Category Archives: planning a wedding reception

wedding party celebrating at wedding reception

Small Wedding Reception Tips that Make a BIG Impression on Your Guests

If a huge wedding guest list isn’t part of your dream wedding, these small wedding reception ideas are for you. You may not want a crowded dance floor, but that doesn’t mean your guests can’t have a larger-than-life good time at your “not too big, not too small” special day—especially with these do’s and don’ts of planning a fantastic small wedding reception.

DO be conscious of volume at a small wedding reception.

If your wedding venue and guest list aren’t massive, choose a wedding DJ that can adjust their volume so guests aren’t screaming at each other over the music. There are a few ways to ensure that the music isn’t blasting, but one of the easiest ways is to ask the wedding DJ if they’ve played at a small wedding reception (along with these other wedding DJ questions).

DON’T think that you can only use one wedding entertainment idea.

Planning a small wedding doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate big wedding ideas. Your guests’ll appreciate non-music forms of entertainment at the reception: table games, photo booths, interactive food tables plus these other ideas for wedding reception entertainment. You’ll appreciate the great photos that your photographer can get when guests are having fun!

DO choose a wedding DJ that personalizes their song list.

A personalized wedding playlist is a thing of beauty—and a good way to make your small affair feel larger-than-life. When choosing a wedding DJ, ask your potential wedding DJ if they can include your favorite songs and exclude the songs that make your skin crawl.

DON’T think you have to settle for a mediocre wedding DJ because your reception is small.

You may not be hosting the largest wedding reception, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for low-quality wedding entertainers. When hiring wedding DJs, watch for red flags that mean you are dealing with an amateur. Less-than-stellar DJs usually don’t have a business location, have old equipment (and are unwilling to show it to you), don’t respond as quickly, and don’t have back-up equipment or staffing in case of a breakdown or unexpected emergency.

DO add a BIG surprise to your wedding reception.

A wedding reception surprise makes a big impression on guests—and keeps them talking well after the wedding is over! Plus, a surprise is an easy way to add your personal touch and make your special day feel uniquely you. There are many different ways to surprise guests: a sports mascot surprise appearance, confetti drop on the dance floor, or a fun exit for the newlyweds. Whatever you plan, make sure you tell your wedding DJ about the surprise so they can make it build it up into a huge deal.

wedding guests having fun dancing at wedding reception

How to Get the BEST Wedding DJ Playlist

Crafting the perfect wedding DJ playlist for your big day is about more than just choosing your favorites from the 100 Most Requested Songs of All Time. While this wedding planning task isn’t the most complicated, it’s still a major undertaking that can get even better (and more fun!) with these tips.

Start browsing and listening.

The best way to fill in the blanks on your wedding DJ checklist is to start crafting a list of favorite dance songs. Remember, that these songs shouldn’t just be your favorites; they should be your guests’ favorite songs too—plus they should be incredibly dance-able. While your favorite mellow song might seem like a logical option for the list, it’s also a sure-fire way to clear the dance floor and put your guests to sleep.

Choose an awesome wedding DJ.

Even if you’re not hiring a wedding planner, hiring vendors is all about adding members to your wedding team. Hopefully, you’ve chosen every team member for their expertise. This is your chance to lean on them!

To be clear, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give your input into the wedding playlist. Every wedding playlist should be customized specifically to the couple. This is your special day, and the playlist (like every other wedding detail) should reflect who you are as a couple. It does mean that you should hire a wedding DJ (with these questions) who you trust to put together a playlist that reflects your tastes and keeps your guests on the dance floor.

Jot down the songs that make your ears hurt.

An awesome wedding DJ playlist is based just as much on the songs you don’t like as your favs. If there are any wedding songs you absolutely can’t stand, now is the time to voice your opinion. This is the time to talk with your wedding DJ about wedding songs and games you don’t want to hear played on your big day.

Think about non-music entertainment.

The best wedding receptions are a combination of dancing and games. As you plan your wedding DJ playlist, think about what other wedding games you want included. Don’t hesitate to ask your wedding DJ for recommendations; they may have suggestions you haven’t even considered. For guests who don’t want to hit the dance floor, browse through this list of other wedding entertainment to make sure every wedding guest enjoys your big day.

wedding dance floor with deejay

Wedding Reception Schedule and Planning Tips (For a Night of Fun!)

Couples planning a wedding reception, beware: the one commonality among every wedding reception schedule is that they are all different. However, there is a general outline (and a few tips) that can make planning a wedding reception easier—and a lot more fun!

Typical Wedding Reception Schedule

Cocktail Hour

Dinner

Toasts

Cake Cutting

Wedding Dances (Wedding Party Announcement, First Dance, Mother-Son Dance, Father-Daughter Dance, Etc.)

Last Dance

Wedding Reception Planning Tips

  • Choose wedding vendors that coordinate services for a seamless wedding dance (like a DJ that coordinates the schedule with a photographer so you can make sure you get shots of your first dance).
  • Be careful about hiring vendors that a friend of a friend recommends. Always research and look for red flags so you hire the best vendors.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask venue staff and vendors for suggestions; they may have ideas you haven’t considered yet.
  • Plan a lay out that keeps guests circulating and entertained (i.e. such as a photo booth near the dance floor or wedding games in a strategic location that guests can find and enjoy).
  • Hire a wedding entertainer that can serve as emcee and make announcements. Your guests’ll appreciate it.
  • Make sure there is a beverage station near the dance floor so guests stay hydrated…and can keep having fun!
  • Give guests who aren’t dancers other ways to entertain themselves at the reception.
  • Use a wedding budget checklist to ensure that your funds are being allocated for really important items that guests enjoy (i.e. food, dance music, etc.)
  • Add a surprise to the wedding reception schedule for an awesome and memorable moment guests can talk about long after your wedding is done.
  • Make your first wedding dance different from the norm with these dance ideas.
  • Don’t skimp on wedding entertainment; while it might be tempting to hire the cheapest, the entertainment can make the evening or send guests to the door.
  • Tell your wedding dance entertainer songs you want played—and don’t want played—at your dance. Be careful about hiring entertainers that don’t ask; this night is all about you!

How long is a wedding reception?

“How long is a wedding reception?” is one of the most common wedding planning questions couples ask. Typically, a wedding reception (with meal included) lasts between 4-6 hours. The length of your wedding reception is an important part of setting a wedding reception timeline and coordinating key wedding vendors.

This guide to planning a wedding reception can help you plan an awesome 4-6 hour reception. (Plus, use our wedding reception planning checklist to organize all those details.)

Wedding Reception Timeline

Cocktail hour

Dinner (Requires serving and background music)

Wedding Cake and Cutting

Reception Dance

  • Bridal party announcement
  • First dance
  • Song for any reception surprises
  • Bouquet and garter toss
  • Mother-son dance
  • Father-daughter dance

Wedding Reception Planning Tips

Tips from the Pros: Planning the Ultimate Wedding Reception

wedding where they take requestsWe’ve been to a lot of wedding receptions (6,000+). Needless to say, we’ve been part of some fantastic wedding receptions over the years. Our experience is your gain; we’ve compiled a list of some wedding planning tips that you can use to plan a wonderful wedding reception.

Be picky (and be careful!).

There are (literally) thousands of options for every part of your wedding in Chicago: wedding venues, djs, photographers, videographers, florists, bakers…the list could go on and on. As you research and hire the people that make your dream wedding a reality, be selective and wary of every vendor. Look for vendors that have plenty of experience, back-up plans for those “just in case” situations, and good reviews. Be careful of the low-cost options; you don’t want to scramble on your special day because you hired a sub-standard vendor (use this list of specific red flags to look for when hiring a wedding DJ).

Don’t underestimate the value of a “Cadillac.”

We’ve been around many couples and we know how important it is to stick to a wedding budget. However, don’t get so stuck on numbers that you focus only on hiring the lowest cost option. Vendors that are considered the “Cadillac” of their profession can provide valuable services that are worth a few extra dollars (and don’t automatically assume those vendors are not affordable!). Ask your vendors questions specifically about what they provide to make sure you are hiring the best option for your big day.

Lean on their experience.

Assuming that you hire experienced wedding vendors who have more than a few weddings under their belt (like us with our 6,000+), don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations and suggestions as you plan. Their suggestion may have been done at another wedding, but you can still customize the recommendation into an idea that feels very uniquely you (especially when part of a wedding reception that screams you at every turn!). Put simply, your wedding vendors have been there, done that. Use it. You’ll be glad you did.

Have a plan B.

Anything can happen on your big day. As much as you plan out every detail and minute, emergencies can still arise that can alter your original wedding plan (and we won’t even mention the weather, this is Chicago after all!). Be open to the idea that “just in case” situations do happen, and plan accordingly. Pack an emergency wedding kit. Plan for an alternate venue for your big day or photos if bad weather comes up. Find vendors that can still provide service even if equipment breaks or someone gets sick.

Two-way communication is vital for fantastic results.

There is some give and take when planning a wedding. As much as you need answers from your wedding vendor, be aware that you’ll need to give too (in fact two-way communication while planning leads to fantastic, custom results!). At every meeting, ask your wedding vendor what they need from you and when they need it by. As DJs, we can tell you that we need feedback on songs you want played (and not played), pronunciation help for your family and attendants, vendor information, venue limitations information (possibly not if we’ve worked there before), and any special requests that you may have (more information on what your DJ needs here). Keep track of deadlines, and respond as needed (you’ll be thankful you did!).

Focus on your guests.

Your wedding day is your special day, but make sure you keep your guests in mind as you plan. We’ll give you a few examples. Not every wedding guest wants to dance, so don’t plan on just one form of wedding entertainment. Give your guests choices, such as table games, photo booths, yard (or hall) games, and dance floor games (your DJ can give you ideas) that’ll make every guest enjoy the reception (and talk about it for days or years after-ideas for wedding entertainment here). For guests that are enjoying themselves all night (like those dance floor regulars), plan a late night course that fuels your guests and keeps them going.

Plan surprises!

This phrase sounds like an oxymoron; at a wedding reception it’s a really cool way to make your special day more memorable—and a lot more fun! Plan a surprise at your wedding reception that no one sees coming (and make sure you keep it a secret) for an over-the-top wedding reception (here’s a few fun surprise ideas you can use at your wedding reception). If you’re completely lost, don’t hesitate to ask your wedding vendors for ideas (we can help!) that’ll make your wedding reception feel like a night to remember.