Plan the Wedding Reception and Define your Wedding Style
A wedding reception can be as laid back and casual as the couple desires or as formal and traditional, it all just depends on your wedding style. You will know from how you are in everyday life what is going to suit you and your wedding reception best.
Some enjoy small gatherings of people and a simple backyard BBQ on weekends, while some will throw dinner or cocktail parties instead. These weekend entertaining events will reflect what suits you and your fiancée best. You will have already predetermined the amount of people attending the wedding in your preliminary wedding guest list, it is now time to define your wedding style and what type of wedding reception you will have.
The Wedding Reception Meal
There are a few options for a wedding reception and in most cases they will firstly revolve around the style of menu and food you choose for the event. Time of day will of course determine the food served as well, so keep this in mind when deciding, such as morning or afternoon tea, cocktail, etc.
You may have already looked at the food available and have some ideas in mind from when you found the perfect wedding reception venue, however most locations will offer a selection of different menus to suit your wedding style. These options will range from a three course, traditional reception meal to a high tea or cocktail event for something a little more casual (please note that this article is mostly discussing options for wedding receptions that take place at a venue and understand that a reception can be held in a home environment such as a backyard).
Select a menu that you feel comfortable with and reflects your style as a couple, it is your wedding day and therefore you should enjoy the food! If you have selected a theme and your venue is a little more unusual such as a bowling alley, then a casual wedding with hot-dogs and chips may be just what suits.
There are no right and wrongs, just remember to be diverse and thoughtful, catering for those that perhaps have special dietary requirements, such as lactose intolerance or vegetarians, etc (it is best to mention this somewhere within your information with the wedding invitation to find out your guests requirements).
The Seating Arrangements
A seating arrangement is the bride and groom deciding where to place everyone at the wedding reception and who will sit with who. It is something that can be quite controversial and realistically cause many problems, hell even if you don’t have one you can have negative feedback (believe me, it may sound crazy but even when it is up to the guest to sit where they want you can have negative feedback).
If you are having a small wedding then generally the couple opt to not have a seating arrangement as there is only a small amount of tables. However, for a large wedding it is recommended that a seating arrangement is devised. It helps to reduce confusion of the guests if there is a seating plan and ensures everyone will know where they are meant to be.
A seating arrangement can be difficult to prepare and is one part of the wedding that should be done with tact. It is the best way to ensure that family members that perhaps do not get along so well are seated away from each other. A seating plan helps to ensure a smooth running wedding reception.
How the tables are arranged at the wedding reception venue can also affect the overall seating plan. Generally the bridal party are seated together, with the parents of the bride and groom at another table accompanied by the grandparents, the remaining family and friends are then seated appropriately. Every situation will be different with diversity among families, not only immediate but the addition of extended families including step parents or partners of separated parents attending the wedding.
The bride and groom should put much thought into the wedding seating arrangement, it can be very controversial if the wrong two people are at the same table. Ensure you consider each guest and their past history with each other when selecting the seating arrangement of each table.
It is generally best to ensure that every guest has at least one person they know sitting with them at the table. It is best to not put your guests out of their comfort zone and have them forced to mingle with complete strangers. The last thing you want to do is have your guests not enjoy themselves as they had no-one to talk to and felt uncomfortable being where you sat them.
You can go one step further by incorporating place cards and selecting the seating position of each guest at a given table, but again this is optional. A seating plan can be displayed at the foyer of the wedding reception area and direct guests to a table number. A place card if used will direct them to their designated seat for the night.
Wedding Reception Traditions – To Follow or Not To Follow?
There are a few different traditions for a wedding reception and like anything wedding related it is up to the bride and groom which of these, if any, that they follow. Wedding traditions may be something that you have always thought you would follow and believe these are the things that make it a wedding. Perhaps they are something you find silly and meaningless. Whatever the case might be, here are a few that you might like to add to your wedding reception for one reason or another.
The Newly Weds Grand Entrance as Husband and Wife
In most cases your guests will be waiting for you at your reception venue as you will have been busy having your professional photos taken. Deciding how you will both make your grand entrance as husband and wife can come down to something as simple as just using your first names or being introduced as Mr and Mrs…the choice is yours.
You should also consider introducing the bridal party as they will of course make their entrance with you. How you do this is up to you and will depend on the size of the bridal party. Making it a little be more personal is a special touch for all involved.
Wedding Toasts and Speeches
Wedding toasts and speeches can be a nice tradition for those that are close to you both, allowing them to share in this big day and honour the married couple and their new life together. The official wedding toasts and speeches will generally take place between the meal and desert course however will vary depending on your wedding style. Like everything, they are not necessary but it is nice to have at least one person give a toast to the bride and groom.
Generally the father of the bride along with the best man and maid of honour will take part in this tradition followed by a thank you speech from the groom. This is not limited to these people, others can of course (if pre-organised) say a few words. For example the father or mother of the groom welcoming their new daughter in-law into the family.
The best man and maid of honour are considered the closest people to the groom and bride and therefore often tell little stories about them as individuals and as a couple. The wedding toasts should not take over the wedding and not drag on too long as it may, like any speech, bore the guests attending.
Cutting of the Wedding Cake
One tradition that you may consider is of course the cutting of the cake. The cake cutting is one of the first things you will do together as husband and wife and generally will follow dinner and the toasts. This is not only a nice involvement for the wedding guests but can also create lovely photo opportunities. Some decide to use the wedding cake as the desert option for the evening or even serve it later in the night with tea or coffee. Otherwise it is packaged after the cutting of the cake as a take home piece for all attending.
You may decide to not do the cutting of the cake and have it already prepared in one way or another for guests. Of all the wedding traditions I would say this is most certainly one that is followed in the majority of weddings. One part of this tradition you may not follow through with is the feeding each other a piece of the wedding cake, as it can get messy.
Formal Wedding Dances
A special tradition for the newly married couple is their first dance as husband and wife. You will both have many “firsts” still to come, however this is reserved as a special moment in your married life and at your wedding reception for your closest friends and family to watch. Depending on the style of wedding you may also like to include a father and daughter (bride) dance, and likewise a mother and son (groom) dance.
These two can often be combined, if you do decide to not follow these traditions you may like to first discuss this with those involved as they are considered special wedding traditions and something the father of the bride and mother of the groom might be looking forward to.
In addition you may like to have the bridal party dance together for some photo opportunities. Other wedding dance traditions include the anniversary dance where you have all the married couples join the bride and groom on the dance floor and slowly have them sit back down as you work your way through to the longest married couple.
Tossing the Wedding Bouquet
Part of a wedding reception is usually the tossing of the wedding bouquet and the throwing of the garter. Something that is probably best left until a little later in the reception and everyone has unwound after their meal. Firstly the bride will toss her bouquet to a group of single, female guests. The lady that catches the bouquet is said to be the next to wed.
This wedding tradition can sometimes cause chaos at a wedding, especially if the guests have had a little bit too much to drink. It can also exclude and make some of the unmarried female guests feel singled out and uncomfortable. Variations of this tradition can be performed instead or even not at all, especially if the bride wishes to keep her wedding bouquet.
Throwing the Garter
The throwing of the garter is a similar tradition, the groom removes one of the wedding garters from the brides legs (generally she will wear two, one as a keepsake) and throws it to the single male guests.
Traditionally the male who catches it then puts the garter on the females leg that caught the bouquet. The male like the female, is said to be the next to marry. Again this is a tradition that you both may decide to not include in your wedding reception.
The Wedding Entertainment
The entertainment for the wedding reception is one thing that will define your wedding style. There are a few choices for entertainment, it will mostly depend on the size of both your wedding and the reception venue.
Some of these options are having a dedicated master of ceremonies for the night to direct guests with the order of what is to take place especially if following some of the above wedding traditions.
In addition to the MC it is generally preferable to have a wedding singer to perform live, band (whatever suits your style eg big swing brass band or something more contemporary) or a DJ to take requests and play preselected songs.
If you are having a small wedding reception even a premixed CD to play songs throughout the night would suffice. The entertainment for your wedding reception should simply reflect you both as a couple and provide a pleasant atmosphere for all guests.