A wedding reception will probably be the biggest—and most expensive—party you and your significant other plan (until, of course, the time comes to throw your future daughter’s wedding). The event is as much for the happy couple as it is for their guests, so it’s crucial that everyone has a great time.
Picking the right location is a major factor in the overall success of the big day, along with fabulous entertainment and delicious food. And while there are a few constants everyone expects (first dances, best-man’s speech and cutting the cake, to name a few), today’s brides and grooms are looking for more—the sort of things that will make their reception as unforgettable for them as it is fun for their family members and other guests.
“There are so many creative ideas available that are inspiring couples to do something different,” says Lynda Barness of Philadelphia’s I Do Wedding Consulting. “They want to make their day truly theirs. All are memory points that make your wedding standout from the rest.”
Here are a few to get you started.
First impressions definitely do matter.
“If you’re throwing a fancy black-tie wedding, then literally roll out a red carpet for your guests to set the formal tone from the minute they approach the door,” says Renee Patrone, owner of Weddings by Renee in Philadelphia.
Red carpets can be had for any occasion at Select Event Rentals (weparty.com) in King of Prussia. To enhance the magic, have a photographer there to snap pictures of your A-list guests upon arrival.
For those proud to be Philadelphians, Barness has seen couples welcome a little hometown pizzazz to the party by strutting in some Mummers in full costume to entertain the crowd. Or, if you really want to get everyone pumped up, look no further than the Eagles Pep Band. What football-fanatic bride and groom wouldn’t love hearing guests break out into an “E-A-G-L-E-S … Eagles!” chant? And we’ve heard that the Phillie Phanatic also has a soft spot for romance. Hint, hint.
Once only found at carnivals and malls, photo booths are becoming a must-have accessory at receptions, so guests can ham it up and make some memories to take home with them. Philadelphia’s Go Festive (gofestive.com) specializes in renting photo booths, which come with a prop bin filled with boas, oversized glasses, funky hats and more to get your guests into the spirit. The photos can be customized with the bride and groom’s name and the date of their wedding, or Go Festive can design a custom logo to match your theme.
Another great idea: Go Festive has Flipbook Stations, where guests are invited to step behind the camera to make a brief video clip. In less than two minutes, the footage is made into a 60-page flipbook of photos—customized with the couple’s logo on the cover—that guests can take home with them.
Why not treat guests to a good old-fashioned sugar spread? Couture Candy Buffets (couturecandybuffets.com) in New Jersey can set up an elaborate display for guests to snack on during the reception, and they can even bring home a treat bag afterwards. If you prefer, you can set up the buffet on your own.
“A florist can rent you the jars and scoops, along with ribbons matching the colors of your day to decorate the jars,” says Patrone. “Candy can be bought from any local candy store, but make sure you put in the order ahead of time to ensure your favorites are available.”
And don’t forget small plastic bags, so guests can fill up before they leave.
Dessert buffets are a more typical way to go. “Cupcakes continue to be a popular dessert,” says Barness. “One client made them extra special by asking the caterer to make them from a family recipe.”
For the groom who enjoys time with the guys over a few drinks and a good smoke, Patrone is a big fan of Coastal Cigars (cigarrollingevent.com), which will bring in cigar rollers to entertain guests and demonstrate the rolling process. Some companies can even come up with custom labels for your event. “Just make sure there’s a place to smoke them away from your other guests, like an outdoor patio,” Patrone says.
After working up an appetite on the dance floor, guests will crave something sweet to munch on. “One of my favorites is passing around hot chocolate-chip cookies and milk shooters,” says Barness. “Who doesn’t love hot chocolate chip cookies?”
Another idea: Serve mini ice cream cones right on the dance floor. Short of guests making a contribution to a charity of significance to the bride and groom, take-home food may be the most popular party extra. One of Barness’ clients offered Krispy Kreme doughnuts, while another decided on Philly soft pretzels.
Most receptions end at 11 p.m.—just when the party is starting for some guests. “No one wants it to end,” says Patrone. “Treat guests to a two-hour after-party complete with drinks and late-night nosh.”
The reception venue may offer extended hours, or you could relocate the party to another nearby spot.