Planning your wedding can be the next big project for you as a couple – and lead to the most fun you’ve ever had.
Many couples miss out on all the fun & excitement of planning their weddings because of all the unknowns, all the unanswered questions, and all the doubts. I mean, planning a wedding is no easy task. But planning your big day – and making sure you have everything you need to bring your vision to life – can turn out to be a daunting task.
And one of the more difficult parts of the process is planning the perfect wedding reception. Sure, receptions are among the best parts of your wedding. But all those moving parts mean planning a great reception might not be as easy as it seems.
So, I’m here as your favorite Melbourne wedding photographer to give you my top 5 wedding reception tips & tricks to make sure your reception turns out to be everything you’ve always dreamed of. I’ll also go over some areas of planning your wedding reception that you may not have even thought about until now.
Using these wedding reception planning tips and addressing these areas early on in your wedding planning process can save you TONS of headaches, last-minute decisions, and disappointments in the future.
So, grab a seat, grab a drink, and let’s dig right into planning the reception of your dreams!
1. Ensure your wedding venue has good lighting
While lighting on its own might not make or break your wedding night…
…it will definitely influence the overall vibe of your entire wedding.
Good lighting at your wedding reception can set the mood – the right mood – on your wedding day.
While bad lighting just makes everything a little worse at both your wedding reception and your wedding party.
But what is good lighting for a wedding?
Well, the standard lighting at most wedding venues – like normal house lights – simply won’t cut it. You want something more romantic and more special for your wedding reception.
So having a candle-lit dinner might sound like a good idea – but then candles don’t give off enough light, so you won’t be able to see much.
I usually recommend either festoon lighting or hanging installations for my couples. Both of them can create an incredibly romantic & magical atmosphere, while still giving you enough light to see (and giving me enough light to take breathtaking wedding photos for you).
You can also go for a combination of different light sources for your wedding reception. Hanging installations giving you light from above, having candles set up at the tables, and a few fairy lights scattered on the walls of your reception space.
With that being said, it’s always a good idea to involve your wedding team in your planning process – your photographer, your wedding planner, and maybe even a lighting specialist – to make sure you get the best vibes & the best photographs at your wedding.
2. Make a grand entrance at your wedding reception
How will you enter your wedding reception?
Your guests will arrive at your reception venue soon after your wedding ceremony. Your guests know you’re coming any second now, and they’ll be there waiting for you, glancing at the entrance every few minutes.
Just imagine all the anticipation…
So, don’t drop them flat with a boring cattle call entrance that they’ve seen a thousand times at any common wedding. Instead, make sure your wedding reception entrance is one to be remembered!
Do something special, do something unique – do YOU. Now, whether that’s a massive dance party, entering with a bang (with confetti cannons), or involving the best man and maid of honour prior to the wedding to put on a show – don’t be afraid to get creative and have fun with it too!
So out with boring entrances off the conveyor belt…
…and here’s to celebrating your love, your way!
3. Hit the dance floor and just do it
…and I’m not just talking about getting it over with your first dance.
No, I’m talking about having the time of your lives on your big day. I’m talking about dropping some killer moves on the dance floor. What I’m talking about is being goofy, being cool, being happy, and being in love. And throwing a great party too while you’re at it!
What’s more, don’t just enjoy your wedding. Let your wedding guests see just how much fun you’re having. Obviously your guests will love it. But even more important, seeing the two of you having fun and dancing the night away will help your guests loosen up and have some fun too.
Many guests will jump up from their seats and join you on the dance floor – maybe even your elderly guests like Grandpa Joe or Aunt Sally. You’ll set the vibe – and they’ll follow along. So make sure you set the vibe you want on your wedding night by having fun.
And besides, I – as your wedding photographer – guarantee that some of your best photos will happen on the dance floor. In fact, I might even join you if your DJ starts playing some banger hits from the 70s or 80s.
But even if you’re not feeling the moves, just a little nervous swaying can lead to some killer in photos, and allow guests to join you on the dance floor. In case you’re not a dancer, you can always ask bridesmaids and groomsmen to take the lead and make sure your guests are all up and dancing.
But if you’re really feelin’ it, you just go nuts and be the life of the party yourselves.
Regardless of whether or not you’re a dancer, the best advice to ensure a great wedding is to have fun and be yourselves. And your guests will follow you…
Noise restrictions? I’ve got you!
4. Don’t forget about toasts & speeches
When it comes to wedding planning, toasts & speeches are amongst the most difficult things to plan.
How much time will each toast take?
When is the best time to plan your wedding toasts?
How many of your guests will want to say a few words publicly?
So, while it might be difficult to fit them into your wedding schedule (but hey, that’s where a decent wedding planner can help you out), you can at least plan for their location.
If you’re thinking about having a dedicated spot for speeches, it’s best to choose a well-lit area, with speakers and cables neatly tucked away. This will create the perfect setting for anyone to speak up without squinting to read their speeches or tripping over loose cables. Plus, it will help your wedding photographer take the best shots too.
Now, if you don’t want one designated spot, then having a roaming microphone is also a great idea. This way, people can speak directly from their seats without having to go anywhere (this is also a great option if you have older guests who might want to say a few words).
5. Cake or champagne tower?
Wedding cakes are super elegant. They also look incredible in photos.
And let’s be real: it’s food, it’s sweet, it’s yum.
But having a cake at your wedding raises a whole new set of issues you might not have thought about…
First of all: will everyone eat it? Maybe, maybe not. Some people might not enjoy the specific flavor of your cake. Others might be full from all the other delicious courses at your wedding reception. And some of your other wedding guests might not be able to enjoy your cake because of health issues – like food intolerances or diabetes.
Secondly, wedding cakes are expensive and delicate. Some couples don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on “just cake”. And the logistics of getting your cake to your wedding venue can turn out to be a nightmare on its own.
But luckily, there’s a great alternative that’s getting super popular here in Australia. Many couples are choosing to have a champagne tower at their wedding to replace their cake.
For one, champagne towers can be set up directly at your reception venue, meaning less of stress for everyone (and fewer possibilities for last-minute mishaps). It’s also likely that more of your guests will be willing to enjoy a glass of bubbly, since, let’s face it: champagne is elegant, it’s celebratory, it’s delicious, and – most importantly – it’s booze.
Plus, since champagne towers have only been gaining traction in recent years, some of your guests may have never seen a champagne tower before – while almost everyone has seen a cake before. So, your wedding might be a first for many people – multiplying your champagne tower’s ‘wow-effect’ by infinity.
And in case you’re wondering, your champagne tower can just as easily lead to some incredible wedding photos – at about 1/4th the cost of cakes. So allow 10-30 minutes for having fun with – and around – your champagne tower, and then your guests can grab a drink and get the party started!
If you still want a cake, I’d suggest opting for a smaller one and taking the left-overs home. Cakes are great, but if I had to choose only one of these options, then – as a wedding photographer – I’d definitely nudge you towards having a champagne tower instead.
PS. If you’re wanting to spice up your exit… read this!
And there you have it, best tips to make the most of your wedding reception. Hopefully I’ve given you quite a few things to think about prior to your wedding.
Oh, and before I forget: if you want someone to capture all the beautiful moments of your special day with breathtaking wedding photography, then you’re in the perfect place! Get in touch to see if I’m still available for your wedding date. If so, I’d love to be your photographer and help you have the best day of your lives!