Category Archives: wedding reception ideas

beautiful summer wedding with lighting and beautiful dance floor

How do I start planning an awesome wedding reception?

The wedding reception is the kingpin of a beautiful wedding day, but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Instead, this step-by-step guide breaks it down into easy-to-plan tasks that create an incredibly fun wedding reception that everyone looks forward to and talks about for ages to come.

Decide on a budget and future planning.

If you haven’t already, make a few key decisions before you start wedding planning. You’ll find wedding planning really comes down to a series of wedding questions. Sit down with your partner and ask yourselves:

  • Where do we want to get married?
  • What is our style?
  • Do we want a big or a small wedding? How big is our guest list?
  • What is our budget? Who is paying for each wedding item?
  • Do we have time to plan the wedding? Or would we prefer to hire a wedding planner?
  • What is one thing we really want at our wedding venue?

Find the right reception venue.

This is one of the most important details of planning a wedding reception—after all, this is the backdrop of your big night! Choose a venue that fits with your wedding atmosphere and checks off all the practical boxes off the checklist.

If you want to host the ultimate dance party, make sure you ask about any limitations on volume and curfew times. Some venues need to shut down the party early because of local municipal and community regulations. Even outdoor venues need to abide by these restrictions. In addition, ask these questions:

  • Is the venue available on my wedding date?
  • How many guests does your venue accommodate?
  • Are other weddings or events held at the venue at the same time?
  • What is the cost of the venue? Are there any overtime fees or other costs?
  • Is alcohol allowed on site? Do I need to get the alcohol or is it provided by the venue?
  • What staffing is provided by the venue?
  • Does your venue carry liability insurance?
  • Is the venue handicap accessible? Is there parking nearby?
  • Are there local hotels my guests can stay at?
  • What is your cancellation policy?
  • Do you offer equipment rentals (i.e. chairs, tables, tablecloths, décor)?
  • When can I tour the venue? (Tip: never book a venue without seeing it in person.)

Once you have the venue booked, it’s time to start thinking about equipment rentals and décor (and venue policies). Most venues only allow free-standing décor that won’t damage the walls and structure. If the venue offers equipment rentals, discuss the specifics of your event needs. For venues that don’t offer equipment rentals, ask for recommendations for the best event rental companies and décor services. Start brainstorming ideas for wedding favors that fit with the décor and atmosphere.

In addition to finalizing event rentals, work with the venue to set a tentative wedding reception layout and schedule. Don’t leave any meeting with venue staff without setting deadlines for finalizing details and understanding the next step.

Hire a caterer.

The meal is a big part of the wedding reception, which is why booking the caterer is the first steps of planning a wedding reception. Sometimes, the caterer is part of the wedding venue package; for others, the process involves online research and asking friends and family for recommendations. When selecting a caterer, interview each caterer and ask a few questions:

  • Is your company available on my wedding date?
  • Do you have a guest minimum?
  • What is the cost per guest? Are there any additional fees or costs?
  • Do you offer different dinner services (i.e. buffet, family style, sit-down)?
  • Is bartending and drinks offered as part of your services?
  • Do you carry insurance?
  • Can I schedule a tasting? Is there a fee for the tasting?

If you want to keep your wedding reception dance party going well into the night, ask the caterer about a late-night course that fuels your guests. Another idea is to hire a food truck for a creative twist (with permission from your venue, of course).

Hire the best wedding reception entertainer.

You’ve got the place and the meal set, now it’s time for the fun: planning the wedding reception entertainment! Decide whether you want a band or wedding DJ (use this list of wedding entertainment pros and cons).

Wedding entertainment is one of three details that make the biggest impact on guests. The others are the venue and food. When setting the budget, allocate enough funds for a quality vendor that keeps guests on the dance floor.

There a lot of different ways to find the best wedding DJs in Chicago, including asking your friends and family or doing online research. Be careful about relying entirely on a “Chicago DJs near me” search, however; take your research a step further and check social media and popular websites like the Knot and Wedding Wire for other couples’ opinions of the DJ.

When you do narrow your options down, ask each DJ these questions:

  • Is there a wedding DJ available on my wedding date?
  • Do you have any experience with weddings?
  • Can you provide references?
  • What is the total cost of the DJ service? Are there any package deals that you offer?
  • Do you overtime fees? Is there a travel charge?
  • What “extras” do you offer (i.e. lighting, photobooth, etc.)?
  • Does your service offer back-up DJs and equipment in case of an emergency?
  • Is dinner music service part of your services?
  • Do you customize your play list to our tastes? When do we need to get our ‘must play’ and ‘do not play’ lists to you?
  • Does your service carry insurance?
  • What is your cancellation policy?
  • When can we meet?

Make sure to ask about any special requests, such as a bilingual MC, before signing the contract. You’ll be glad you did when you’re celebrating on your special day.

35 FUN Wedding Reception Ideas Your Guests’ll Always Remember

wedding guests in photo booth with silly hats and funny faces“Do you remember that cool game we played at such-and-such’s wedding reception?” “That night was so much fun!” “Seriously, we didn’t want to leave the reception.” Every couple wants to hear quotes like this from your guests (either in-person or on social media-does it matter?) but it can be hard to sift through all the lists of awesome wedding reception ideas. That’s why we’ve compiled a full list of fun wedding reception ideas (or you can ask us for reception entertainment ideas) that your guests’ll rave about long after you’ve gotten back from your honeymoon.

Wedding Games

  1. I Spy
  2. Mad libs
  3. Table Trivia
  4. Wedding advice games
  5. Shoe Game
  6. Dance Freeze
  7. Limbo
  8. Hangman
  9. Wedding crosswords

Off Dance-Floor Entertainment

  1. Photo booth (with fun photo booth props)
  2. Indoor bowling
  3. Ring toss
  4. Corn hole
  5. Pool table
  6. Chess board
  7. Sparklers & fireworks (ask your venue if they are allowed or if a permit is needed)
  8. Caricature artist
  9. Interactive food station
  10. Kid-friendly coloring station
  11. Face painter
  12. Photo stand-ins
  13. Offer fun rides (i.e. carriage, wagon, boat, etc.)
  14. Slideshows or photo walls of the couple
  15. Fun late-night course (fuel to keep guests on the dance floor!)

Dance Floor Surprises

  1. Fun newlywed entrance (find ideas for fun wedding reception arrivals here)
  2. Flash mob
  3. Celebrity arrival (i.e. famous artist, sports star, sports mascot, etc.)
  4. Surprise family or friend entrance
  5. Dance lessons
  6. Confetti or balloon drop
  7. Choreographed first dance
  8. Cool lighting
  9. Play song requests from the RSVP cards
  10. Wedding attendants choreographed dance
  11. Entertainer show (i.e. acrobats, comedian, magician, etc.)

Wedding Reception Games Your Guests’ll Want to Play

wedding guests having fun dancing at wedding receptionWant your wedding to be known as the “fun wedding reception” everyone remembers? Make your guests feel like they’re part of your big day. Hire a good DJ and use these games to make the night memorable (and don’t forget to get your DJ in on the fun!).

I Spy

Years ago, couples used disposable cameras on all the tables to capture fun wedding moments. Now they use hash tags and social media to get spontaneous photos. ‘I Spy’ makes catching those fun moments fun for your guests. The game goes like this: give your guests cards with lists of fun moments (and fun objects) to take pictures of. Include dance floor and photo booth poses (and props) in your list to up the fun factor with props and poses. Make the hunt for photos fun!

Mad libs

If you want to get the guests at your table talking—especially at tables where guests don’t know each other—make it fun with a table game. Mad libs is always a crowd favorite, and a fun way for your guests to pass the time, especially if you have a time gap that you need to fill. Mad libs are also customizable; simply make your own cards about the couple on your computer (with a few strategically fun blanks) and you’ve got a night of laughter. If you hire a quality DJ, get them in on the game too; your guests’ll have fun playing as a group or reading their Mad lib cards from their table.

Table Trivia

This fun and customizable table game is a great way to incorporate your theme into your wedding reception. Simply create your table trivia cards with wedding theme related questions, or type up cards with questions about you as a couple. For a simple twist, make the answers into a customized crossword puzzle.

Wedding Advice

Since your DJ is your emcee for the evening, ask your DJ to give directions for a wedding advice game. Simply put blank cards on all the tables, and request that guests put their best piece of wedding advice on them for the newlyweds. You can collect and read them or ask your DJ for a fun way to make them a fun part of the evening.

Shoe Game

The shoe game can be done with shoes or pictures (on sticks). Either way, it’s a lot of fun for you and your guests! Simply seat the bride and groom back to back, and ask them to hold a shoe (one bride and one groom) in each hand. Have your DJ ask questions with an answer that is either bride and groom (i.e. who goes shopping more, who has more shoes, who takes up more of the closet, etc.) and ask the couple to hold up the shoe with the answer. To involve the guests, hand out paddles with pictures of the bride and groom and ask them to make guesses with you.

Dance Freeze

Dance freeze is just what it says. During the dance, ask your DJ to tell your guests to freeze while dancing. You, and your guests, are going to be giggling all night long at the facial expressions and odd poses.

Indoor yard games

These words may sound like an oxymoron, but don’t hesitate to bring in yard games (that won’t do any damage to your venue). Let your guests play ring toss (glow in the dark?) or bowling and have some fun.

Limbo

This classic game is a crowd-pleaser for the ages. Get out the limbo stick at  your wedding reception, and let your DJ take the fun to a new level with their entertaining comments.

From Start to End: Ways to Put Your Wedding Reception Over-the-Top

shot of people dancing at epic wedding receptionPlanning your wedding reception is not as simple as it seems. From dinner to the last dance, there are a million details (or so it feels like!)—and a million ways to make your wedding reception an incredible night (from start to finish).

Unique wedding entrance

Boat, helicopter, sparklers, antique car, red carpet, finish line (more info on unique wedding reception entrances in this post). Start your wedding dance off with a bang—or at least with a unique wedding entrance. Choose a wedding entrance that fits you as a couple or ask your DJ for unique entrances they remember (chances are it’s so distinct that your guests’ll remember it too!).

Cool first dance

Every couple has a first dance at their wedding. Make yours different by choosing a unique first dance; use these criteria to decide what that dance is: 1) that you and your partner can do 2) that fits with your wedding theme. If you need suggestions, ask your DJ. They’re familiar with songs that can make a statement, and can refer songs that fit you and your wedding.

Surprises

Everyone loves surprises, which is why the right surprise is a big hit at a wedding reception. Choosing the right surprise can be a challenge (ideas for wedding reception surprises here), but the moon is the limit. Think fireworks, confetti or balloon drop, celebrity or mascot visit…

“Other” Entertainment

Not everybody wants to “cut a rug” out on the dance floor; make sure you give those guests ways to entertain themselves when they don’t want to dance. Think trivia cards, photo booths, yard games…we’ve outlined a few different ways to entertain those guests who don’t want to join in the dancing (or for those who want to take a break!).

Dance lessons

If you want to give your guests a memorable night, give them a dance lesson they’ll never forget. Bring in a dance instructor who can give your guests a fun dance lesson they’ll remember (and use!) for years.

Late night fuel

If you want to keep your guests dancing, give them fuel to keep going. A late night course of sliders, pizzas, popcorn, or another favorite dish is going to be a big hit with your guests—especially after you’ve gone out of your way to make your wedding reception epic.

6 ‘Other’ Ways to Entertain Your Wedding Reception Guests

wedding guests in photo booth with silly hats and funny facesEveryone loves a good wedding dance, but sometimes it takes more than just a rocking wedding reception to keep your guests entertained. Use these ideas to keep everyone enjoying your wedding dance—even the non-dancers.

Table trivia

For those who don’t want to venture out on the dance floor, give them trivia cards customized about the couple or the theme of the reception (i.e. history questions about the 20’s, your city, movies, etc.) Get your DJ in the act with fun trivia music and announcing the winners and their rewards (i.e. the right to head up to the buffet first, door prizes, extra drink, etc.)

Photo booth

Give your guests a chance to have fun AND take home a memento from a great wedding reception. Use these tips for choosing the perfect photo booth, then take your photo booth props to the next level by choosing props that are connected to your wedding reception theme.

Yard games

If you’re hosting an outdoor wedding, give your guests a good corn hole toss, lawn bowling, ring toss, or ladder ball game to take on. For a wedding reception with a more indoor designation, bring your yard games inside or add fun options like a foosball or pool table.

Coloring station

Your youngest guests are going to love a coloring station meant just for them—and their parents will thank you too. In addition to coloring pages, add a simple craft that won’t cause too much of a mess (to the kids and their clothes).

Interactive food station

An interactive food station has two major benefits: 1) it’s a major draw and 2) it keeps your guests fueled and ready to head out on the dance floor. Choose a food station that’s tied into your location or theme for the ultimate coordinated entertainment addition.

Caricature artist

A caricature artist can be a novel addition to any wedding reception line-up. Perfect for an outdoor carnival theme, a caricature artist can be a major draw when your guests need a break from the dance floor.

10 Fun Ways to Spice Up Your Wedding Reception Dance

wedding guests in photo booth with silly hats and funny facesEveryone’s been to the same old wedding reception dance.  You dance, you drink, you sit around and talk.  If you’re looking to up the ante at your wedding dance, and make it, well, fun (because isn’t that the point?), it’s time to add some spice to your special night so your guests are enjoying themselves.

Personalized song requests

If you want to involve your guests in your wedding play list, ask for their input before the wedding reception.  Ask your guests for their requests on your invitation, and hire a DJ that can make their song requests a reality and get your guests out on the dance floor.

Photo booth

Nights of fun come and go but pictures from a photo booth last forever…and remind you over and over what an awesome night it was at your wedding.  Use our list of fun photo booth props to make the night’s photos even more memorable.  Make sure you rent a quality photo booth from a reliable company so you can follow through on your promise for a fun night.

Table games

No matter how great your DJ or band is, you’re always going to have lapses in the action—and guests who need entertaining.  Create personalized table games for your guests (Mad libs, anyone?) that include clues related to the newlyweds or put out the classic board games at every table for a fun night.

Group dance

Entertain your guests with a surprise first dance, flash mob, or a pre-planned special dance with your wedding party.  Make everyone take note when you and your bridesmaids start dancing on cue, or when your whole wedding party busts a move.

Late night fun course

Don’t just order a few pizzas at the end of the night.  Entertain your guests with a late night course that’s fun and delicious, like gourmet pretzels, sliders, specialty fries, camp fire treats, or a fun feast served from a food truck.

Little people fun

Plan entertainment for the littlest people at your wedding. It’ll make their night (and their parents) a lot of fun, and give them something to do when they’re not on the dance floor.  Put out crayons, coloring and activity sheets, and other fun games they’ll enjoy.

DJ Trivia

To get even the most table-happy guests out of their seat, ask your DJ to lead your guests in a night of trivia.  Ask your guests to stand up and sit if they have birthdays in a certain month, are wearing red, etc., etc.  Or have your guests answer questions about you as a couple and give out fun prizes (bingo?).  To make it fun, hire a DJ that is as good of a game show host as an emcee.

Confetti

If your venue allows, a splash of confetti is sure to surprise your guests and give them something to remember (along with these other fun wedding reception surprises).  Coordinate the confetti drop with your DJ so the confetti drops at just the right time during just the right song.

Special appearance

For a fun touch, hire an entertainer to get your guests talking.  If you’re planning a vintage wedding, hire celebrity impersonators from the era to join your guests on the dance floor.  For a magical evening, hire a magician to make a special appearance (again, coordinate it with your DJ).

Cue cards

If you want to spice up the normal wedding toasts, use these tips for a great wedding toast and cue cards to get the guests in on the act.  Make up cue cards and have someone hold them up during the toasts or during another fun part of your reception.