Wedding reception ideas

When weighing up various wedding reception ideas it's important to remember that, traditionally, this is the first time you and your husband receive your friends and family as a married couple.  Your wedding reception is one of the few opportunities when almost, if not, all of your friends and family are by your side, enjoying a momentous occasion.

So how do you want to thank your guests for being a part of your marriage celebration?

Wedding receptions come in all styles and sizes.  Where you have your wedding reception, what style you decide on and how many guests you invite are all considerations limited only by your budget.

Wedding reception styles

Hosting a wedding reception for your family and friends commonly accounts for 40% to 50% of your total wedding costs.  It doesn't have to be a budget breaker if you are realistic about what you can afford but it is also about what you want to offer your guests.

Wedding reception styles can be:

Wedding reception champagneCocktail
This is a stand-up function including waiter service of canapés and drinks.  You should ensure there are some tables and seating available for guests.  It's also important, particularly when serving alcohol, that people are served enough food to substitute a meal.

Stations Buffet
This is a stand-up function including waiter service of drinks and offers more substantial plated food from various serving stations around the venue.   Each station offers one or two different plated dishes.  The type of food served only requires a fork to eat with, so guests can easily eat while standing.

Traditional Buffet
This is a sit-down function including self-service of food and drinks.  Guests select for themselves from one main serving station with several alternative dishes available.

Banquet
This is a sit-down function including full waiter service of food and drinks.  Meals can be based on a set menu (everyone has the same meal), alternate drop (two or three different meals that are placed alternately in front each guest) or guests' choice from a limited menu (two or three meal options that guests order on the night).

These basic styles can be varied to suit your food and drink service needs, which can lessen or increase your budget depending on what aspects you're changing.  For example, the more wait staff you require, the more your costs increase and vice versa.

Wedding reception venues

Wedding reception tableFinding a suitable venue for your wedding reception requires quite a bit of time and effort researching and comparing various alternatives.  There are so many venue possibilities having to make a choice between them can seem daunting.

Possible wedding reception venues include:

  • Hotels or function centers
  • Restaurants or cafes
  • Historical or significant buildings
  • Boats
  • Parks, gardens or any open space where you can erect a marquee
  • Your home, or the home of a friend or relative

Some wedding reception venues will be immediately eliminated because they won't fit your guest numbers or they are out of your price range.  But once you've compiled a shortlist of viable options, how do you decide?

Planning tips for your wedding reception

  • Select a venue that will comfortably fit your guest numbers.  You want to ensure that there's ample room for your guests to mingle and for wait staff to serve food and drinks.  You also need to consider whether there will be enough space for a DJ/band and a dance floor.
  • Look closely at wedding reception packages and what they include.  Prepare a spreadsheet and break down the various elements so you can compare several venues on actual costs per guest, e.g. food, drinks, set up costs, hire costs, decorations, additional costs.
  • Ask about all costs upfront so there are no surprises when you pay the bill, e.g. are there financial penalties for not reaching a minimum spend, certain number of guests, or if the wedding reception finishes later than anticipated.
  • Do a venue inspection, preferably when set up for a similar style of function to yours, so you can establish an idea in your mind of how the venue will look for your wedding reception.
  • Choose a venue that is accessible for your guests.  If you make it too hard or expensive for them to attend, then they may not make the effort.
  • If you opt for an out-of-town wedding, ensure that there is plenty of accommodation available nearby for your guests to stay at.  Alternatively, consider providing transport for your guests to and/or from a central location.

Wedding reception marquee