Top Tips for a Crowd-Pleasing Wedding Reception by Deb Boxill

How to make your wedding FUN!

While it’s true that the wedding is your big day, but the wedding reception is all about the party! This part is about sharing and celebrating with your loved ones, so naturally you want pull off a soiree where your guests feel comfortable, have a blast, and leaves them saying: “Wow, that was a really amazing wedding!” There are a million ways to have a fab reception, but here are some basic tips that will make for a crowd-pleaser.

1. Don't get bogged down in details. People won't remember if the tablecloths didn't match the bridemaids' dresses, but they will remember if the food runs out--or tastes like cardboard.

Get the main things out of the way before worrying about small stuff. The reception site, the food, the booze and the music… these are the major things. Two of the lowest-budget weddings I've attended were also among the most fun because the following things were handled beautifully (and, vice versa, if you must know).

2. The Site: Do have the reception as close to the wedding ceremony as possible--that goes for timing and location. An easy transition from one to the other is a huge plus for guests, especially for out-of-towners who don't know where they're going or how to kill the time in between. If that’s not possible, consider providing transportation between the two. One standout experience I had was at a New York City wedding; the bride and groom provided a double-decker bus complete with tourguide to ensure that all their guests made it in one piece.

3. The Meal: One of the main things people remember about weddings is the food. This is not the place to skimp, no matter how tight your budget is. Make sure you can provide enough for everyone, and that everyone has a place to sit--especially if there's assigned seating! Nothing says makes a wedding guest feel unwelcome quite like holding a plate full of food, craning their necks around like they're in a junior high school cafeteria looking for a place to sit while everyone else chows down. And while it's not necessary that you bend to every dietary need, it's always a good bet to have at least one solid vegetarian option. 

4. The Booze: If you're going to have liquor at your wedding (and, um, I recommend that you do!) consider having a signature cocktail. The bartender can just mix up large batches at a time and just have them ready, and indecisive guests (like me) don't have to hem and haw--making for shorter lines. As for the cash bar debate: You've heard it before, and you're going to hear it again: DON'T have a cash bar, unless your goal is for everyone to clear out and go in search of a more fun wedding to crash. Have just beer and wine if you must, or cut costs some other way.

5. The Music. To band, or not to band? Shall we DJ? Either way, what kind of music should be playing when? It's true that the music sets the tone for the wedding, it's not a hard and fast rule that "band" says "classy." Sometimes a great DJ is better than a so-so band. If you're into to DIY, it's pretty easy these days to put together the exact mix you want and have it played on an ipod through a sound system. Of course, having a live band adds that certain something, but it that certain something is also added to your budget.  Also, be aware that even if the DJ or musicians bring their own P.A. system, it doesn't mean they're automatically the evening's MC. Unless, of course, you clear that all up beforehand and it's part of the gig.