take on a more acceptable and modern feel.
  • Parents tend to be seated with other, or they can have respective family and friends at their tables.
  • Elderly people shouldn’t be seated too near anything that makes noise.
  • Consider using place cards to help people know where they’re going to sit. It’s not essential but it can be very helpful. In doing this, take great pains to avoid seating people who don’t get along next to one another!

Choose the food. There will always be some people with dietary restrictions, so be prepared to provide vegetarian, gluten-free, and other variants as needed. It’s a good idea to have asked guests in advance for advice concerning allergies. A cocktail reception will usually on have nibbles and finger foods but still have both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options available. Decide how many courses you want for a sit-down dinner and be sure to check this against your budget.