Wedding Receptions 101

The Perfect Party!

Once upon a time, wedding receptions followed a set pattern: "wedding" food, specific seating and an awful lot of white. Today, all that has changed as brides and grooms are allowing their personalities to determine their choices. Follow the guidelines below to create a picture-perfect wedding reception.

Choosing the Location

The size of your guest list will help determine the location of your wedding reception, but so will your personal tastes. Start by deciding what type of environment you'd like for your reception. An outdoor gathering under flower-decorated arbors is delicate and highly romantic. Some restaurants also offer outdoor reception seating; consult the phone book or go online to find out which locations offer this option. For indoor wedding receptions, look into restaurants, hotels, party and catering halls.

You will also want to decide whether you want sit down or buffet service. Ask which is available and what the general layout of the service will be. Make sure the food is easily accessible and that there is room between the tables for your guests to mingle before the meal.

Catering and Meal Options

What sort of meal suits your fancy? Do you envision oversize prawns and Thai skewer hors d'oeuvres? Rare steak slices au jus? Vegetarian? Barbecue? All of these options and more are available to today's bride and groom. Take your time with the meal selection. It will be one of the most remembered elements of your wedding reception.

If your reception locale offers just the choices you want, great! If not, ask whether the location allows catering from outside sources, and whether there are any restaurants or caterers they deal with regularly. The facility may also be willing to create a modified specialty menu for your special day; be sure to ask so that you wind up with just the food selection you want.

Seating and Decorations

The trend in wedding receptions is classy, but with a touch of fun. Try a patterned rather than solid color look for your tablecloths; stripes are highly popular, as are polka dots. Added touches of color can also make an impression with ties around the chair backs. Don't limit yourself to the traditional solid antique white; there is an amazing array of options for every personality and taste.

Another trend is making the environment cozy and intimate. Even if you are inviting 200 guests, you can create this effect with just a few touches. A few candles in the center of each table can add warmth and depth to your reception setting. Be sure to place candles well toward the middle of the table to avoid accidents, and use short cylinder shaped holders in either glass or ceramic. Toss some rose petal "confetti" on the tablecloth for an enchanted and whimsical look. For your centerpieces, try ribbons and bows, simple vases and unique flowers.

Place Settings and Wedding Favors

Today's place cards can be as much a part of the decor as the centerpiece and tablecloths. Many brides and grooms are choosing organic look place cards, such as antique white "torn" edges decorated with a silk or dyed organic bow or flower. However, this is up to your personal taste and the degree of formality of your wedding. Experiment with different place settings at home to get a feel for what works for you.

The wedding favors can also double as decorations. Wrap your favors in a delicate white box with a red silk flower on top, or in colored cellophane and a whimsical bow. Your guests will be just as thrilled to handle the wrappings as they are to see what's inside.

Cake, Music and Flowers

Florals of all kinds are hot this season. Don't make your tables the sole spot for your flowers; add pinned flowers to the backs of the chairs and stand topiaries around the perimeter of the room. You can also use a floral motif to decorate place cards, table cloths or even the corners of the dance floor.

For your cake, use your creativity and find a baker who is willing to use your ideas, or to modify them if they're impractical. Add color to a white cake with candy or real flowers or fruit. Have your baker pipe colored icing around the edges of the tiers or sprinkle dots of color on the top of each layer. You may also want to consider having a groom's cake, a tradition which is growing in popularity.

Your choice of music will be entirely up to your personality. A disc jockey tends to have a selection to appeal to every taste, making guest requests easy. On the other hand, live bands add an organic feel and a touch of personality to your reception. Live mini-orchestras, arrangements or a piano player are all upscale and very memorable choices.

Get creative with this very special day, and you and your guests will talk about your unique and beautiful reception for years to come.

Did you know we have pre-made slideshows you can use at your reception?

See also: Wedding Wording Guide: Toasts, Quotes, Speeches and more.

Written by: The Printable Wedding Team