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Inspiration » Wedding Planning » 20 Wedding Reception Ideas

20 Wedding Reception Ideas

by Hannah Huber

While all parts of one’s wedding day is special, planning the wedding reception is oftentimes one of the the most fun and creative part of the process. Partners these days focus on highlighting the aspects of the celebration that mean the most to them rather than following the typical ceremony to reception game plan.

The key to planning the perfect reception starts with the floor plan. Pinpoint the aspects of your reception that are most important to you and your partner. Is it all about the food? Focus on planning the perfect seating chart and craft a killer menu. Looking forward to dancing the night away? Lean into cocktail tables as opposed to a formal sit down dinner to encourage guests to boogie down. Be sure to take into account whether you will have a band or DJ. Accommodating a stage in your layout will take up more space than a DJ stand and may leave you scrambling for table space. 

Embrace your wedding reception planning with a few extravagant touches that will make your wedding reception unforgettable for you and your guests. Here are 20 ideas to spark some inspiration.

New Year’s Celebration

You don’t have to get married on December 31st to have a New Year’s inspired celebration. Play off the theme of new beginnings and celebrate you and your partner’s love until the stroke of midnight when you embark on the first full day of marriage. Metallics, confetti, and kitschy hats set the mood for a fun reception. Take the theme a step further and ask guests to show up in something that sparkles.

If you happen to have a wedding on New Year’s Eve, even better! Countdown with your friends and family as they help to usher in a new milestone for you and your love. Upgrade the champagne for a midnight toast send off to give your reception a little extra luxury.

Have A Standing Dinner

While we love the elegance of a classic sit down dinner, heavily passed hors d’oeuvres can give your guests a chance to dance and mingle with people they may have not seen in years. Choose a variety of substantial dishes like sliders, mini grilled cheese and soup, and tuna tartar to ensure the party has enough to eat, even if they are busy chatting. While this is a more casual presentation, it does make for a fun party!

Bohemian Chic

There is so much more to boho style than the typical flower crown. Keep your decor light and fun by mixing patterns grounded in a central color palette. Pick three colors to serve as the statement shades and weave them into your accent pieces through assorted china and glassware. Keep your linens and flowers neutral, but feel free to play with texture to keep with the mismatched theme. 

Be Your Own DJ

Go big and make your wedding reception lavish and uniquely yours. That means the dance floor is going to be lit. Encourage your guests to mix up the playlist throughout the night by adding a suggestion box next to the DJ stand. The result is usually a fun mix of nostalgic hits and new music that will coax everyone into a boogie trance.

Instagrammable Corners

Everyone loves a photo booth, but long lines make for antsy guests. Create little vignettes throughout your reception that are the picture perfect setting for the gram. For example, make a greenery wall and add a fun neon sign you designed with your partner. The photos will be fabulous and you can display the sign in your new home together. 

In addition to the step-and-repeat style backdrop, rent a few vintage furniture pieces and decorate the corners of the venue with chandeliers and fun props. Make sure you have a hashtag picked out because it’s about to blow up!

Keep It Local

The focus on local vendors and products reached new heights in the past few years and we suspect will only get better. Spoil your guests with locally made favors that give back to your community. Make sure to include a little note explaining where the gift comes from and why it’s so close to your hearts. The exposure will do wonders for your favorite small businesses.

Share Your Love Story

Every couple has that defining fireworks moment that brought them to the altar today. Share that epic moment by incorporating it into your reception. Did you bond over your love of red velvet cupcakes? Make sure there is a tower of your signature treat on the dessert table along with a framed explainer for your guests on the meaning.

Share Family Recipes

Speaking of desserts, does your family make the best pie/cake/baklava in town? What better way to encourage bringing the people you love together than with a family favorite treat. Enlist the best baker in your family to share a little taste of home at your wedding.

Honor Loved Ones

In the midst of celebration, there is an inevitable tinge of sadness for those who won’t be there to wish you well on your journey into married bliss. Many families experience loss making special days a little harder. Celebrate your loved ones by honoring them in your receptions. Hold space for them at your ceremony, invite your guests to dance to their favorite song in their memory, or donate to a charity in their name.

Departure Snacks

A night of dancing (and beverages) really works up an appetite even if you’ve prepared the ultimate wedding menu. Give your guests a send off they will always remember by handing out comfort food as they leave. Get creative and put together a little mini meal with a slider, fries, and mini coke.

Polaroid Cameras At Every Table

Disposable cameras are great, but they don’t exactly scratch the itch for an instant image. DIY a photo display wall with scalloped string and clothespins for your guests to show off their skills. The polaroids are a fun activity and a great way to capture memories throughout the party. Put the photos into an album to enjoy for years to come.

Embrace An Epic Exit

Don’t get us wrong, we love a sparkler exit, but here’s to taking it up a notch. Brainstorm a creative exit with your partner that fits the venue and your personal taste. If you are getting married by the water, make your grand departure on a vintage speed boat. Are you and your partner known for hitting the road to travel the country? Have your guests bid you adieu in a vintage Volkswagen Bus. With this trend, feel free to go big to go home.

Flowerless tablescapes

This year, we are seeing couples swapping tall flower centerpieces for a natural vibe on their reception tables. Think eucalyptus leaves, tree fern, and bear grass intertwined into scalloped garlands or tufted into terracotta vessels. The shorter centerpieces will keep the conversation flowing.

Keep Your Guests Comfortable, No Matter The Season

While peak wedding season takes place in late spring and early fall, many couples tend to also see the upside of an off-season wedding. Dot your reception area with smokeless fire pits, propane heaters, and baskets of blankets to keep warm while tying the knot outdoors in late fall. Getting hitched in the height of summer? Give guests that modelesque windswept photo by placing fans by the photobooth and keep fancy packs in a cooler by the dance floor.

Game Hour

To make your wedding feel inclusive, try rebranding “Cocktail Hour” as “Game Hour”. Setup classics like Giant Jenga, Connect Four, and Twister to create a playful atmosphere while you are off taking your wedding photos. This is a great icebreaker for your invitees and it keeps the focus on fun rather than drinking.

Do An Outfit Change

Okay, so the outfit change is nothing new in the wedding industry, but with the focus on having fun at the reception, newlyweds want to let loose. We are seeing brides trade their heavy wedding dress mid-way through the reception for a dance-friendly jumpsuit or short dress. For grooms, trade dress shoes for sneakers and ditch the jacket and tie.

Bold Colors

Coral is the hue of the moment, but more importantly we are seeing couples take the plunge into the unconventional when it comes to color palette. Don’t be afraid to embrace the unusual!

Community Dinner

In lieu of self serving, couples are embracing community style dining. Not only does the family style solution encourage chatter amongst your guests, it also keeps the vibe casual and fun.

Design Your Own Logo

Remember that neon sign we mentioned earlier? Really put your own spin on it by working with a graphic designer to create your own logo. Deviate from the typical monogram and work with your sweetheart to craft something truly unique. Love to travel? Encapsulate your names into the shape of your favorite destination. Have the same favorite movie? Use an iconic line like “Welcome to the party, pal” from Die Hard written in a fun font. You can use this logo on napkins, escort cards, welcome signs, and your wedding invitations.

Make It A Multi Day Celebration

As wedding sizes are trending smaller, couples are feeling the urge to treat their nearest and dearest to the ultimate celebration. The wedding ceremony serves as the central event, but the day before and after will be filled with activities and a chance for more one on one time with the to-be-wed. This is a great way to feel like you have gotten to connect with each of your guests without rushing around on your big day.

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