How to make your reception fun and not boring!

Jan 4

I’ve been to a lot of weddings. I’ve been in the middle of many dance circles, photographed a lot of toasts, eaten a ton of cake πŸ˜‹ (not literally a ton, but close), and I’ve been to some incredibly fun receptions.

I want ALL of my couples to have bomb receptions, so I’ve written down my best tips for making your reception super fun. πŸ’ƒπŸΌπŸ•ΊπŸ»

This blog post is everything I’ve noticed from studying what makes an awesome reception so awesome. It’s basically me pretending to be a psychologist, and it’s a peek into my notes from years of people watching (not as creepy as it sounds).

Of course, everyone’s idea of a fun reception is different, so feel free to pick and choose what advice applies to you.

Here we go!

Stay on the dance floor yourselves

This may be obvious, but the main activity at most wedding receptions is dancing, so it’s important that people actually dance. Your guests will look to you to see what they’re supposed to be doing. If, through your actions, you show that you want to dance and have a good time, people will follow.

Your guests want to see you, talk to you, and take pictures with you, so if you’re on the dance floor, they’ll be there too!

Bonus tip:

If you want everyone to dance as soon as “open dancing” begins, have your DJ announce that everyone (yes, EVERYONE) should come out to the dance floor for a big group photo. As soon as the photo is taken, play a fun song that will keep everyone on the dance floor.

Don’t make your reception too long

This is a big one. Setting the length of your reception is important. The goal is to make your reception fun the whole time, without being so long that people end up waiting for it to end.

In my experience, the average reception is 3-4.5 hours long. This allows plenty of time for dinner, special dances and toasts, and open dancing.

So, what time should you begin and end your reception? It all depends on sunset and the time of year. When wedding planning, the first time you should set is the time your ceremony begins. In the winter, the sun sets early, so a 3:30pm Ceremony start time may be perfect. The summer, the sun sets late, and a 6:00pm Ceremony start time is better.

Although ending your reception at 10:00pm may sound right, if you’re getting married during winter, that’s a loooooonnng reception. In December, for example, your reception will likely end at 8:30pm or 9:00pm, after it’s been dark for 4 hours. The actual time is relative. Make sense?

In case you’re looking for help setting your timeline, here are some links for ya:

 

Set expectations for your guests

People love knowing what to expect. What time is dinner? When will we eat the cake? When does the night end? Do I have time to go to the restroom before toasts begin?

A great way to set expectations is to create a program or sign that lists when key events will happen.

 

 

Hire a great DJ or band

There’s a big difference between a professional DJ and your uncle with a speaker + a playlist on his iPhone. I know weddings are expensive, but this isn’t an area to skip hiring an expert.

A great DJ will not only play your favorite music, but will control the flow of the event, give guests instructions (“tables 6-10, you can now join the line for dinner”) , and provide all the microphones and audio equipment you’ll need to make toasts. Trust me, you won’t want to DIY this, because audio equipment is complicated 😬🀯

 

UT Austin wedding reception dancing

Don’t play 7 minute long songs

During the “open dancing” portion of the night, one of the most exciting things that can happen is for a new song to start playing. People go CRAZY when they recognize a song they love, and the first 30 seconds of a song (or the first time the main chorus is played) is the most fun and exciting.

SOOOOO, instead of playing a full 4-5 minute long song, why not just play each song long enough for people to freak out and have fun singing long? Then, after the magic has worn off, move on to the next song and begin again!

I’ve seen DJ’s use this tactic and the results are INCREDIBLE. People will stay on the dance floor for HOURS. At the end of the night, everyone’s exhausted from dancing, but the excitement of each new song actually keeps them on the dance floor time and time again.

πŸ‘†This right here is one of the biggest and most important tips in this whole thang.πŸ‘† Talk to your DJ about this idea if you want people to dance all night!

 

UT Austin wedding reception dancing

Interactive music & events

Your reception will likely be several hours long, so you’ll need to schedule events to break up that time into smaller chunks and give guests things to do.

Reception event ideas:

  • Anniversary dance
  • Toasts
  • Wedding march
  • Bouquet/ garter toss
  • Second line (Google this if you’re not familiar with this awesome New Orleans tradition)
  • School songs / college alma maters / sorority & fraternity wedding traditions

 

Familiar music that invites everyone to the dance floor:

  • Cha Cha Slide (Like I said before, about 3 minutes of this is probably enough)
  • The Git Up
  • Copperhead Road
  • Cupid Shuffle
  • Gangnam Style
  • Harlem Shake
  • Jump Around
  • YMCA (as cheesy as this song is, every generation of guests will participate and have fun doing it)
  • Wobble

 

Other songs that people go crazy for at weddings: anything from the 90’s (boybands and Spice Girls especially) and anything from the 70’s.

 

How cute is Natalie while her sorority sisters sing to her?

Props

Have you thought about taking photo booth style props onto the dance floor? It can be a lot of fun!

Ideas: Big sunglasses, glow sticks, beach balls, flower crowns, hula hoops, leis, funny masks and hats.

 

Alcohol

This is one of the tips that you can ignore if you’d like. I’ve been to many amazing receptions that didn’t include alcohol. But if it’s your thing, here are some alcohol-related tips:

  • Consider your guests, what they like to drink, and how wild you want the party to get πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‡
  • Create a signature cocktail for the bride and the groom. Name them something cute. Make them taste really different from each other so there’s something for everyone.
  • Near the end of the night, ask your DJ to announce the last call for the bar

 

 

In case you’re thinking… “But what if we don’t want to dance?”

That’s completely fine! Not every reception has to be a dance party.

Tips for receptions without dancing:

  • Focus on the food! Great food makes any party awesome. Give a little extra love to your food budget and offer a variety of food options set up in stations across the venue.
  • Consider live musicians as entertainment – a string quartet, a jazz ensemble, a mariachi band… get creative with it!
  • Create layers of entertainment. What do I mean by that? Imagine a reception with several areas to explore. One room has comfortable couches for mingling and a slideshow of photos projected on the wall (grandparents will love this room). Another room has live musicians (younger people will love this room). The third area is an outdoor patio with a bar, board games, and a craft station for kids. And every area has a food station with different options. See what I mean? There’s something for everyone.

 

Consider a fun exit

This is another totally optional idea, but it’s fun to plan an exit that includes your guests.

Ideas: sparklers, bubbles, bird seed, eco-friendly confetti.

I’ve also seen receptions end with the bride & groom individually hugging each of their guests goodbye and thanking them for being there. There are many ways to personalize your exit and go out with a bang!

 

Villa Antonia Texas Wedding Venue Photos

Bonus tip: Other fun reception ideas

  • After your guests leave the room to prepare for your exist, have a private last dance alone in the empty room. This gives you time to decompress and reflect on how awesome your wedding was.
  • Remember to put your own spin on wedding traditions, and if a tradition doesn’t feel right, skip it.
  • Having a photo booth – even a simple one – is a fun activity for guests!

 

Want to know more about wedding photography with Lauren? >

More helpful wedding day tips >

 

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