This time of year is a very popular time for weddings and completing the planning process, especially when it comes to the receptions. They don't always have to be formal and stuffy...have fun! Here are thirteen ideas on how to have fun with your reception.
1. Walk Down Memory Lane
Make the guest feel like integral parts of the day by incorporating them into the décor — in a gallery of meaningful photos. You can call it something like 'memory lane' and hang pictures of the bride and groom with friends and family along the walk from the ceremony to the reception. It's a fun cocktail party conversation starter. As guests take a leisurely stroll and find pictures of themselves with you, they can reminisce and socialize. Even yard signs are good if your guests are walking outside.
2. Break the Ice Creatively
When you enter your reception for the first time as husband and wife, don't just take a conventional arm-in-arm stroll...run, skip or dance! Brainstorm with your groom about the most creative, appropriate way to make a big impression. This is a great way to break the ice and set up for a fun vibe for the rest of the event.
3. Play Party Games
A cool idea is to make the menus puzzles, so each person gets one piece of the puzzle at their place setting, then everyone had to put the pieces together to get the full menu description.
4. Be Entertaining
Guests always love the energy of a live band but tend to want to hear the original artist sing their favorite tunes. As a compromise, a bride may hire a dance band but also play DJ'ed music during the breaks, or she'll arrange to have live music during some parts of the event and recorded music during others.
5. Surprise 'em!
Pablo Neruda is the world's most romantic poet, and a modern, pretty paperback edition of his love poems makes a wonderful, lasting guest favor that's much more meaningful that a bag of Jordan almonds! If you buy in bulk, you might get a discount — contact your bookseller directly. And don't forget to add a personalized bookmark thanking your friends and family for sharing your big day with you.
6. Offer a Dessert Buffet
You can assume most people have a sweet tooth, so have guest get involved in creating their very own dessert. A cupcake-making station is a reinvention of the popular hot fudge station. Have abundant trays of different flavors and colors: a guest might pile crushed Oreos on a chocolate buttercream cupcake or top a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese. This sort of do-it-yourself treat is absolutely guaranteed to bring out the kid in everyone! If you're planning a warm-weather wedding, feel free to get really playful with refreshments. Consider serving up a nostalgic and fun Sno-Cone station. It's easy to rent a shaved-ice machine from the caterer or a party rental company. Add a choice of colorful syrups and even your favorite apres-dinner liqueurs. Think frozen White Russians, Orange Shaved Ice with Grand Marnier, or Ruby Port and Berry. This will be the hit of the party.
7. Be More Entertaining
Consider unexpected, untraditional entertainments, like tarot card readers, magicians and flip book stations (booths where guests create quick movies and make mini books). Ask yourselves what sorts of activities the two of you like to do. You can use your shared interests as surefire wedding inspiration. (Did you meet at a comedy club? You may want to hire a stand-up comic.) Or you can use your heritage as inspiration: We've had couples surprise their guests with ethnic dancers or musicians who share a set with the band. You could hire square dance instructors. Have them teach guests to do a line dance — they'll have a blast.
8. Host Those Stations
Guests love having a chef prepare a dish just for them. Chef-hosted stations of single items are very popular like an heirloom tomato salad bar with local tomatoes and cheeses. We've also seen gazpacho made to order. Look to your region's specialties. If out-of-town guests can't get it at home, it's a special treat. Display a '100 Mile Table', filled with local produce and artisanal foods, all from within one hundred miles of your celebration — handmade cheeses, homemade pickles — and great local beer!
9. Try a Wine Tasting
Looking for a fun, interactive cocktail hour idea? Provide "flights," or 1- to 2-ounce tastes of three different wines. Everybody can get a little notebook with information about the flavor notes. Another plus: As long as you can supply your own wine without being charged corkage fees, this option may cost less than some speciality bars.
10. Hire the Local Food Truck
Long after dinner's over, and guests are still out on the dance floor, serve up a surprise snack. Arrange to have a local mobile food vendor pull up his truck outside your event. Give guests a wrist band or a ticket so they can walk up to the truck and get a snack, then come back inside and start dancing again!
11. Personalize Your Guest Book
Photo booths have been done at many weddings. If you'd like to try something new, give guests dry-erase boards and markers and set up a colorful curtain as a backdrop. They write messages to the happy couple, and are photographed with them in front of the curtain. It's interactive, inexpensive — you can even appoint a friend with an iPhone to take the pictures — and when you put the photos in an album, it makes a one-of-a-kind guest book.
12. Make a Special Toast
Instead of a pricey tasting bar, make one toast with a favorite liquor. Maybe a tequila toasts, if it's special to the couple. Then you can limit the amount everyone drinks, which allows you to serve better quality liquor.
13. Choose a Sweet Treat
In lieu of a traditional favor, you might send guest off on their merry way with a midnight snack. Give them milk and mini donuts served in takeaway boxes. Or hand out packages of cookies iced with your monogram or beribboned boxes holding two artisanal chocolates or even small tins of a speciality tea.