By Anne Morrissy
Planning your wedding reception can be overwhelming, so we talked to Sarah Rodriguez, wedding/event planner and owner of Chicago-based Sarah Kathleen Events, for her advice for the best way to schedule a wedding reception.
1. GUESTS ARRIVE.
Rodriguez says most couples are forgoing a traditional receiving line in favor of greeting guests at their tables during dinner. Upon arrival, guests enter a cocktail reception.
A card and gift table, sometimes identified with a small, tasteful sign, should be set up close to the entrance. The guest book can be placed nearby.
2. THE GRAND ENTRANCE.
The latest wedding trends involve getting creative with the bride and groom’s entrance to the reception. “Many couples opt for dances or some other fun theme,” Rodriguez explains. Often, the parents of the bride and groom will be introduced first. Next comes the bridal party, and finally the couple makes their grand entrance and takes their place at the head table.
3. CUTTING OF THE CAKE.
While it may seem counterintuitive to cut the cake so early in the night, Rodriguez says the benefit is twofold – first, you are able
to capitalize on having the attention of the whole room following the grand entrance. Secondly, performing this tradition early allows the caterers to cut and plate all of the cake in time for it to be served as dessert. (For couples who opt for a small “cutting cake” but serve guests from a sheet cake instead, the cutting of the cake may still take place after dinner.)
4. THE TOASTS.
Again taking advantage of the benefit of the guests’ attention, the wedding toasts make a natural transition from the cutting of the cake. The number of toasts is up to the couple but may include the parents of the bride, the parents of the groom, the best man and/or the maid of honor. Rodriguez points out that scheduling the toasts prior to dinner is especially effective at weddings that opt for a dinner buffet or food stations, as this is the last time you can be assured that all of your guests will be in their seats at once.
5. DINNER IS SERVED.
For a multi-course, plated dinner, the logistics should be left to the catering company. However, for buffets and food station-style dinners, couples may be involved in deciding the order in which tables should be dismissed, to avoid long lines and allow the caterers sufficient time to restock as needed.
6. TIME TO DANCE.
After dinner is cleared, the couple may wish to say a short thank-you toast before transitioning to the dancing portion of the evening. This is also when a bouquet or garter toss may happen, though Rodriguez says many couples are replacing that tradition with an “anniversary dance” that invites all of the married couples to the dance floor, ultimately presenting the bouquet to the couple that’s been married the longest.
7. LATE-NIGHT SNACK.
Many couples choose to offer a late-night snack served toward the end of the evening. This often takes the form of a fun food with meaning to the couple. The late-night snack can be set out on a display table or may take the form of a food truck parked outside the reception.
8. THE GRAND EXIT.
Rodriguez says that some event planners will stage a grand exit photo in the middle of the dancing to ensure that all of the guests are there to participate. However, she recommends that the grand exit (which may include sparklers, glow sticks, paper airplanes or other fun props) be saved to the end of the dancing as a way to put a final cap on the night and encourage guests to make their exit from the venue.
Rodriguez points out that the most important thing to remember at the wedding reception is to have fun, and enjoy the company of the friends and loved ones who have come together to help you celebrate. If you’ve done your planning and hired good people, the details should take care of themselves.
ADD SOME EXTRA TOUCHES:
Many cultures have special traditions that take place during a wedding reception, from the guests pinning money to the bride’s dress at a Polish wedding to dancing the Hora at a traditional Jewish wedding. Adding these cultural traditions can personalize the reception.