Planning a reception is a highly-detailed process that involves many moving parts. Everything from following the rules of etiquette when sending out invitations to making sure older relatives aren’t seated right next to the band (or DJ speakers) must be taken into account. With all of this pressure, it’s easy to forget how important it is to make your wedding fun.
If your guests are enjoying themselves, you will inevitably end up having fun yourself, regardless of your stress level. Although you won’t need to pull out all the stops like planners did for the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle 2018 wedding, there’s still plenty of fun, creative things you can do to make sure your wedding guests have a blast!
1. Rent a limousine (or other awesome car) for you and your fiancé
Arrange special wedding transportation for yourself and your beloved. By arriving in high style, you’ll set the tone of the reception for your guests. Invite others to hop in for pictures, especially if it’s one of Dad’s cool classic cars.
2. Arrange alternative transportation for guests
Don’t let your guests worry about drinking too much and having to drive home. Instead, if your wedding budget allows, set up a bus or van to transport guests back to the general area (possibly a hotel or landmark) they are staying. This way, your out-of-town guests can have a blast at your wedding and leave the driving to the (sober) professionals.
3. Have an open bar (for part of the wedding)
Does your wedding reception really need 5-6 hours of binge drinking to guarantee a good time? With the price of an average wedding at $26,000, and the majority of that absorbed in reception venue, catering and rental costs, the open bar tab can get awfully high.
Many catering companies do not allow guests to bring their own alcohol to wedding receptions, but as a responsible host, you can limit the open bar to 2-3 hours of the entire 5 -6 hour affair. Your guests can still have plenty of fun drinking and dancing, and you’ll reduce the chance of people getting out of control (which can turn a fun party into a drama-filled one in an instant).
4. Stick to the schedule
Having a schedule printed and arranged for the day keeps everyone in the wedding party (as well as guests) on track with events and activities. Your guests will appreciate having information on how long the pre-reception lasts, when the speeches might start, and how late the dancing will run.
5. Set up food/Dessert stations at the reception
One of the more popular trends at weddings these days is foregoing the traditional cutting of a cake, and opting for food or dessert stations around the venue. Here, you can offer guests anything from a cheese, veggie and breadstick table to a chocolate fountain with custom cupcakes. You might have a popcorn stall for later in the night, or even serve burger sliders for guests who need to soak up some alcohol. In any case, speak to your catering company to check the options.
6. Tailor the Music to Your Guests
Music is a critical component of any fun wedding. If you have a mixed crowd, your music should sit somewhere in between Bruno Mars’ hit “Just the Way You Are” to Chic’s “Good Times”. Take some time with the playlist. Make sure uncle Billy gets his 80s new wave, and help grandpa gets his Sinatra or jazz fix.
If you’ve booked a live band – be sure to let them know your expectations, give them songs to learn, and ask for a few karaoke spots throughout their set (if any guest is inclined to sing).
7. Consider the lighting!
The overall ambience can have a significant effect on the mood of the party. If it’s too bright, you’ll lose some of the romance. If it’s too dark, the older guests won’t be able to see clearly. Make sure you work with the wedding planner and venue coordinator to test different types of lighting for the room and see if the house lights are unsuitable.
8. Choose a distinct theme
Remember, it’s the little details that count. So pick a theme and choose your ideal wedding colors, then brand it as YOUR wedding. Get your design and theme printed across the board – on the dinner menu, welcome bags, cocktail napkins, guest table cards and any other creative place you can think of. Your guests will love it!
9. Have a wedding hashtag
Get your social-media loving guests in on the fun! Set up your hashtag ahead of the big day, and let all your friends know about it in advance. For many, the hashtag love starts on the engagement day, and doesn’t let up until after the wedding and honeymoon. Plus, your friends and family (especially the younger, more tech-savvy ones) will love this opportunity to participate further in your big day.
10. Get creative with your wedding guestbook
Traditional guestbooks with one line for your friend’s name and greeting are boring. Get an artist friend to draw you a wedding heart with your names on it, and let all the guests color in the open parts. Involve your guests, and it’ll go a long way toward creating the fun atmosphere you want to build for them.
11. Offer a parting gift
One wedding I attended last year offered guests a mason jar with names embossed on the jar as a gift. We used the jars for our drinks at the party and then took them home afterward. Today, the jar sits on my glass shelf, constantly reminding me of their awesome wedding. You can get creative with party favors – anything from a casual picture of you and your beloved to a Starbucks gift card would be an appreciated gesture.
12. Prepare glow-sticks and other nighttime goodies
As the reception moves into the later part of the evening (and drinks have been drunk), it’s a good time to bring out glow-sticks, sparklers and other fun things for the ladies and gentlemen of your wedding to enjoy. Such items can really add an element of energy and excitement to your big day as festivities reach a fever pitch. They can also be used to add a shot of fun into the event if thing seem to be quieting down.
Do you have some creative, fun ways to get the party started? We’d love to hear them! And for brides (or grooms) looking for further inspiration, our Facebook and Pinterest pages are free, constantly-updated resources for you to peruse. Cheers for now!