User Reviewed

How to Plan a Wedding Reception

Six Parts:Setting the dateBudgeting for the receptionDeciding on key elements of a receptionSorting out the seatingPlanning the foodExtras

Planning your wedding reception can take a lot of effort and it all begins with deciding on the location of the reception and the type of reception. Fear not, it's a fairly methodical process provided you're aware of which things need to be covered and what's more, you can have a lot of fun with it too!

Part 1
Setting the date

  1. Image titled Plan a Wedding Reception Step 1
    Set the date for your wedding before you actually start looking for locations for the reception. Keep in mind that many sites are booked a year or even two in advance, so you may need to fine tune the date decision dependent on the availability of your desired reception location, or be ready to change to a different reception venue.

Part 2
Budgeting for the reception

  1. Image titled Plan a Wedding Reception Step 3
    Set down your budget. This is the next big thing, since planning your wedding reception will bring forth the biggest expense. When you go to rent the reception hall, you'll have to give a rounded figure of approximately how many guests you're likely to have. Therefore, an important part of any planning of the wedding reception involves pruning down your reception list; this will also bring about an estimation of the costs per head, according to the size of the room and your requirements too.

Part 3
Deciding on key elements of a reception

  1. Image titled Plan a Wedding Reception Step 2
    Decide whether you will have an indoor or an outdoor reception. Obviously, if want an outdoor event, you'll have to consider the possibility of rain ruining your plan, therefore, keep a hidden ace up your sleeve just in case.
    • The season is crucial, particularly if you're on a tight budget. Planning your wedding reception in winter, at the end of January for instance, will save money or earn you a discount.
    • In some cases, planning your wedding reception requires you choose between Saturday and Sunday as the most convenient days of the week; sometimes Sunday is less expensive.
  2. Image titled Plan a Wedding Reception Step 4
    Decide on the type of reception you'd like to have. Nowadays the two main types of reception are sit-down meal or cocktail party, but other variants such as picnics, a simple cake-cutting, or a beach reception might also appeal. Here are some things to consider in relation to different reception types:
    • Sit-down: It's traditional, guests tend to really appreciate it and it works well for speeches. On the downside, it can feel stuffy and over-planned. It can also be the most expensive option.
    • Cocktail reception: It's hip and modern, and it's also enjoyed a lot by guests. It may cost a lot less than a sit-down, but it can suffer from feeling a bit disorganized and hard to gain the attention of guests for cake cutting and toasts.
    • Picnic: Great for nature-loving couples, and easy to arrange catering can be done using your local favorite sandwich place. Since it's outdoors, there can be a risk of rain and some people might find this too informal for a wedding.
    • Simple cake cutting: For those leaving the registry office, a simple affair of cutting a cake in the foyer, or in a local cafe or even at home might be enough to finish up the occasion with friends who have attended it. This tends to be suitable for very small parties and for people who really didn't want to have any reception fuss at all. Have tea, coffee, and few cookies or cupcakes as well.
    • Beach or yacht reception: Like a picnic, this is outdoors and risks a change of weather but it can be a lot of fun and make for beautiful photos. Again, it may be too informal for some and sand or water may definitely get everywhere!
  3. Image titled Plan a Wedding Reception Step 6
    Consider whether or not you'll have a receiving line. On the positive side, this can provide an opportunity to greet all guests and allows everyone to feel they've had the chance to congratulate you. On the downside, it can take a lot of time and it can begin to feel tiring for those on it. Some guests may also detest the formality of this and having to wait in line. Having divorced parents can also make this an awkward decision for some.
    • If you do have one, this is the order: Bride's mother or parents, groom's mother or parents, bride, groom, maid of honor, then bridesmaids.
  4. Image titled Plan a Wedding Reception Step 7
    Consider whether you'd like to be announced as you enter the reception. This can be a lot of fun and can be done simply and easily by the DJ or bandleader, saying something like "Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the newlyweds Bob and Billie (or Mr and Mrs)", and you can then take your places for dinner.
  5. Image titled Plan a Wedding Reception Step 9
    Decide when to have the toasts and plan to keep them short. While these are both traditional and wonderful, they're a pain when they're too long, too maudlin, rude, or just plain dull. Make the toasts during or between dinner courses, with two or three people speaking each time.
    • Ask all toasters to keep it short and have someone in the wedding party time keep - and be strict about it too.
    • The bride and groom can speak just before cutting the cake.
  6. Image titled Plan a Wedding Reception Step 10
    Decide when dancing will occur. Nowadays most weddings tend to leave the dancing until all courses are finished rather than having dances between courses. Besides your special song, be sure to have songs people will really want to dance to, not strange songs that only suit the taste of a few.
    • Does the bride wish to dance with her father? You could have a father and daughter dance session included.
  7. 7
    Organize the photography of the reception. You will want reception photos as much as the ceremony photos. Organize pictures with family and friends, in special groups or at certain tables.
    • Do you want guests to take photos too? They could each be asked to email digital photos of the evening that they've taken; give them a central wedding photo email set up just for this purpose.
  8. 8
    Consider whether you wish to have any other ceremonial aspects. For example, you might wish to have the garter belt removal tradition in front of the guests. And you might wish to throw the flowers at your reception, as per tradition.

Part 4
Sorting out the seating

  1. Image titled Plan a Wedding Reception Step 5
    Work out seating. If you're planning a sit-down dinner, seating can grow to be a bit of headache so it pays to focus on it early enough.
    • The bride and groom can sit at the dais or raised platform at whatever goes for being the "front" of the room. The bridal party sits with them and they all face the rest of the room. This is not as popular as it once was, as placing the table amid the guests is beginning to take on a more acceptable and modern feel.
    • Parents tend to be seated with other, or they can have respective family and friends at their tables.
    • Elderly people shouldn't be seated too near anything that makes noise.
    • Consider using place cards to help people know where they're going to sit. It's not essential but it can be very helpful. In doing this, take great pains to avoid seating people who don't get along next to one another!

Part 5
Planning the food

  1. Image titled Plan a Wedding Reception Step 8
    Choose the food. There will always be some people with dietary restrictions, so be prepared to provide vegetarian, gluten-free, and other variants as needed. It's a good idea to have asked guests in advance for advice concerning allergies. A cocktail reception will usually on have nibbles and finger foods but still have both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options available. Decide how many courses you want for a sit-down dinner and be sure to check this against your budget.
    • Sit-down dinners usually have menus printed up for them.
    • The method of food service needs to be decided - buffet style (help yourself) or serving at a table? There are also variants such as placing larger servings on the table for guests to help themselves from (family - or Russian service if the waiter holds the food), or plated (arrives at table already done), or French (waiters serve at the table), etc.
  2. 2
    Choose where the wedding cake will be placed during the reception. Decide when it will be cut.
    • Do you want guests to share the cake as part of dessert or to take a piece home instead? Perhaps both?
    • Ensure that the photographer is organized to take a photo of you cutting the cake.


Printable Wedding Table Cards

Sample Guest List Organizer

Printable Formal Table Cards


  • Having music playing in the background during dinner can be a nice touch.
  • Don't go overboard on reception decorations. The event is already filled with food, dancing, and the excitement of the newlyweds.
  • Know what you should expect from a wedding hall when planning your wedding reception. This varies from one couple to another. But it is a sure fact that recommendations and even testimonials are very useful when it comes to planning your wedding reception. The reputation of the location has to be all clear, and with excellent references: it has to be both clean and affordable. Before you actually start planning your wedding reception it is not such a bad idea to look through some directories and find the several establishments that suit your purposes.
  • Decide as to whether or not you want the reception professionally photographed or videotaped.


  • Be careful with alcohol; having drunkards appear in the midst of a wedding reception is fairly undesirable. Ask the venue/bar to provide plenty of non-alcoholic alternatives. Also, don't replenish the wine, etc., after dinner. Instead, bring out tea and coffee, and if guests want more alcohol, have them find their own at a bar in the venue.

Things You'll Need

  • Venue
  • Caterer
  • Decorations
  • Music

Article Info

Categories: Ceremony & Reception