Quick Tips for Planning a Wedding Reception

How wonderful that the two of you have decided to join your lives together and create a new family! Now that you’ve made that decision, you have a lot of work to do in planning a wedding reception.

Where do you begin?

Wedding Couple

You might be surprised to realise that the date you choose is not just a matter of your preference.  If you have your heart set on getting married in a specific place, and you also know where you want your reception, you must clear your date with personnel at both of those places.  With churches and reception halls booking up for weddings sometimes a year in advance, you might need to be a little flexible!

As you choose your reception venue, you’ll have to decide what type of party you’re throwing for your guests. You’ll be asking questions of someone, usually a sales coordinator, who has experience in planning a wedding reception. Will you have a formal, seated dinner?  Will a buffet work better?  Although it’s unusual, some people serve hors d’oeuvres only; and brunches are becoming more popular.

You also must discuss who will prepare and serve the food.  Some venues by their nature assume you’ll be serving food that they provide.  At other places, you are renting their reception room but you must bring in your own food.  If the venue provides food, will they allow you to bring in anything extra you want-such as an ethnic dessert that’s important to you?  And-whether the venue or an independent caterer provides the food-be certain to have a food tasting ahead of time so that you know the food will be good!

You can also decide whether your affair will be a champagne reception or offer a full bar.  Will you bring in your own alcohol or use the products available at the reception hall?  Is there a bartender available for hire or must you find one?  Make certain the venue holds a liquor license.

If you have a planned theme for your wedding, decide how your reception venue will fit that theme.  Ask your sales coordinator about anything extra that you’d like to have in the reception area, such as chair coverings, table cloths, or wall coverings.  Flowers, centrepieces, and favours are also an important part of planning a wedding reception.  It’s also important to ask who is responsible for setting up the decorations, and who tears them down. If you rent sashes for the chairs, who returns them?

What about logistics?  Some weddings move right from the church or wedding site directly to the reception.  Sometimes there is a gap between them, which allows the bridal party to be photographed or freshen up.   After the ceremony, would you like to have a cocktail hour before dinner?  Ask your sales coordinator the best way to move your guests from the parking lot, to the cocktail area, to the dining area, and, later, the dance floor.

An important part of planning a wedding reception revolves around details such as checking out the bathrooms and coat-check areas.  Consider whether there are too many steps for your old aunts or grannies.  And don’t assume the place is wheelchair accessible -ask!

You’ll also want to know:

  • How much of a deposit is needed, and when is the balance due?
  • What’s the cancellation policy?
  • Will they charge you if your reception runs beyond the allotted time?
  • Do they have electrical hook-ups for your disc jockey or band?
  • Is there a sound system for the entertainment?
  • Do you want valet parking?
  • Can you light candles on the tables?
  • Consider how many people you will seat at a table, and how many tables you can fit in the room while still allowing dance space.

Before you sign the contract, read it over carefully.  There are always questions in planning a wedding reception; ask them.  And never leave blank spaces in a contract when you sign it-if there are blanks, draw a line through them before you put your signature to the paper.

This will literally be the first day of the rest of your life-and you want it to go as smoothly as possible!


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