Wedding receptions come in all shapes and sizes and everyone has their own opinion about what makes a reception great. Some people value decadent five course dinners and others dream of hours of partying with plenty of drinks and dancing. On the other hand, some couples prefer a reception that, while still tons of fun, is short and to the point and let’s you move on to your happily ever after. If that’s you, here’s 7 simple tips to plan a quick reception that doesn’t compromise on your favorite festivities.
1) Do a Receiving Line After the Ceremony
I get it, people don’t like receiving lines because the guests in the back row are left sitting there forever while waiting for their turn to be dismissed by the bride and groom. But even though it can feel like a huge chunk of time, it really is the quickest and most efficient way to make sure you get a chance to talk to each one of your guests and thank them for coming. Otherwise you end up wandering around during the reception trying to make sure you talk to everyone. Not only is this impossible, but it also means you either miss out on your chance to eat and dance or you do all three which takes double the time and really stretches out how long your reception lasts. There will still be plenty of time to talk more with your close friends and family again but since you’ve already touched base with everyone, you won’t be spending tons of time making small talk with your great aunt’s new boyfriend during your reception.
2) Make a Clear Path From the Ceremony to the Dinner Tables
Once you’ve dismissed people, they have to have a good understanding of what they’re supposed to do next. Otherwise they end up hanging out and never making it to their table until they’re repeatedly coerced to do so by ushers or an emcee. The next thing you know, you’re starting your reception 30 minutes late. To combat this, make sure your officiant gives good instructions after the ceremony and make a clear path to your dinner tables. Literally lining the pathway helps as well as good signage if there’s quite a distance between the ceremony and reception areas. However, the best way to get people seated quickly is by providing an incentive and what gets people more motivated than food? So salad or cheese ball or some other appetizer out on the table and ready to be eaten is the easiest way to get your reception started promptly.
3) Take All Your Pictures Before the Ceremony
Now that you’ve figured out how to get your guests seated quickly, the next thing you have to accomplish is getting the bridal party to the reception on time. The easiest way to do this is to take all of your bridal party and family pictures before the ceremony starts so that only minimal pictures are needed in between. Thanks to the invention of the “First Look” where the groom sees the bride for the first time on camera before the ceremony, this is becoming much more popular. Not only does this keep your guests happy because they aren’t struggling to find something to do while you take ten million pictures, but it also gets your reception started earlier and you move on to the rest of your life quicker! Remember, that’s the goal here.
4) Make A Reception Playlist
When I was planning my wedding, I wanted to know exactly how long everything would take (Type A personality, maybe?). The best way I found to do that was to make a playlist for the entire reception and let it be the guide for when to move on to the next event. So after everyone was seated, the bridal party was announced and my dad prayed over the meal. I then had my emcee start a playlist of five songs totaling somewhere around 20 minutes that played while we ate dinner. As soon as it finished, we knew it was time to start the toasts. Likewise, I put together a playlist for dancing that simply played from start to end. By doing this, I could accurately plan out exactly how long my reception would last and it kept things moving along nicely.
5) Do Toasts and Dances During Dinner
So even though my dinner playlist definitely lasted twenty minutes, I knew people probably wouldn’t be done eating by then. That was ok though because I specifically wanted people to be able to listen to the toasts from the Best Man and Maid of Honor and then watch my husband and I’s first dance and the father daughter dance WHILE they were still eating. (Remember these dances were timed out on the playlist so I knew exactly how long this portion will take.) This cuts back on time tremendously because it’s an easy way to multitask. People eat and watch a show simultaneously all the time and because your bridal party and parents are the first to get their food, they are usually mostly done eating by then anyway.
6) Do Dessert and Dancing Simultaneously
On the note of multitasking, another thing that doesn’t need its own dedicated segment during your reception is dessert. Instead you can let people serve themselves cake while other people are dancing. Not only does this majorly cut down on time but it also gives those non-dancers something to do besides awkwardly watching the dancers dance. And while there are some dedicated people who want to be on the dance floor the entire time, most people are happy to take a break for a song or two while they eat a couple of cupcakes.
7) Let Your Sendoff Plan and Time Be Known
This is perhaps one of the best ways to keep your reception on schedule. At some point, when you have everyone’s attention, let them know exactly when and how you plan to leave your reception. Maybe you’re doing a Sparkler Tunnel at 9 pm or Fireworks at 10:30. Whatever it is, announcing it will keep everyone accountable to staying on schedule because you all have the same goal in mind. Additionally, giving people this information will make it more likely that they stick around to see you leave because they know exactly what to expect and will be motivated to wait for a fun send off. This way you will likely be one of the first couples to leave your wedding which was a high priority for me.
If partying late into the night is something you’re excited about, then by all means don’t worry about a quick wedding reception. But if you’re hoping to keep the celebration short and sweet it will take careful planning and effort. My wedding started at 7:30 pm, we left at 10:30 sharp and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. It was three quick hours of pure wedding romance and fun. I sincerely hope this helps you plan the reception of your dreams and your wedding goes smoothly! It’s once-in-a-lifetime so remember to soak it all in and enjoy your day ❤️