More Than a Party: A To-Do List for Your Wedding Reception

Until you’ve planned your own wedding reception, chances are you haven’t thought much about all the things a bride and groom need to do to prepare for this part of their special day. From choosing the wedding reception music to making a list of wedding reception activities and schedules, there’s a lot that must be considered and taken care of well in advance of your wedding.

Your wedding reception is more than just the party that is had to celebrate the day you said, “I do.” It is important to think about the wedding reception as the very first public outing for you and your spouse as husband and wife. This article is full of tips that will help you with everything you need to create the perfect to-do list for your wedding reception, including choosing a reception hall, planning food ideas for wedding reception dinners and much more.

Step One – Selecting the Venue
When it comes to choosing a reception hall there are many things that must be considered. First, the location of the venue is important. While it would be ideal to have it right next to the place where you host your ceremony, chances are the ideal reception hall will be somewhere else.

Whether you get married at a big church in Boston or have a quaint little seaside ceremony near the ocean, choosing to have your wedding reception activities in a suburban or countryside setting outside city limits can be a real advantage. Better parking, more choices, easy directions, plus the opportunity to have your wedding reception the way you want it.

Make sure the venue can accommodate the number of guests you want to invite, has room for all of your activities, wedding reception music choices and anything else that is important to you and your groom. Once you find the best location, such as The Crystal Room in Milford, Massachusetts, make sure to put down a deposit and reserve the date as soon as possible to ensure you don’t lose the opportunity to another wedding party.

Step Two – Plan the Events
You need to decide up front if you want to have a traditional wedding reception or choose to do something more casual and laid back. Some of the classic wedding traditions, such as a receiving line, cutting the cake, photos of the wedding party, dinner service, first dance and more can be time-consuming, but worth the effort if only for the photo opportunities and memories alone.

Create a “game plan” to get started. A loose schedule of events in the order that you want them to occur. Write down an approximate amount of time that each event will take to happen, based upon the number of guests that you will be inviting. For example, a traditional receiving line to welcome the guests to the reception, consisting of the bride, groom and both sets of parents, will take anywhere between thirty to forty-five minutes to greet a base number of 200 guests.

For large numbers of guests, wedding reception activities should be considered carefully to ensure that you don’t spend too much time greeting guests. Perhaps opt instead to greet guests table-to-table once the photos and other activities have taken place to cut down on time. Your guests will all want to greet you and congratulate you on your special day, so however you decide to do it, just make sure they get the opportunity.

Step Three – Wedding Reception Music
The biggest dilemma in choosing the wedding reception music will usually be making a choice between hiring a DJ to play all your favorite songs or having a live band provide the entertainment. A live band has advantages, such as a built-in emcee who can make announcements or take requests. A live band can also increase the length or shorten the length of certain songs to accommodate certain situations that come up during the wedding reception.

A DJ has advantages as well, including costing less to hire and having the ability to play the actual songs you’ve requested rather than a cover version that might not be as good. Choosing the wedding reception music is no light task and it must be considered carefully. The music that is played at your wedding reception is something you will remember forever, so it’s important to make the right choice.

Ask a lot of questions and get a contract in writing. Make sure to give the band or DJ your musical request list as well as a do-not-play list of any songs that you and your groom do not like or something that might be offensive to some guests. You wouldn’t want the band to play “the song” that makes your groom think of an ex-girlfriend any more than he would want the DJ to play “the song” that you and your ex danced to when you were dating.

Step Four – The Food
The food isn’t just the food that you sit down and eat at your wedding reception, it’s the first meal that you will share as husband and wife. Forget the old “chicken or beef” options that many caterers like to toss out. Think outside the box and consider hiring a caterer that can provide the type of food that will either complement the theme of your wedding or share your personality and background with your guests. For example, a bride from New Orleans and a groom from Boston could have a multi-cultural buffet offering that includes New England clam chowder and Boston baked beans served alongside Jambalaya and Shrimp Étouffée.

The wedding cake and dessert display can be a traditional towering multi-tier cake bedecked in sugar flowers or a simple two-tier cake surrounded by a variety of cupcakes decorated to match your wedding theme. A dessert display can also include a number of different cake flavors, tarts, mini cheesecakes, chocolates and candies – a little something for everyone.

Step Five – Preparing for Everything Else
Then there’s everything else that needs to be planned. Based upon the type of wedding reception you will be having, as well as the number and type of guests that you invite, you will need to make additional plans. Will you serve alcohol at your wedding reception, or opt to be alcohol-free? Will you have a special area for children or decide to have an adults-only affair?

The wedding reception activities you choose should reflect your personality, culture, faith and hopes for the future. Don’t include an activity just because you feel you have to for tradition’s sake. If you are offended or embarrassed by something, leave it out – you are in control. Just make sure to express your feelings to your groom and let him know why you feel the way you do. Ask him if there are any traditions he wants included (or excluded) and honor his wishes. This is just the first of many important decisions and plans that you will be making as a couple, and it’s a great way to get started off on the right foot together.