10 Fabulous Reception Ideas
By: Kristen Castillo
Style plays a huge role in your wedding. From the right gown to the best flowers to superior design, you want your event to sparkle. It’s not always easy mixing the latest trends with your personal tastes, but your wedding is just the opportunity to blend these ideas into a memorable occasion. San Diego Style Weddings asks local catering professionals and coordinators to share their suggestions for fabulous reception ideas.
1. Get Interactive
A wedding is a fun occasion so why not get your guests involved in the action? Do something to get their attention and get them mingling with other guests. Liz Beck of Liz Beck Weddings & Events says one way to make a reception interactive is to rent a photo booth. Guests can pose for a fun strip of photos. “Your guests are entertained throughout the process,” explains Beck. “It can still be classy and be entertaining.” Remember, the more your guests are involved in the party, the better. Plus with a photo favor, they’ll have a souvenir from your wedding,
2. Plan a Snack
Sure you’re probably serving guests a full meal, but after dancing and socializing at your reception, they’re bound to get hungry in the later hours of the party. Have your caterer prepare a late night snack or late night buffet like a French fry bar with condiments like cheese, ranch dressing and truffle oil. Or serve your guests a sweet treat like chocolate chip cookies and a shot of cold milk. “It’s a last minute sweet at the end of the evening,” says Tracy Apodaca catering manager at The US Grant Hotel. “Guests really enjoy it. It’s a nice surprise.” Your sweet treat can also be a to-go order: “Send your guests home with a warm cookie, a carton of milk and a straw for the road,” suggests Joanna Falb wedding designer & consultant at Unforgettable Event. “When they are departing, ask the valet folks to ensure each guest is tucked into their car with your favorite ‘roadie’ treat. Be creative and have fun!”
3. Pick a Theme
Not every party needs a theme, but having one sure makes the event very enjoyable. Brainstorm ideas with your guy to find a theme that fits your style and your personalities. Then have a blast arranging all the details around that theme. “I recently had an event that did a Persian theme for their event,” says Barbara Berning, catering sales manager at The Westin Gaslamp Quarter. “This included draping the ceiling of the room to look like the interior of a desert tent, bright colored lights around the room, and the cake was shaped like a stack of Arabian-style pillows. Very fun!” A quintessential San Diego theme is one all about the sand and surf. “If it’s a beach wedding, we try to make it as fun as possible,” says Beck. “With beach weddings, we’ve done a bit of a parade. We lead everyone over to the reception. We go from the recessional to the reception.” Embrace your theme and go all out for a truly memorable event. “Whatever you decide on for your theme, be sure to make it something that is personal and apply it subtly or feel free to go big!” says Falb. “Appealing to the senses is a powerful way to set your event apart – taste, touch, sight and smell – whether it be through luxurious linens, authentic dishes, signature drinks, etc. Be creative and your guests will be sure to remember.”
4. Color Your Event
Traditionally weddings have a color scheme, but to make your party pop, go for a cutting edge color. These days color trends are leaning away from some recent choices like the still popular chocolate brown. In its place are metallic hues. Apodaca says metallics like silver, gray and yellow are emerging as the new “it” colors for weddings in 2009. Use these soft, yet shimmery colors all over from chair covers to candles to the trim on your wedding day china.
5. Plan Untraditional Transportation
Who says you have to arrive at the reception in a classic limo? You can abandon tradition and opt for something super fun like a double decker bus, the San Diego trolley or a party bus limo. “Rather than intimate, make it more fun,” says Beck. Gather your wedding party together and share the ride to the reception with your friends. Besides, an unusual mode of transportation can make for some memorable wedding photos. You can pose in the limo bus, hang off the back of the trolley or goof off on the double decker bus.
6. Get Fancy with Drinks
At most weddings, couples serve champagne, wine and beer, plus some specialty drinks. There’s nothing wrong with this formula, but you can take things up a notch. One way is to have a focus on vino. Guests can learn a little about wines and become savvier wine drinkers. Apodaca says at The US Grant, with many weddings, “We pair each course with a wine from start to finish.” Another option is to host a “bubble bar” which is “Champagne or sparkling wine with sparkling juices like fresh mango puree,” says Apodaca. Guests can mix their own drinks and whip up the perfect concoction for their taste buds. Cheers!
7. Rethink Seating Arrangements At a stylish reception, no detail is overlooked, especially seating arrangements which ordinarily are pretty standard. When planning your seating chart, remember to look for interesting ways to set up tables and pair guests. Berning suggests mixing square tables with traditional round tables. The difference may seem subtle but it will have a big impact because it adds such visual interest to the seating arrangements. She also recommends large “family style” setups similar to scattered feast tables. “This works best for smaller events,” says Berning who says it’s a match for parties with fewer than 50 fifty guests. “This setup creates a more intimate, casual atmosphere that fosters conversation between the guests.” Work with your venue to create a seating plan that accommodates guests and the flow of the room. “Be sure to consider the space and what will work best with the number of guest, schedule of events, etc., allowing your guests the ability to move with ease,” says Falb. “Creating intimate seating arrangements with lounge furniture allows your guests to transition to different spaces, just as the event itself transitions throughout the night.”
8. Mix Up the Menu
This is your party and you get to make all the decisions. When selecting a menu, consider foods that you love and cultures that you enjoy. Then talk to your caterer about creating a menu that matches your taste in cuisine. Whether you want a BBQ buffet or a sit-down seafood dinner, don’t feel tied to a venue’s menu. No one says you have to have a chicken and potato dinner with a salad. If that’s too boring for you, meet with the chef and come up with different options. And don’t forget to vary the food service too. Falb suggests having “several different service methods throughout your event – tray passed, stationed items, family style service, etc. Keep your guests interested and engaged. They will surely wonder…what is next?”
9. Go Green
Many brides want to be socially conscious on their big day. One way is to serve an organic meal. “A lot of weddings are starting to go green,” says Apodaca. “Our chefs work with local markets.” Keep the organic theme with organic linens like cotton or burlap and choose pesticide free flowers and simple blooms like orchids. These organic ideas and others can keep your event socially savvy and pretty. “You’re still keeping that look, but you’re being more conscious,” explains Apodaca.
10. Hire Interesting Entertainment
“Our clients have become increasingly adventurous when it comes to selecting who will be performing at their event,” says Falb. “From cover bands to ukuleles, belly dancers to henna artists. the goal is to keep your guests entertained at this highly anticipated social event!” A major part of the reception is music, dancing and entertainment. DJs and bands are the traditional entertainers hired for a big event, but they’re not the only choice. “I’ve started to see a revival of ethnic types of entertainment: mariachi bands, Polynesian dancers, belly dancers, etc.,” says Berning. “This makes for a more interesting reception and allows the couples to bring a bit of their traditional culture to their special day.”
There are lots of ways to personalize your reception with style and elegance. Follow your instincts and your wedding plan will take shape.