It’s My Party

Eight ways to make your reception memorable

By Sara Doerrier
July 11, 2011

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The wedding reception signifies the first event for a pair of newlyweds, and it’s often a festive celebration that involves food, toasts, traditions, music, family and friends. It’s a party. It’s a meal. And if done correctly, it can even become the event of the year.

Everyone wants a memorable fête. Surely, you can count on spontaneous, organic incidents—large and small—that will make for good memories. After all, not everything can be planned. But extraordinary events do require planning. And planning requires more than an open bar and lowered lights.

But before you start stressing out, keep in mind: Weddings have never felt as creative as they do today. Couples are no longer afraid to veer from tradition. The motto of the modern bride and groom is to “personalize, personalize, personalize.” It is encouraged to be bold, youthful and imaginative. It is important to have fun.

Hosting a truly fabulous party does require work, but you’re about to have a great time. Want to feel festive? Get sparklers. Want to personalize the drink menu? Create a signature cocktail. These ideas, and the other reception tips below, will surely have your guests gushing about your reception for weeks, even months, on end.

  1. Skip the first dance and sing a duet. Now’s the time to take a few singing lessons and jot down some lyrics. After you enter the reception hall as a newlywed, get on stage and sing a song as your husband gently strums the guitar. It can be a cover song or an original; the lyrics can be sweet, funny—or both. Your guests will be thoroughly entertained and impressed by your originality and talent. (It helps if you can actually sing.)
  2. Have a photo booth at the reception. These quaint devices allow your guests to take sweet or hilarious shots, and take home the strips of photos as souvenirs. Now that the world has gone digital, black-and-white film feels charming and old-world. Plus, it allows your guests to come together and have an activity to participate in. After the reception, ask the guests to scan you copies of the strips to include in your wedding album.
  3. Create your own booze. Look for wineries that will allow you to bottle your own wine and design the labels. Or serve a signature cocktail and give it a special name to make it feel personal. Some brides and grooms simply choose their favorite cocktail; others will hire a mixologist to create an original.
  4. Serve meals family style. This can save you money by significantly reducing the duties of your wait staff. It gives the reception a more friendly, comfortable feel without compromising elegance or sophistication. The bonus: The passing of food creates a sweet, family-oriented atmosphere. Whether the guests know each other or not, the mere action of passing food will bring them closer.
  5. Skip the cake and opt for more innovative desserts. Serve cupcakes, brownies, macaroons or mini-cakes. Having a candy bar full of dozens of sweet choices is a delightful option—and more interactive than a stand-alone wedding cake.
  6. How often have you attended a reception only to see the guest book ignored? Give this reception detail a little kick. Supply your guests with stickers, crayons, markers and glitter sticks. Glue photos in the book, or write questions or passages inside that will inspire the guest to write a memorable note. Give guests the option to draw, as well as write, in the book.
  7. Hand out sparklers during the toast, rather than glasses of champagne. The hand-held fireworks will make the party feel festive, and will look lovely in your photos (especially the black-and-white shots).
  8. A party isn’t a party without delectable food. But don’t make the mistake of only providing one meal, especially if your reception goes long into the night. After drinks and dancing, your guests will be hungry again. Serve a late-night protein-laden surprise. Mini-hamburgers or tiny turkey sandwiches will delight your hardcore guests.

For more ways to personalize your wedding, why not start from your invitations and gifts? Let the fun begin with the invite!