Your reception. You've found the perfect dress, shown your engagement ring to everyone you know and all your wedding plans are nearly complete! The reception is the celebration and the final event before you head off to your "happily-ever-after."
After photographing many, MANY weddings I can share some valuable insight and my perspective on how to make that part of your day even MORE fantastic too!
A lot of time is spent decorating, all those gorgeous details are important! A lot of money is spent on food, you want your guests to enjoy their time and have enough energy to dance the night away! The drinks for the toast are prepared, the DJ is ready to roll - BUT, it's really, REALLY important to think of all the other aspects of the evening, the traditional events and how they flow to get the most out of your night.
So many times the reception is put on "automatic." The bride and groom arrive, supper is served and after that, everything else is tossed in the mix, wherever and whenever it fits comfortably without a plan. BAD NEWS.
When you imagine your reception, you imagine people eating, laughing, dancing, celebrating, and they will-if you give them a plan to follow. Kind of like a path you'd hike on. Keep them on the path, entertained and involved and they'll follow you anywhere. Leave them too long at a rest stop, and they'll head back to their car. It's the truth, I promise.
I advise my brides and grooms to tend to the reception like they have the wedding. Don't just assemble the ingredients and hope it turns out ok. By the time you make your grand entrance, you've already been on the go for 7 hours getting dressed, photos, the ceremony and guest dismissal, you're tired and ready to relax, and celebrate right? NO! Not quite yet! :-)
Be prompt. If dinner is to begin at 7 - be there on time. Nothing makes guests feel unimportant than waiting an unreasonable amount of time on your behalf. You are the guests of honor and they're waiting for you!
Don't spread out the traditional activities (toast, first dance, mother/son, father/daughter dance, bouquet toss, garter toss) across several hours to keep guests in their seats all night. Guests will exit the reception when they feel activities have slowed down. Be speedy with your traditional activities so EVERYONE in attendance can see them. Please don't make your great-grandma wait 4 hours to see if your cousin Lucy catches your bouquet. :-)
I've experienced that by hour 3.5 of your reception, many guests have either gone, or are preparing to leave. A fun core group of family and BFF's will be there until the last song is played and chair is folded, but for the most part, everyone else will have politely exited to head home after their tummies are full, they've celebrated and laughed with you, and caught all the sights.
**** When asked, I've recommended the bride and groom enter their reception, immediately cut the cake (so the guests don't have to wait for it to be served after they're through eating) then proceed into their first dance BEFORE SUPPER while the caterers are preparing the food tables. Prayer before supper, eat, toasts, then into the dances and garter and bouquet toss. In an hour or so, all the obligations are MET, and the rest of the night is YOURS! Everyone is still in their seats, and WHO had time to feel bored with all that going on???
More Tips and Suggestions:
Something nice to do, is play a dance favorite from your grandparents era. You'll be surprised to see the couples get up and slow dance.
Have the DJ request all married couples to the floor - then as he plays a song, he asks couples to leave based on years of marriage, starting with couples who have been married less than 24 hours, all the way to the couple married the longest that attended your wedding. That's a touching "Anniversary Dance" that will make everyone cheer.
If the dance floor isn't full - try a group dance - Electric Slide, Cupid Shuffle, Chicken Dance, Hokey-Pokey or the Twist. They're cliché, but irresistible!
I hope this helps someone! Don't put your reception on autopilot, WORK IT!!! and you'll remember it forever!