Reception Tips

Tips for Bride’s..
The Wedding Reception

You are finally married!! After all the planning of this special day, it is time for you to enjoy the party held in your honor. The reception is often longer than the ceremony and this is your time to mingle and thank all your guests for attending your special day. Your reception begins after the ceremony. If you are having some pictures taken, you should have some cocktails for the guests to enjoy. Do not spend a lot of time away from your reception. This is inconsiderate to your guests. When you arrive, you may consider doing your receiving line (if you did not do it at the ceremony site). Your reception is the second most important part of your wedding day and you must be confident with the manager and staff of the establishment you choose.


Choosing a Reception Site

      As with all vendors, the easiest way to find out about reception halls is from other couples who had their reception or party there. They will be able to tell you the flexibility and reputation of the establishment. You may also ask if they could do it all over again, would they have their reception there again? Why or Why not? Would they change anything about the service or policies? What was their overall impression? Although you may not know couples who have been married at the reception halls you choice, you should still find out as much as you can. You may do this through the Better Business Bureau and possibly some of the other vendors you will be working with.
    After this preliminary work, I would then suggest call the sites you have in mind and ask to have a meeting with the catering manager or wedding coordinator. At this visit you will be given a packet of information (policies and prices) as well as a tour of the facilities. This visit should take approximately one hour. You may not have any questions at this time, but you will after you visit a few sites and compare them. When you are done visiting the sites, it is beneficial to make a list of the sites you like and ensure they are within your budget. I would suggest choosing the sites which accommodate your wedding the most as well as servicing your needs completely. Some reception facilities are more accommodating with their amenities than others. If you decide to go to a hotel, it is easier to work with only one person than many persons (i.e. One person arranges hotel rooms, receptions, airport transportation etc. than three different people).Reception halls book very far in advance so this must be one of your top priorities!!

Contract Questions

You should have all of these questions answered completely and the contract should include the answers.Date, Time, Site and Room

      Alternative site if outside. Refund or adjustment policy if wedding is canceled or changed date. Payment policies (deposit and balance), liquor arrangements, final head count due?

Set Up

      What time may we set up? Dee Jay? Band? Decorations? Who cleans up? When does it need to be done by? Cake set up? Can lighting be controlled ? How large is the dance floor ? May it be made larger ? Where is the dance floor, cake table, bar, deejay/ band and seating set up? Listen to the sound system!! May a microphone be positioned at the head table? Is there a back up generator? A piano on site?

Menu Selections

      Are there any package deals? May any changes be made to the menu? Are there children’s portions of dinner? Vegetarian dishes available? If food runs out, do you have other things you may prepare quickly? May we have some snacks brought out during the dance? What is done with leftover food? May it be donated ? How many persons , over the head count do you prepare for ? Additional cost ? Food substitutions ? Price quotes for food ? How will the dinner be served ? color of the linens ? table shapes ? number of persons to sit at each table? table decorations ?

Number of staff per guest ratio

      What is the cost of servers for drinks, hor d’oeuvres, coat check, rest room attendant and valet parking? (if you choose to pay the gratuity yourself, place a sign in these areas that says “Gratuities have been taken care of by your host”). What is the cost if our reception runs overtime for the extra services? Who will be supervising the reception? When should the payments be made (deposit and balance)? Who should it be given to?

The Caterer

      This may seem overwhelming to you, but make sure your caterer is state licensed and have liability insurance as well as a successful track record. Most caterers will offer packages for weddings, but also ask if there may be changes or substitutions to the menu. You will need to know not only how much the food and drinks will cost, but also figure out the gratuity, sales tax, deposit and overtime costs. Most reception halls have strict policies concerning confirmation of guests (i.e. definite head count) and payment policies.


      Alcohol is usually associated with a wedding reception. If an “open bar” (the guests may drink as much as they like on the parent’s wallet) is in your budget, then this is a nice gesture to do for your guests. However, most couples do not have an additional $3000.00 + for this service. Therefore, some couples may provide a non-alcoholic reception (only soda, milk and coffee), a cash bar (bride and groom provide champagne, punch and beer ( the guests purchase their own hard alcohol) or a juice bar (festive non-alcoholic mixed juice drinks). You should at least figure that each guest will have two drinks (usually this is more with an open bar). It has been my experience that guests are willing to drink more when another person is paying for it!! Another alternative is to have an open bar only for a short period of time. This will allow you to control the amount of alcohol your guests will consume as well as allowing them time to release it out of their system. You may also decide to have a couple bottles of wine to be served with the dinner. Finally, you may decide to offer a fruity champagne sangria, or a ginger ale punch.

Handicap Consideration

      Are all areas of the reception hall handicapped accessible? Where are the entrances? Restrooms? Parking?


       – If you do not have a wedding coordinator, you should designate one person to watch over the reception. This person should meet the caterer and banquet manager before the wedding. If there are any problems in the reception, this person will handle it with the parents so they will not interrupt the bride and groom. Finally, this responsible and mature person will review the final bill of the reception (to ensure no over charging!!). Before the wedding, this person should know exactly what the schedule of the reception is, the food and drinks ordered and the wishes of the bride and groom. You will be thankful to have a person like this at your reception!!

Reception Meal Options

Seated Breakfast, Brunch or Dinner

       – The guests sit at the tables and the food is served to them.

Buffet Breakfast, Brunch or Dinner

       – The guests go through a buffet line and have choice of 2-3 different items in each category.

Punch and Cake

       – This is a shorter reception usually held at the ceremony site.

Cocktails and Hors d’oeuvres

       – The chance to have a variety of different foods. Hors d’oeuvres can be just as filling as a full dinner. You may have a waiter walking around with the tray or have the hors d’oeuvres displayed on a table.

Family Style Dinner

       – The waiters bring all the food to the table in serving dishes and the guests help themselves to what they would like.

Food Stations

       – This is a newer idea which many guests seem to like. There are individual stations around the reception hall. Some examples of stations are : vegetable (cut vegetables and dip), fruit (cut fruit with chocolate dip), pasta, meat, fish and bread. Guests seem to like this due to the variety they are able to have.

French Stations

       – Food is presented and then carved or boned and finished by being served by the waiters.

Viennese Table

     – For the sweet tooth, a complete desert buffet of tarts, cakes, petit fours, ice cream and mousses.

The Seating Arrangement

      You may decide where you would like your guests to sit (assigned seating) or you may allow them to choose (open seating). Regardless of what you decide, you should make the seating easy for your guests to understand. With assigned seating, I would you suggest you have the tables easily numbered, as well as having a sign/poster of the table numbers and guests at each table. This sign should be posted by the guest book so that the guest book attendant will be able to answer any questions for the guests. Some couples display the place cards (with the table number) at the guest book table. The guests will sign the guest book and take their place card to find their seat. There are advantage to assigned seating is you are able to mix the guests of the bride and groom’s side together. This allows the guests to meet more people and make new friends at your wedding. After all, your wedding is the beginning of a new relationship, so why not have your guests participate in new relationships? I feel this is a great way for the guests to mingle with each other!! One suggestion I have is to make sure you are careful with whom you place together. You do not want to have a table where no one talks or one person monopolizes the conversation.
    The head table will seat the entire wedding party. The head table is on show for all the guests. The gentleman and women should stay in full dress and all should keep their voices low. Be prepared for pictures and videos, especially during toasts. You will also have the parent’s table. If your parents are divorced, you will have three tables, unless the divorced parents do not mind sitting together. I would also suggest to have a special guest/ attendant table. The guests at this table would be the husbands/wives/significant others of the wedding party, and guest book. personal, and cake attendants. This table is usually a group of the same age people.

The Receiving Line

      The receiving line is a great way to greet and thank your guests. You may either do this after the ceremony or at the reception. You should keep the comments brief so your guests do not need to wait in line a long time. Even though you do a receiving line, it is important to visit with your guests at the reception. It is nice to visit each table after you are done with your dinner. Sometimes it is not possible to have a conversation with all your guests, therefore it is suggested to have all the attendants and parents “working the room”. All the guests should be visited by someone in your immediate family. It is awkward to have the entire wedding party in the receiving line. Either the guests or the attendants do not now what to say!! You may choose to have only the parents, bridal couple and honor attendants in the line and then have the bridesmaids and groomsman talking to the guests in line or sitting at the tables.
      While the guests are standing in line, you may think of having some chairs for people who need them and a video of the bride and groom as well as the wedding attendants playing at the reception. You may also have music playing at this time. Couples may even begin to dance. This will also allow guests to meet each other.

The receiving line order is as follows:

       (left to right)

        Mother of Bride, Father of Bride, Mother of Groom, Father of Groom, Bride, Groom, Maid of Honor, Best Man.
      You and your wedding party will set the tone of the wedding. I have found that the most memorable weddings I have attended have had one thing in common- group participation. You may accomplish this in many ways. Instead of clinging the glasses for the bride and groom to kiss, have the guests do something else like sing a song with the word “love” in it, sing Christmas carols (if around Christmas time), give information about the young lives of the bride and groom in poetry form, or do a dance while someone plays an instrument. You will be amazed at how your creative and crazy your guests really can be. The participation will also be increased if you have an active band or deejay.
      Your reception should be a great way for you to thank and greet your guests. This is the time to relax and enjoy yourself. The intense part of getting married is over. Enjoy the most of this party that is being held in your honor.