Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wedding Reception Advice (Since Now Of Course I Am An Expert:-)

While still waiting for pictures from the photographer, I wanted to post some things I learned about wedding receptions this past month. Here is some of my best advice after two weddings.

1. Have a Theme
Of course this isn't necessary, but it does make decorating easier--or at least gives it direction. Since it was July in Arizona, being outside was not a possibility, so Kristen wanted to bring the outdoors inside with a garden theme. We collected a lot of plants and flowers from friends and neighbors to use and for the centerpieces we painted ceramic flower pots blue and filled them with fresh daisies. (This was just a picture where I was testing out the colors.)

We also incorporated the theme into the dessert bar. She wanted to have an ice cream sundae bar, so I covered a renovated cupcake stand in moss, and used plant pots to put the ice cream toppings. Her infamous cake sat on top. (Which we do not have a picture of right now.)

2. Make it Personal
I wanted there to be something about the reception that really made it personal to Kristen and Peter. True there were many things that reflected their personalities--we served Pizza and salad, (Kristen's favorite food) along with Peter's favorite punch and had a live string quartet instead of CD's and a disc jockey--but I wanted something more.

So incorporating the garden theme with Kristen's school teaching, we asked her third grade class for marriage advice (that you can read here). My friend Jenny then wrote the advice on canvas boards and another friend, Sonia, turned them into cute garden signs that we placed around the cultural hall. This turned out to be really fun as many guests walked around the room reading them all.

3. Have a Fun Exit Plan
I think it is nice to have a fun way to send off the newlyweds, plus give closure to the reception. My friend, Susan, removed the petals from fresh flowers and all the guests showered her daughter and husband with them as they left the wedding venue. I have also known people to light sparklers, and of course there is the throwing of rice or bird seed.

Being inside a church building, our options were limited. I also didn't want anything I would have to spend a lot of time cleaning up. In the end we chose to make luminaries for the guests.

We used small white paper bags that were trimmed down to about only four inches tall. We punched holes in each side and tied a ribbon through the holes to make a handle, decorated one side with paper daisies that we cut from yellow card stock and then taped a lit battery-powered tea candle to the bottom. (The batteries last for hours so you can turn them all on far in advance.)

At the end of the reception, we turned off the main lights and had all the guests line up in two columns, forming a path from the front of the cultural hall to the lobby. Each guest held up his or her luminary to make a lighted path for the bride and groom to pass as they began their life together. And then everyone cheered for them as they walked through the path.

I loved the symbolism of this. And clean up was easy.

4. Have a Wedding Coordinator for the Reception.
I asked a wedding coordinator what her best advice was and she told me to have a coordinator for at least the reception. I know that sounds exactly what you would expect a coordinator to say, but it turned out to truly be the best advice I received.

My friend Sonia accepted that responsibility. She is very detail oriented and a stickler for schedules so I was confident she would do a great job. And she did. In addition to handling any questions that came up from the many other wonderful friends helping out that night, and any problems that arose, Sonia got the musicians playing when it was time, made sure the young girls who were clearing tables stayed on top of their job, added more chairs when we ran out of tables, coordinated with the Emcee when it was time to cut the cake, etc., made sure Kristen had her tossing bouquet at the right time and handed out the luminaries at the end of the reception.

I didn't have to worry about anything. I just got to sit back and enjoy the reception. It was great!!

5. Looking for Material? There are many websites that sell ready made table cloths for a great price, but Kristen had her heart set on polka dots so I went on a search for fabric.(And then my good friend Lisa turned it into darling table cloths!) While searching, I found two wonderful websites for fabric. One is called . Another is . It really has just about anything you might want and you can search by color or pattern.

What I would Do Differently
1. We used the church cultural hall,which I am never excited about, but still it turned out beautifully. However, while at the reception I just saw the decorations, when I look at pictures afterward I just see the walls and that has been very disappointing to me. I think if I have to use the cultural hall again I will definitely tent it. Another option, that might be less expensive is to use all the partitions available and just drape gathered material over them and use them as backdrops all over the room. We did this in a couple places, but I wish I did more.

And since I still have two more weddings to go . . . I am interested in any advice anyone else out there might have to offer. Please, share!!


Shannon said...

Thanks for the info. I fnd myself paying more and more attention to this sort of thing. We have only one daughter, but she just graduated from high school. I don't see her rushing to get married, but I don't think it is forever in the future like I think it is. Can I duck my head back in the sand for just a little longer?!

Be Thou Humble said...

Love all the ideas! I am very theme oriented so if I have any say in the matter that's the way I would go! The reception looks like it was beautiful--I was sorry to miss all these July weddings! One thing I have done for quite awhile is to collect and save wedding invitations. It's amazing how many different ways you can say "my daughter is getting married"! I also have created lists for friends of a time line of when to have what done. I couldn't find one the last time someone wanted it so I'll have to recreate it...if you made one (like when to have temple reserved, when to have announcements mailed, when to have bridesmaids dresses done...etc.) I would love a copy...

Congrats also on your new calling! We are calling buddies! I'm having a good time with my Mia Maids. We just had a planning meeting and I'm excited about our upcoming activities. I have a blog where I post pictures and info about our activities if you are interested.

Cherie said...

That is all great advice - much of it I found out on my first daughters wedding and was able to use on my 2nd daughters wedding.

When we did this last reception in the cultural hall people I hired to hang the lights (that was truly a great decision) also draped fabric along the walls in an intesting up and down way and that really made a huge difference. I agree you need to do something to the ceiling but the walls are just as important. I would not have thought of that without them.

The other great tip is for family pictures, and this advice came from the photographer at my first daughters wedding. It is to have a co-ordinator for all the family pictures. I wrote a list beforehand of all the groupings, etc...and my friend took care of going down the list and gathering people - it worked out really well.

Can't wait to see more pictures from the wedding :-D

Cherie said...

P.S. I forgot to say how much I love the marraige advice and how it was displayed - that is just wonderful!

Terri said...

oh that sounds like it was a wonderful event! Lots of work too! Just beautiful.
When is your next baby due? I was thinking Camille is getting close?

Connie said...

Great advice! I wish I had read this month ago. We have only 2 weeks left until my daughter's reception and we're both stressing a bit. Not sure how this is going to turn out. As long as she has a great time, that's all that matters. (No it isn't, who am I trying to kid?)
I'm sure it's nice to have the open house over and now you can take a breath and get on with life.

I made your pasta salad for a family dinner. Delicious!