While your wedding ceremony is special, the reception and evening party are probably what you and your guests are most looking forward to—who doesn't want to eat, drink and dance? The best celebrations incorporate personal, fun and unique touches to keep guests smiling and talking about it long after the last dance. Get inspired by our favourite reception ideas, from simple planning tricks to wow-worthy entertainment below
KEEP SPEECHES SHORT AND SWEET
Wedding toasts are all about quality over quantity, so ask anyone who's speaking to make sure their toasts are no more than two minutes. If they have any longer anecdotes, they can feel free to share at the rehearsal dinner.
KEEP THE PARTY MOVING
Almost as important as keeping the party going is keeping it moving in the right direction - sitting around and waiting is a buzz kill. Keep guests entertained throughout the day by moving around between the different spaces within your venue, to keep the day flowing beautifully and prevent any lull times.
ARRANGE SEATING THOUGHTFULLY
Try to place guests with people that they already know and get along with. It might seem like a great idea to play matchmaker, or force your guests to sit with strangers to make new friends, but your guests are also there to catch up with friends. Put another way, a well thought out seating plan leads to great conversation, which leads to a great dance party, which leads to an unforgettable night!
KEEP THE KIDS ENTERTAINED
Remember to think of ways to keep the little ones entertained throughout the day and the night (and to give their parents an opportunity to hit the dance floor). Games are a great way to keep the younger (and sometimes the older ones too!) guests entertained during the drinks reception. You could arrange for a babysitter to set up and oversee movies, games, crafts or a kid-centric dance party. Alternatively, you can also set up a few tables topped with colouring books, crayons, games and small toys.
HAVE FOOD AND DRINK STATIONS
Great food makes for a great celebration. Offering interactive food and drinks stations, where guests can even customise their dish & drinks to their liking goes down a storm! Interactive food and drinks stations, from an ice cream station to a "Pimp Your Prosecco" station, where guests can create their own ideal bites and tipples will leave you with happy guests ready to have a good time.
Helen Cawte Photography
ADD SOME VARIETY TO THE WEDDING BREAKFAST
Why not stretch out dinner over four or five smaller courses or sharing platters (rather than the traditional 3 course dinner), and plan small surprises between dishes. Surprises could be a short toast, a sweet poem from a lifelong friend or even singer waiters! It'll give your guests the experience of a fun night out, complete with dinner and a show.
A Tall Long Legged Bird Photography
PICK THE RIGHT BAND
Everyone has been to that wedding before: just when the dance floor starts heating up, the band takes a break—and the party seems to as well. To make sure this doesn't happen at your wedding, make sure to ask potential bands how they manage breaks. Some bands rest in shifts and split off into a smaller two- or three-piece band, while others will turn on filler music. If yours is planning on the latter, ask whether you can provide the playlist, or if not see if you can see the suggested playlist beforehand.
PLAN A SURPRISE
Sometimes the best parts of a reception are what guests don't see coming. Surprise your loved ones with unexpected entertainment during the cocktail hour or reception, like a magician, mariachi band, aerialists or a salsa dancer.
Martin Dabek Photography
HAVE A DESIGNATED SEATING AREA
If your site and budget allow, have a designated evening party space, and one with a designated seating area is even better! Instead of having your guests sit around the same tables all night, even after dinner's over, a change of environment will promote conversation, give your energetic dancers a resting area and keep your non-dancing guests entertained. It's also an elegant and comfortable way to let elderly guests relax and chat while others take to the dance floor.
Jamie Dodd Photography
HIRE A WEDDING PLANNER
You may have lots of ideas lined up for your reception, but no matter how organised you are it's much more difficult than you'd think to keep each of those plans and moving parts in check on your wedding day - especially as you want to be enjoying your day and not having to check that the band have set up in the right place! If you already have a wedding coordinator, you are all set.
ROLL OUT A TASTING SESSION
A well stocked bar is a must have for an evening party, but take it up a notch with an interactive drink experience. A wine, beer or whiskey tasting lets guests sample different drinks and learn a few tasting notes.
CREATE A NICE FLOW WITHIN THE PARTY SPACE
One of the less obvious keys to a incredible evening party is creating movement. The best parties encourage lots of dancing, with mini breaks for mingling and grazing. For maximum circulation, divide your evening party space into distinct areas for dancing, drinks and chatting, and coffee and cake. Arrange a few seating areas near the bar and also offer outdoor seating.
MAKE SURE YOUR GEUSTS ARE WELL FED
Ask yourself what you'd want to eat, both as a wedding guest and in general. Love spaghetti bolognese, dim sum or tacos? Chances are your caterer can find elegant and creative ways to serve it to a large crowd. Another option is to skip the sit down dinner altogether and pass hearty, satisfying hors d'oeuvres with cocktails.
SERVE EVENING FOOD
Want a guaranteed late night party? Arrange for the evening caterers to bring out late night food like a pizza parlour, hog roast or fish & chips after midnight (or before, if you just can't wait). Offer a espresso martini bar to keep them on their feet. If you stick with favourites, your friends will never want to leave.
PLAN A SURPRISE
Here's a secret for you: keep your guests celebrating by planning a surprise for the end of the night.. You and your new spouse can perform a song with the band for the last dance or have a romantic and magical fireworks or sparkler send off.
Albert Palmer Photography
HOST A REHEARSAL SUPPER
A casual and relaxed rehearsal supper where all your guests can meet and mingle the day before the wedding means everyone will have already gotten to know each other, and old friends will have had a chance to catch up. A two day wedding celebration means that your guests can skip the pleasantries and get right down to celebrating on your wedding day!