21 Jun 2021 Admin

How to Have The Perfect Wedding Reception

You want your wedding day to be the most memorable of your life. That’s the dream that everybody has but the pressure this involves means that it is also one of the most stressful experiences you will ever have, particularly in the build-up to the big day. With so many things having the potential to go wrong, first and foremost you need to remember that your wedding is simply an opportunity to get all of your friends and family together to celebrate your love. That being said, of course, you want your wedding reception to be a spectacular occasion. Planning a wedding reception requires proper organization, consideration, and close attention to detail. Regardless of the size of the reception, you’ll have to deal with a myriad of factors and check every detail - from venue, theme, and decorations, to the menu, guest favors, and many more. It can also be quite tricky to make sure that you achieve all of your preferences without upsetting a proportion of your guests. A child-free wedding reception is a difficult sell as is the announcement that an open bar is off and that guests should pay for their own drinks all night. Neither of these choices are wrong but when guests expect things to be done a certain way they tend to get grumpy if these decisions are presented indelicately. Seating plans can also open up a can of worms when family feuds rear their ugly head.

So how do you navigate the minefield of guest expectations, relatives who won’t talk to each other, attend to every detail of the catering, decorations and make sure that ultimately everyone has the best possible time?

Here’s our no-stress guide to pulling off the perfect wedding reception like a pro.

To Theme or Not To Theme


Theming your wedding reception - we’re talking Great Gatsby or Halloween for example - is not always a good idea. A lot of people just hate getting dressed up and so they won't enjoy it, or might even refuse the invitation. On the other hand, it does make those who do enjoy that kind of thing get really into the celebration. Theming your wedding reception can go either way however bear in mind that it will inevitably pull focus away from the occasion itself and it’ll be far easier to up-stage the bride with a fantastical costume.

Verdict: Not really a risk worth taking unless you can’t imagine your reception to be any other way.


Child-free or kid-friendly?


Kids are another divisive subject. Will banning them from the reception mean that some of your friends can't come, or will it mean that they can have a great night without them for a change? A big part of this depends on how many of your guests actually have young children. If there has been a recent baby boom it might be better to let them come along. If you only have a few friends with little ones, ask them to come alone and take advantage of their temporary freedom.

A child-free wedding reception can certainly ensure a more organized event. There will be no unwanted interruptions, sudden screams, fingers in places they shouldn’t be, and anyone running around the room (unless Uncle Tom gets really drunk early on). You can also save a few quid if your reception guest list comprises adults only. You’ll no longer have to worry about hiring babysitters, or thinking of kid-friendly activities to keep the little ones occupied during the wedding.

The problem is, wedding invitations that stipulate a “child-free” event, invite criticism. People get pretty fierce when it comes to their children. You might be the subject of gossip and family disagreements if you totally ban children from the reception especially since a wedding is considered a wholesome, family occasion and some parents just can’t imagine leaving their little ones at home with a babysitter.

Verdict: If you decide to go for an adults-only reception, make sure it is noted in the invitation. This will allow your guests time to line up babysitters. And make sure you phrase it right - wedding etiquette experts suggest using the phrase “adult-only reception” rather than writing “no children” and including a personal note explaining why you’ve taken the decision (the wedding venue isn’t child friendly for example) is a good idea. Be prepared for declined wedding invitations and don’t be offended - above all, don’t let anyone shame you into including children if it’s really something you don’t want to do. Remember that it’s your big day and people are welcome to do whatever they fancy on their own wedding day when it comes around.

Sort the Seating Plan

Aunty Jean isn’t talking to Aunty Jannet. Your two best mates, who were in a long-term relationship, have broken up. Your parents hate your parents-in-law. And Aunty Jean. The seating plan is an emotional minefield and you’re waiting for the whole thing to blow up. As pathetic as these scenarios sound, they are more common than you think.

The first thing to remember with a seating plan is that it will take longer than you think to sort it all out so don’t leave it until the morning of the wedding. Don’t place people who don’t get on together but do try to group existing friends groups/colleagues together - guests will want to sit with people they already know. Remember that you’re not trying to expand their social circle or find them a new boyfriend/girlfriend - just put people who get on already together to ensure everyone is comfortable and has a good time.

Another thing to keep in mind is avoiding a sense of hierarchy - use table names instead of numbers, imagine how you would feel if you were at table 20 and everyone else at table 1. No one wants to be relegated to an “inferior” table so name the tables after bands you like or places you’ve been to avoid making that faux pas.

Verdict: Whilst it’s a good idea to be sensitive about your guests’ relationships/attitudes to one another to make sure everyone has a relaxed and comfortable time, don’t stress too much. Frankly, if you’re struggling to find a place for a friend or relative where you know for sure they won’t get into a fight, maybe the best place for them is at home

Free Bar or Buy Your Own?



One of the most common questions asked by couples is “are we obliged to pay for everyone’s drinks at the bar?" Of course your friends and family will be eternally grateful to you for providing them with an open bar, which is a positive. On the other hand, paying for everybody’s non-stop drinks will cost you a fortune, and can you really trust them not to abuse the right? Free bars are great until they go wrong. The last thing you want is for your guests to have no memory of what your big day was actually like because of one too many tequilas. However, asking your guests to pay for their drinks the entire day and night isn’t the best etiquette either. The average cost of attending a wedding for a guest is almost (wait for it) £1000 - between the hen/stag dos, new outfits, and accessories, travel to and from the venue, accommodation, babysitting, gift registry, etc, it’s an expensive endeavor not just for the bride and groom but for the friends and family as well. The least your guests might expect is a free beverage or two.

Verdict: If you’re looking for a way to save up on drinks by not looking tacky or cheap to your guests, here’s a suggestion - find a way to strike a balance. Serve some complimentary wine and welcome Champagne, by all means, but perhaps limit your generosity there. Another tactic is to offer a free signature drink that is related to the theme of your wedding, and nothing else. As a couple, think of a drink that symbolizes both of you. Some wedding reception venues can even help you to choose the right drink. Don’t bankrupt yourselves - your guests won’t want that - but try to find a way to show a generosity of spirit.

DJ or Live Wedding Band?


Ok, we’re biased but that’s only because we know how epic our bands have made the weddings they have played at. There’s nothing quite like live music to help spice up your reception, and while a DJ can often be fun, a band can offer something more than prerecorded music.

Before you select the first band you see listed online, however, do a bit of research to find one which will meet your needs.

Start by thinking about your budget. Bands tend to cost a bit more than DJs, but that’s not always the case. Set your parameters and stick to them. Remember to think about exactly how long you need the band to perform before you start contacting people.

Don’t wait until the last possible minute to book a band. The best bands will fill their schedule fairly early, and in some cases, you may need to book your band up to a year or even two in advance. Even if you don’t know where you’re going to have your actual reception, go ahead and book the band first.

Your guests’ tastes actually matter here as well. You may really want that indie cover band you heard online, but if all of your guests are going to be over the age of fifty, is that really the right choice for you? If you want to have a hopping reception, get a band almost everyone will like.

It's also a good idea to think about the mood. Are you going for a wild party at your reception or do you want something a bit quieter and more laid back? If you want guests to be able to sit and talk while the band is playing, going with that metal band that will be far too loud to talk over probably isn’t the best choice to meet your needs.

The best thing to do is to ask around. Ask people you know who have gotten married recently to help you decide on the band that will meet your needs. Word of mouth is going to get you quite a bit further than online reviews from nameless parties. Go ahead, though, and take a look at a band’s website and Facebook page as well as their YouTube videos to get a sense of what they can do. And if you can, go see the band. You cannot book a band without at least going to see one of their shows or viewing them in action online. When you contact them, get a list of venues they’ll be playing soon so you can decide whether their live show is actually going to meet your needs.

Above all, imagine that first dance. Your first dance together as a couple is essential, and deciding whether they’ll be playing music that the two of you can actually dance to is an important choice. If you can’t see yourself on the dance floor with them behind you, they’re probably not the right band for you.

Verdict: If budget isn’t too much of an issue, always choose a live band for your wedding. It is key to setting the mood at your reception and will be one of the most memorable elements of your wedding guaranteed.

Whatever you choose to do at your wedding reception always keep your wishes at the forefront - you will (with a bit of luck) only have one wedding day and it needs to reflect you as a couple.  Consider your ideas and plans keeping your guests in mind.  Afterall, if your guests aren't having a good time, it's unlikely that the atmosphere will be particularly celebratory.  Strike a balance and you're guaranteed to have a fantastic time.