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Secrets To A Flawless Wedding Reception

  |   By Rachel Cravit

If you're a detail-obsessed bride, read on. While you may have thought of absolutely everything -- from personalized hangers down to the "I Do" shoe decals -- we have a few suggestions that your wedding guests will actually take note of. These details are often overlooked at receptions in favour of the non-traditional first dance, framed family photos, novelty groom's cake, and custom cake toppers. While fellow brides may squeal with delight, wedding guests who can't hear, eat, socialize or get in two words with the bride and groom will likely be too disgruntled to care. That's where these tips come in.

No.
01

Make sure guests know where to go

For starters, your wedding reception (and ceremony, if it's in a different place) should be easy to locate. If you've devoted an entire Pinterest board to signage, you're on the right track. This is one detail wedding guests will truly appreciate (bonus points for driving directions included in the invitations). Signs pointing to your wedding ceremony, reception, or both (if they're located in the same place) will be a welcomed detail for guests.

Image by Mike Clarke Photography

No.
02

Offer refreshments before cocktail hour

If your wedding is slated for the warmer months, commence cocktail hour early with refreshments before the ceremony. Even if the ceremony is being held indoors, wedding guests may need to cool down when they arrive. Guests will appreciate not having to wait until the cocktail hour to enjoy a refreshment, especially in the warmer months. Provide water bottles or coolers of lemonade (hard or soft), iced tea, or fruit-infused water for your guests to quench their thirst before the bar officially opens.

Image by Naoum Photography

No.
03

Avoid lag time

Afterward, ensure an ideal transition from the ceremony to the wedding reception by skipping the in-between photoshoot. Instead, take your pictures before the ceremony, so wedding guests don't get antsy waiting to see you. Taking photos before the ceremony will spare you grumbling guests who are anxious for the reception to begin.

Image by Prairie Lane

No.
04

Make everyone feel welcome

The smallest gesture of gratitude -- like this chalkboard welcome sign -- can uplift an entire wedding reception and make your guests feel just as delighted to be there as you are. Another equally charming touch: leave a small handwritten note at each place setting. It'll help your Aunt Susie know you're happy she's there.

Image by Mike Clarke Photography.

No.
05

Help guests find their seats

Rather than leaving your guests to fend for themselves at the escort card table -- prone to human traffic jams as everyone digs for their name card -- consider a large-sized poster instead. By listing guests alphabetically -- along with their table number -- they will be able to locate their seats within seconds.  An organized seating program will also earn high marks: eliminate seating cards in favour of a large seating chart and identify tables by number.

Image by Troy St. Louis

No.
06

Include table numbers

Weddings are often packed with so much personalization that it can be confusing to guests. While you and your fiance may have met in Paris, went on your first date in London, and got engaged in St. Moritz, sentimental table names are difficult to locate unless a number is included as well.

Image by Fly Photography

No.
07

Make sure guests know who's who

You've spent months collecting antique frames to adorn the beloved family photos expertly clustered throughout the reception space. If guests don't know who these people are, however, they'll likely walk right on by. Print up captions for each picture to make sure everyone gets a glimpse of Nonna on her wedding day.

Image by Ikonica

No.
08

Practice dietary diplomacy

Your Kosher co-worker, Halal Zumba instructor, and vegan cousin are all attending the wedding, not to mention your gluten-free girlfriends from the book club. While you aren't obligated to hire multiple caterers, it is appropriate -- and often expected -- for an alternative vegetarian meal to be provided. Where religion is concerned, many banquet halls which normally prohibit outside catering will allow individual meals to be brought in for your Kosher or Halal guests. Accommodating these various dietary restrictions -- especially if they apply to a larger group -- will be far more appreciated than those clever DIY favours you've been working on.

Image by Storey Wilkins

No.
09

Keep acoustics in mind

While this detail is often overlooked, sound management can have a considerable impact on your wedding reception, for better or worse. Discuss the logistics with your band or DJ beforehand; guests should be able to hear one another during dinner and dance their faces off afterward (though it doesn't always happen this way).

Image by Yorke Photography

No.
10

Appoint a party instigator

Some guests may need an additional push -- or pull -- to get out of their seats, especially if they're attending your wedding solo or don't know a lot of people. Commission an outgoing bridesmaid or groomsman to help make guests feel welcome and encourage them to get on the dance floor. Even if they refuse, the friendly atmosphere will earn major points among your wedding guests.

Image by John Robert Woods

No.
11

Allow for obstruction-free conversation

Towering centrepieces not only cause serious damage to your bank account, they also get in the way (literally) of your guest's ability to socialize. Instead, opt for smaller arrangements; grouped together, they can look just as bountiful as the larger specimens; only your guests will actually be able to see one another.

Image by Marianne Smith Photography

No.
12

Keep things moving

It's your day, and your guests are there to celebrate you and your new hubby. That said, if guests get too bored during speeches, it can put a damper on the festivities. To avoid this situation, limit speeches to the bride and groom, parents, the maid of honour, and the best man. Also, advise your friends and family to keep their speeches around or under five minutes and split them up between courses.

Image by Tyler James Photography.

No.
13

Take time to circulate

Image by Christine Reid

We know. It's your wedding. You have a million things to worry about and schmoozing should be the least of them. However, taking the time to circulate throughout the reception, chatting with guests, and making them feel welcome will leave a bigger impression than flip-flop dancing shoes, bathroom baskets, and charitable favours combined.

This article was originally published on Sep 17, 2012
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