Wedding days are full of expectations, excitement, and lots of opinions. Many times, these expectations are laid on a bride & groom by parents, friends, the internet, or even vendors that they have hired. Part of what I do is give brides & grooms the benefit of experience as to what to expect during your wedding day.
Over the years, I have noticed some very specific things that can help your wedding reception go smoothly. A lot of the things that help a wedding reception start at the planning stages. After establishing a budget, probably the biggest issue with brides & grooms is the guest count. Guest count affects everything at your event, so monitoring the invitation list is critical.
If a venue comfortably holds 150 and 175 show up, this could seriously impact the feel of the room. There are rarer occasions where a room may be too large for the event which leaves guests feeling isolated. Couples will often share with me how much the food, wedding cake, table decorations, etc.all cost. These expenses all increase with a higher guest count – sometimes by $50 or $100 per guest!
A recent trend is to have ceremonies and receptions all in one location. This is a great idea for a more budget-consious bride and groom and can work very nicely. However, when planning an event that involves a drive from the ceremony to the reception, a sure-fire way to cause issues is to have a “gap” between the two services. Sometimes a church may only be available during the afternoon and the reception hall at night. Some guests will always misunderstand and head straight to the reception hall after the ceremony.
Another trend that causes receptions to come to a screeching halt are photographers that try to capture non-reality moments. During the planning process, photographers will often ask for a list of photos that brides & grooms want. Sunset photos, faux-exits, extra family photos at the reception, school friends, reflection dance, etc. all impact the mood of the reception and are somewhat exclusionary of many guests. My recommendation is always to have photographers shoot the event as an observer not as a participant in the event.
The party is wherever the bride and groom are. This means that when a long-time friend wants to visit during an emotional day and take the bride away from the dance floor, guests will notice. If a groom goes outside to smoke a cigar with his buddies to celebrate, guests will notice. If there are changes of clothes before going to the getaway car, guests will notice. It is because guests are there to celebrate with you; not be entertained by you. This can also seriously interrupt the dance flow as a DJ may be counting on bride/groom participation and now the bride/groom is M.I.A. ;^)
Of course, when alcohol is involved there can be a whole list of issues. Some are obvious and some are not. Be sure the eat throughout the day and early in the night. Be extra careful if visiting with each table as some tables will insist on toasting with a shot of libation. Toasts and a little sip here & there can add up fast!
Remember that weddings are unlike any other event. Guests want to see your genuine joy, happiness, and reaction to each of the fun things planned that night. You are the most important component of your own event, not the food, the venue, the band or DJ.
Take the stress out of your plans by having a maximum number of guests and remember that about 80% of the number invited will attend. Have a plan of action for the night (I can help you with my Reception Planning Guide) and then let the person in charge of the timeline help you throughout the event. Also, try not to disappear during the night by leaving the room if possible. Lastly, remember that everything detail may not go exactly as planned, but that is normal for a complex event.
When planning an event of this magnitude, the attitude of those involved will have a huge impact on the tone of the night. Hiring people you can trust and then following the plan of action on the “day-of” is always better than “winging it”. My best advice to my happy couples is plan to have fun and then have fun planning!