Creative Ideas For Your Wedding Reception
This is list of things I have seen through the years. If you get to know me, you will find that I love unique and different. If there is a way that I can put in my own little twist to make it mine, I do so every time. I love it when brides show creativity and vision and carve out their own individual paths.
These are some actual suggestions you can use to spice up the reception. Traditional seems to be a dying concept. Yes, some of my receptions are just like what you would expect, but many are not - and that's okay too.
Don't be afraid to throw a little of your own creativity into the night. I am happy to advise and give ideas based on my experiences and tastes, please call (479) 461-3539 or email if you have any questions.
I have seen many receptions where the host randomly placed disposable cameras on the tables and then picked them up and developed them at the end of the evening. While this is by no means a replacement for a professional photographer, it usually will catch some great random shots that may have otherwise been missed. It also helps make your guests feel more involved in the event. I would consider not distributing them until the bridal party arrives at the venue after the pictures at the ceremony. Otherwise, this can become a time filler for the little kids and be more of a wasted effort.
I will again say, this is no substitute for a professional photographer, but it can be a fun addition. Nowadays, there are companies that specialize in the whole process. You pay them 1 fee and they handle everything and in many cases, they provide Polaroids for your guests to take home (as well as keeping a copy for you, the host).
Another option is to do it yourself. Again, it is tougher and the outcome won't be nearly as professional, but you can pull it off!
Provide a table of accessories like: different colored boas, different kinds of hats, different types of sunglasses, masks, whatever you think is fun. Create a space by using a love seat or bench. You can also provide a "picture frame". I have seen people bring an old wooden door with the top square cut out. You can also hang a sheet with the square cut out. It can be as simple as a large piece of construction paper with a hole cut out.
Again, just be creative and have fun with it!
Flower Girl Surprise
So, if you want to put a fun twist on an old tradition, picture this. For your ceremony, the typical is to have the young girls as the flower girls. I did a reception where the bride invited the grandmas (hers and the groom's) to do the honors. It was very cute!
Small, inexpensive bells (purchased at any Arts & Craft store) are placed at each setting or, randomly, 3 or 4 per table. Often they are dressed up with light painting and/or ribbon to match the theme for the evening.
I have seen them used one of two ways. In some instances a family member prompts the other guests by ringing theirs at the outset of special moments (grand entrance, cake cutting, toast, etc.). It also ensures no one gets overzealous and breaks a glass. Not only is the collective sound a nice touch, but it also directs everyone's attention to the event at hand.
I also had one brave bride whose parents had me announce that they were the kissing bells and that each time they were used, the new couple would kiss. Needless to say, by the conclusion of the event, it became quite humorous and really added to the attendees' fun. The dry lipped newlyweds were not as pleased.
In many instances, the larger banquet facilities use fluorescent lighting which is sometimes overkill and impersonal. The dimmer candles can go a long way to warm and personalize the event.
While there are many variations, I think my favorite was the use of small round glass containers (purchased from hobby stores) that are very similar to the small goldfish bowls that you see at the fair. The host would fill the bowl about half full of water and place floating candles in them. I have also seen them color the water with food coloring to match the night's theme.
In one unique case, I even saw a bride add a little more water and actually put live goldfish under the floating candles. The bride then had me give them away to the attending children. It was much appreciated and a very nice touch!
Less is sometimes more.
I have seen some receptions where the only table flowers were very simple and easy. One tiny vase with only baby's breath or individual (and all different) tea cups with one lone daisy. The simplicity made it very impactful.
This seems to be the new rage! At most traditional reception settings, the frills seem to be directed toward the bride. I am starting to see "Groom's Tables" with theme settings and pictures of the groom.
Themes have included everything from hunting to fishing to Nascar to professional themes. In some cases, the masculine theme has been used throughout the reception.
I can provide you with more specific ideas, but here is one example: A card table with Nascar photos, wrenches, pictures of the bride and groom, etc., was placed at the head of the serving area. A sign over the food read "PIT ROW" and a sign over the punch bowl and kegs read "Fill 'Er Up." Two white Styrofoam wreaths were taped together, painted black, and lined inside with tin foil so that they looked exactly like tires and also made great chip bowls. You get the idea.
Not only is a little fun added to the event, but with some creativity, the room looks just as festive and the bride's and groom's expenses are drastically reduced.
This sounds goofy, but it can really be effective. It can be an excellent opportunity to make your guests more familiar with the newlyweds and give them some small gifts all at the same time.
In some cases your guests may be at the reception venue for an hour while you are finishing up with pictures. The time leading to the newlyweds' arrival at the reception and even during the reception, there are several extended periods where there is not a lot going on. During these times, the host has had me ask trivia about the new couple that they had provided the questions and the answers. Things like: How did they meet? Where will the honeymoon be? What are their signs? etc. Immediate family members were not allowed to answer. Small, wrapped gifts from the host were given to those who had the correct answers.
Entertaining the Kids
Magician / Clown
While this may, at first, seem like overkill, I have seen it used with very positive comments afterwards.
There are a lot of slow periods for the young ones to endure. A restless and/or whining child can put a serious damper on the evening for not only their parents, but the entire table and in some cases the whole group. At some events the child entertainer (clown, magician, story teller) took the entire group of kids (usually aged 12 and under) to a separate room away from the reception for 1 to 1½ hours.
Not only did this give their parents a much appreciated chance to visit, dance, and/or congratulate the new couple, it avoided any potentially uncomfortable events during important moments at the reception.
Again, sounds like overkill, but it really went over big and all that was required was a place to do it (out of the reception room) and a person to lead it.
This is another, less expensive way to entertain the younger ones during the slower periods.
Simply pick an area, preferably out of the main line of sight towards the back of the room. It works great to put up tables to box in a corner. Again, you can get as elaborate or simple as you want. I have seen drapes or white sheets on the outer sides of the tables. One bride had taken large refrigerator boxes and painted what looked like buildings. The kids loved it!
Once the area is created, you can place some chairs around the inner sides of the tables and then maybe have pillow or blankets within. If the area isn't carpeted, you should consider throw carpets or a blanket or two. Place paper, fun-pads, puzzle books, coloring books, crayons and pens on the tables for older children and some small toys on the floor for the younger ones.
It is always a good idea to ask family members or friends to take shifts supervising the group. I saw one bride have an actual teacher who was a friend spend 2 hours back in the kid's corner. She read a short book and had them create a craft. Actually, the craft was to decorate 2 paper plates. They then filled them with rice and beans and made tambourines out of them. They used them when the adults were dancing and took them home. It was a big hit!
Again, this gives parents a break and eliminates some of the awkward boring times for the children.
It is possible to purchase small (1 or 2 oz.) disposable containers of bubbles with the bubble wand in the lid. These can be placed on each table as tokens for the kids or to be used during a picturesque moment like the first dance or departure, etc.
I also have a bubble machine that I can set up if you really want a big BUBBLE moment like the first dance or the last dance.
I spy with disposable cameras. This was precious!
The bride had me make a big deal as they arrived. She had prepared 20 or 30 sealed bags. In each was a disposable camera and a checklist with a pencil attached to the list) and a note.
Her checklists were made to be necklaces and were actually upside down so the child could flip it up and read it. There was a list with squares to check each off as the child got the picture. There was a note in the bag that it was not a race, every completed card that was turned in would receive a prize.
They were to use the cameras throughout the night to try and get the best pictures they could. The list was like: bride and groom kissing, your grandparents holding hands, your parents smiling, the DJ with his headphones, the photographer taking a picture, someone doing the YMCA, your favorite dancers, the oldest couple dancing, etc.
The list was fun and it was really wild to watch the kids go around the room all night and set up pictures. I never saw the finished product, but I bet there were some amazing shots (and some not so much). I also know that it gave the children something to do and it occupied a lot of their time.
Video Game Station
A video game station keeps the kids busy. One events had a corner with 3 flat screens and 3 video game systems. I never saw an empty seat all night. I don't know how they split up the time, but it was very popular.
Kid's Time on the Dance Floor
I have done a few receptions where we had a "Kid's Time on the Dance Floor". I have seen this be interesting. I announced that it would be happening and that if they wanted a specific song TO DANCE TO, they should let me know. I gathered songs, then made a big deal that "the next few minutes would be for the younger adults only". It made for some fun pictures and we actually got dancers.
Guest Book Replacements
There are many great options to go with here. Most attempt to create something that they can actually use and display in their new home.
The easiest is a wide matte around a wedding picture in a glassless frame that everyone signs.
My favorite in recent years was a tree. They took a large piece of poster-board and drew with a brown marker a tree trunk with many bare branches. On the table beside the picture, they placed 4 colored ink blotters and some moist baby wipes.
The bride had me encourage the guests to put a thumb stamp as a leaf and then to initial or sign the leaf. The creativity on the placements of the leaves was very cool.
I have also seen the host or hostess pick an item like a canoe paddle, old barn wood, a motorcycle helmet, a football helmet and have them signed by the guests. I also had a bride who brought 5-inch off-white plain quilt squares and multicolored markers. She asked them to each make small inscriptions and best wishes, then sign it. Her plan was to then have a quilt made from them.
Fancy 1st Dance
Lately, I have had several requests of my new brides to create the ultimate 1st dance, (I have also seen it used for the daddy/daughter or son/mom).
If you go to YouTube and key in Reception Funny First Dance you can see what I am talking about.
Here is how it works. Basically you pick a dance song, traditionally slow and meaningful for the new bride and groom. Next you pick 3 or 4 funny songs like "You Can't Touch This", "Gangnam Style", "Ice Ice Baby", "Apache", "Wobble", "The Twist", "Get Down On It" - you get the idea.
What I do is create a song that starts with the slow tune, them abruptly transitions through the faster ones and then ends with the end of the slow one we started with. It is a wonderful ice breaker to really get the group fired up and it gives the newlyweds to be (as if they need it) an excuse to spend more time together privately in the days leading up to the reception to practice.
If you are interested in this just ask and I can give you tips to make it a success! As long as we don't get too specific, I will make this for you free of charge. This way you have the actual song that you will dance to with no surprises.
This is a nice touch if you have a large group and or lots of older married family attending.
Basically, I announce that we are starting an Anniversary Dance and I need all the married couples on the floor. I begin eliminating couples by the length of time married: 1 year, 5 years, 10 years etc. At the conclusion of the dance I have to longest married couple remaining on the floor, which, in most cases, is one set of grandparent.
I congratulate them and encourage them to pass along a piece of advice for the newlyweds; after all, they have made it last longer than anyone else in the room. Sometimes it is a nice final touch to have the bride and groom return to the floor with a flower or bouquet to thank the long time married couple and take a picture with them.
I am not a huge fan, but it can work in the right situations.
This is where I get the bride and groom out on the floor and encourage the guests to come up and take turns dancing with the bride or groom. Since it is a dollar dance, the participants have to pay to dance. It is a fun thing and can raise a little money for the newlyweds.
It gives everyone a chance to dance and have a personal moment with the bride and groom. It works well if it is a big group, but can be a little awkward with smaller groups.
If you have a medium-sized group, I would recommend doing it early in the night while your numbers are up or else it can be a bit awkward.
I have seen this more and more in the last few years. The brides are setting up a table with candy and bags to put them in. I have seen it be simple and a big bowl or mixed candies like you would see given out at Halloween. I have also seen it very elaborate with dozens of different sized glass containers, all with different fresh candies with little spoons. They always have a sweet little saying like "Fill a bag with your favorite treat and remember love is always sweet!"
I saw a similar idea where the caption was "Let Love Glow". The bride filled the table with black light items like glow sticks, glow necklaces, glow glasses, etc. I made a few announcements after the dancing began to take the items as party favors. Made for a fun dance floor!
More and more I am seeing little hand written signs or chalk boards placed throughout the reception. One of the funnier was a chalk board hung over the open bar that read "Trust me, you are a wonderful dancer" - LOVE VODKA!!!!!!!!
This strays away from traditional, but I have seen brides be lax with the bridal party dresses, especially the colors.
I saw one event where they all had different colors and the groomsman had the matching color of bow tie. Another wedding had all blue dresses in different shades.
Both made for great pictures and really made the bride's white dress pop!
This was a very cute idea at the bar. The couple had purchased two standard water coolers. They put these side by side on the opposite side of the bar from the kegs and hung signs over each that read "His favorite: Cowboy Kool Aid" and "Her favorite: Pina Colada".
Obviously, you could switch it up, but the trick was that you had 2 premade drinks. All the guests had to do was fill a cup with ice and dispense their own. It made the bar much easier and also added a fun element with insight into the newlyweds.
This is no big revelation, but I have seen this changed up considerably. I have seen bubbles, sparklers, bird seed, and rose petals. I even saw one exit where the bridesmaids passed out squirt guns and let the newlyweds have it as they ran to the limo.
I have seen receptions where instead of the dollar dance, they tactfully requested money for their honeymoon.
I have seen lots of variations, but my favorite was with an old suitcase. They had a medium sized suitcase, opened with a big pile of colored envelopes and pens. They had a hand written sign that said they HOPE to travel to Hawaii in the coming months. Their were leis, a snorkel, a plane, a bucket of sand - lots of little trinkets. It was a fun idea.
I saw one where the container was a ski helmet. The sign read that they hoped to go to Colorado for a ski trip. There were lots of ski things around the helmet.
I also saw one where the main piece was a globe. They had taken an old globe like you see at a yard sale and made a hole in the top to make it like a piggy bank. They had put a heavy red paint around the place they wanted to go. It looked similar to what I described above with a caption and trinkets relating to the destination.
This is one that allows the bride to have some fun with her new husband. Brides, ask me in person and I will explain it.
This is one that allows the groom to have some fun with his new bride. Grooms, ask me in person and I will explain it.