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 😋 (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. 💃🏼🕺🏻
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!
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!
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.
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:
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.
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 😬🤯
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.
👆This right here is one of the biggest and most important tips in this whole thang.👆 Talk to your DJ about this idea if you want people to dance all night!
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:
Familiar music that invites everyone to the dance floor:
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?
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.
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:
That’s completely fine! Not every reception has to be a dance party.
Tips for receptions without dancing:
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!