It’s not all about image…
A major concern for soon to be married couples regarding their wedding day is that their guests have fun at the reception. Specifically, they are usually worried that no one will dance, but the truth of the matter is, as long as everyone enjoys themselves in any way, you should be happy with how your reception turned out—even if a single person leaves without hitting the dance floor. (Speaking of dancing, here’s how to hire the perfect wedding DJ) The typical mindset is that if people don’t dance, they will get bored and leave early. You should understand that, yes, your guests may head out early if they are bored, but people don’t leave because the dancing didn’t happen. Nor do they say your wedding sucked because they didn’t dance. This is why I’ve come up with this list of ten reception tips that will save your celebration. Tips that couples, wedding coordinators, location consultants, planners, DJ’s and more haven’t even considered! Get ready as I pull the curtain back on these sneaky little reception wreckers you can easily fix!
1: The bar is outside of the reception room.
Believe it or not, the location of the bar is the biggest negative issue most receptions face! If you put the bar out of the reception area, what will happen is your wedding guests will get divided up into groups…those that drink and like to be loud and have fun and those that don’t drink but still like to be loud and have fun (be sure to go over that guest list!). The people at the bar are not only separated from the event reducing the look of your guest count, they also may miss an important event like the first dance or the bouquet toss.
The train of thought that a lot of couples have is that putting the bar outside on the patio or in the lobby is a great idea because a)People can have a place to escape to and have a conversation and b)We gotta use every little space we can at the reception hall to get our money’s worth! Both ideas are wrong.
First off, if the music is so loud that people can’t have a conversation somewhere in the reception room, you need to fire your DJ–or at least tell them to bring the music down to a tolerable level. Secondly, just because you have different areas doesn’t mean you have to utilize the space.
This goes for trying to compartmentalize your reception by putting different components in different areas, such the photo booth in the lobby, the candy bar in the side room, and the coffee station out on the patio. Of course, you don’t want to cram everything in the room if it’s going to feel “crammed” but you want to avoid separating your wedding guests into little cliques. A family that stays together, parties together!
Do your best to put the bar in the room with you or at least in an area that is within ear and eye-shot of the main hall.
2: The couple gets taken away from the celebration by the photographer.
Many times a photographer will have their own agenda regarding their photo shoot–I mean, your wedding reception. Seriously though, most photographers understand, if they need to take you away for a sunset shot or a cool side picture, that they need to get you back within 10 to 15 minutes. If they keep you away too long, some guests who are unable to find you might actually think you’re gone for the night. And the truth is, if you’re gone, they’re gone! People typically don’t stay and celebrate after the couple leaves for the night.
If your photographer needs you for a shot, be sure they don’t keep you away more than 15 minutes or your reception might suffer. Just look at your watch and tell them you need to be back by a certain time–and if they rudely keep you over, just walk away. But make sure they come back with you to finish shooting the night!
3: The bride and groom get trapped in the lobby talking for an hour.
Since the bride and groom are truly the central focus, wherever they be so be the party! Therefore, if you get stuck out in the lobby talking to guests for an extended period of time, many more guests will gravitate toward where you are. In effect, you are emptying your reception room, leaving those remaining to think that things must be wrapping up since the guest count is becoming fewer and fewer.
You don’t want to just walk away from those guests in the lobby–oh, how rude! Simply bring them back into the reception room to talk and hug and kiss and receive massive amounts of complements of how good you look! Again, a professional disc jockey should have top-notch equipment that won’t blow out conversations even during open dancing (see Bose L-1’s on the right for reference!).
If you are thinking you need to hold off on the cake cutting until late in the evening because it’s the signal that guests can leave, you couldn’t be more mistaken. People don’t leave early because of the cake cutting. They leave due to the cake cutting interrupting the fun! Coordinators and the like will schedule the cake cutting event in the middle of open dancing. So, to have your cake cutting, you kill the music and turn up the lights. Sounds like the end of the party, huh? As long as your guests have been enjoying themselves through dinner (see #5), you can have your cake cutting early–and eat it, too.
There’s nothing wrong with scheduling the cake cutting right after dinner–which is when dessert usually happens, last I checked. If you’re concerned people will be too full to eat the cake then, pre-plan that the catering staff wait about an hour to serve the cake.
5: The dinner hour is an hour of nothing.
If your friends and family are having great conversations, moving around, and having a good time already during dinner, then you shouldn’t worry. If you need to liven it up–which most weddings do–consider adding some fun. Getting your guests involved during dinner may mean interrupting their meals, so be sure whatever events you have planned that they are only a couple of minutes long. Whether it’s a center piece give away or a First to RSVP game or even the newlywed game, keep it short and sweet. There are a lot of fun ideas in the Wedding Songs Timeline Planner. How convenient, right?
6: Guests are too spread out through the room.
Sometimes the RSVP’s don’t come back as strong as they should and the number of guests don’t match up with the reception room. If that’s the case, don’t try to fill the cavernous areas with guests by spreading out the tables, leaving large gaps in between. Not only will you be putting some of the guests further away from you, the stars of the night, but they will be further away from each other and less likely to interact with each other–which is what you want at a wedding.
Instead draw the tables in and leave the wings open for strollers, camera bags, and of course, the bar, photo booths, gift tables and so on. People won’t look behind them and think, “Wow, how empty!” but they will turn their attention toward the head table and the dance floor. Check it out:
7: Dinner and dancing are in two separate rooms.
What? I’m not kidding. Some locations are small, but they want to make more money, so they quote you higher maximum guest counts. Cha-ching for them, wah-wah horn for you. It turns out they will pack your “dinner room” then expect everyone to get up and move to a separate room for the dancing. Some brides and grooms may even want this, but in the end, there are so many things wrong with this kind of set up, I would highly recommend finding a location that won’t inconvenience your guests in this manner.
Can the above work? Of course, but you will need to make sure everything and anything associated with dinner and dining (main course, dessert, cake, etc.) are completely done. Also, expect to lose a percentage of people in the transition.
8: It’s too bright for dancing!
I have done many daytime weddings, with bright sunlight glaring in through the windows, where the dance floor was packed.
The main reason for the above reaction is that I set these people up with fun in the hours leading up to dancing. This is the exception, not the rule, especially when it’s a night time affair. Most DJ’s or bands have no idea how to prime a large group to dance. Also, believe it or not, grown ups are actually shy and do not want to be up dancing in front of everyone if it’s too bright. I know you’re thinking, “What? Are we in Jr. High again?” but it’s true. So, it’s best to have the DJ or the coordinator ask the catering lead dim your lights for dancing.
9: The wedding DJ, entertainment, or band is either bad, mediocre, or a non-factor.
Of all the vendors and pieces of your “wedding pie” the one that will have the biggest impact on the overall success of your reception being fun is your entertainment. Sorry photographers, florists, coordinators, and cake people, but I’ve been to weddings that were missing you–and they were still an awesome and fun celebration! I’m not saying the previous aren’t important in the overall scheme of things, but without great entertainment, your wedding is either just a group dinner (over in an hour) or a pretty art display.
Choose to hire–no, invest–in the best band or DJ you can find or your event may become a regret.
10: Inappropriate or wrong styles of music.
You can play the most beautiful mix of harp, classical, and Enya during dinner, but that still won’t keep your guests from…falling…a…sleep…zzz. When I refer to the wrong music, that is what I mean. The previously mentioned styles are great for just before a ceremony, but not during the cocktail hour or dinner. If you want a lively and robust reception choose lively and robust music for the background mix. Of course, LMFAO or Pantera is going a little too far, but you get what I’m saying. And you don’t have to play love songs all through dinner either! You’re in love. We get it.
Also, watch the dance mix, too. There’s no reason your DJ or band should do a 50 minute mix of disco or rap if no one is dancing.
Easily fixed by pre-planning.
As you can tell, the above can all be handled ahead of time by speaking with your location contact, your entertainment, your coordinator, and your photographer. Although some of these items do refer to your dance floor, most are more about logistics. I’ve been involved with tons of weddings where there was no dancing at all (read some Mormon weddings) and yet at the end of the affair, the guests were filing out, they were going out of their way to say to me that it was the best wedding they’ve ever been to.
Be sure you hire entertainment that knows how to get your guests involved in a non-cheesy and interactive way, along with guiding you with your music selections. Talk with your coordinator to make sure they aren’t stuck in their way of doing things, and are willing to try a different approach. Finally, find a location that does not have their own agenda and understands the importance of keeping your guests and you together to celebrate the happiest day of your lives!