Wedding

12+ ways to get the party started at your wedding

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You’ve got dinner, drinks and the speeches sorted, now what about the rest of the night? Whatever you decide, make sure you consider the following – movement, surprise and activity. That’s right, keep ‘em moving, keep ‘em guessing and keep ‘em entertained. 

Set up different spaces throughout your venue so that your guests can move naturally from one area to another. From the dinner table to the cocktail bar on the terrace, from the dance floor to the lounge area in the garden; get creative, keep things interesting and, above all, keep things fun. 

There’s a lot you can do to liven up your reception. From a spot of croquet to fortune telling, we’ve got all your entertainment inspiration in one place, so prepare to get the party started!

1. PARTY GAMES

Photo: Daniel Milligan Photography _ danielmilliganphotography.com

Photo: Daniel Milligan Photography

Some old-school fun and games are likely to go down a treat at your wedding, especially if the weather’s gorgeous and you’re at a venue with loads of outdoor space. Help your guests revisit their childhoods with games like bocce, croquet, giant Jenga, a simple old-fashioned egg and spoon or sack race, or hilarious new exploits of your own devising. Just make sure there are plenty of games on offer so that no one has to queue to have fun

2. DANCE. ALL NIGHT LONG

Wedding of Courtney & Stuart – Danielle D'Arcy Photography 

Photo: Wedding of Courtney & Stuart – Danielle D’Arcy Photography

This is the number one activity people expect at a wedding reception (after eating, of course). Make sure you’ve got enough space for a dance floor, a great band or DJ and a seriously fun playlist.

Unless your guests are exclusively hipsters in their 20s, this is not the time to feature achingly cool music that no one else has ever heard of. If you’ve got a mix of age groups, from granny and grandpa all the way down to nippers, crack out a carefully curated mix of the trendy and the tragic that will pack the dance floor. Blast some Backstreet Boys and watch your guests turn into your own private boy band, twist down memory lane with Chubby Checker’s unforgettable hit or reenact your own “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” moment with ‘(I’ve had) The Time of my Life’ from Dirty Dancing. Sometimes the dorkiest songs make for the best memories on the dance floor, so be sure to include a few numbers that will get your guests up and saying, “Aw man, this is my jam!”

3. PHOTO BOOTHS

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Photo: In the Booth

Okay, so they’re not exactly a new idea, but there’s no denying photo booths are a lot of fun – plus, it means even more brilliant shots of your day. The super-fun props that come with a photo booth are guaranteed to get a smile out of your guests, or you can make up a kit of your own (think novelty sunglasses, costume hats and cute soft toys), or ask your guests to write a message on a little chalkboard to appear in their photos. Whether posed or candid, they’re a guaranteed hit with fun-lovers of all ages. Oh, and the snaps are often hilarious, too!

4. LOUNGE AREA

Photo: Todd Hunter McGaw Photographers

Photo: Todd Hunter McGaw Photographers

Creating a chic and cosy lounge area with large, inclusive groups of seats is a great way to encourage guests to mingle and to keep them comfortable (especially older relatives and friends). An effective lounge area will not only help the flow of your wedding space, it will also add style and drive home your wedding aesthetic. Lounge areas are especially brilliant if your venue is massive (think ballroom, marquee, beach or outdoor lawn). Need inspiration? How about going boho with wooden barrel tables, rugs, lanterns and bunting, or a vintage-inspired space with velvet couches, pretty armchairs, antique luggage and chandeliers?

5. TEMPTING TABLES

Daniel Milligan Photography

Photo: Daniel Milligan Photography

A dessert table wins on so many levels – it adds interest to yet another corner of your venue, it looks gorgeous and it treats your wedding guests to a spread of delectable desserts. Style it around the theme or colour palette of your wedding, load it up with all sorts of tempting treats and DIY delicacies, and wait for it to be photographed nearly as much as you.

6. FIREWORKS

Evernew Studio, Skylighter Fireworks

Photo: Evernew Studio, Skylighter Fireworks

We’ve heard of a celebration on an island in the Caribbean where the fireworks were so epic, local aircraft had to be diverted! Needless to say, you need to check out the legalities and any restrictions when it comes to private fireworks displays (and it goes without saying you should definitely employ professionals!), but once that’s all sorted there’s no denying the thrill of some big bangs.

Want to save on your budget, but still have the same effect? You might have to schedule way ahead, but try and book your venue on New Year’s Eve or, if in Brisbane, on the night of Riverfire, and watch the skies light up in a spectacular display, minus the price tag. What a way to end your special day.

7. PERFORMERS

Photo: The Gehrmanns

Photo: The Gehrmanns

Jugglers, stilt walkers, fire dancers… these daredevil acts are not just for the circus. The right performer at the right wedding can add a little drama, a little fun and, of course, a little theatre.

Looking for a cast bigger than Matilda? Add a magician, singing waiters or even a fortune teller for your guests (“I can see a hangover in your future”). Of course, not all weddings will suit this kind of entertainment – fire dancers might not work quite so well at a traditional black tie wedding, but they could be just the thing to top off a great night at a more relaxed beach wedding.

Expecting a few kids? Why not make it the best day ever and organise some face painting or even a guest appearance from a superhero or Disney princess? Just try and keep the adults away from posing with Superman and Elsa. Just try…

8. LIVE AID

Photo: Luke Going

Photo: Luke Going

If you’re having a live band for the dancing portion of the evening, choose one that truly reflects and expresses who you (and hubby) are, and is guaranteed to get everyone grooving. Think quirky and unique rather than naff cover band – depending on your style, you could go for a Mexican mariachi band, trad-jazz, bluegrass, indie or swing. Whatever floats your boat.

9. WORD GAMES

Photo: Daniel Milligan Photography

Photo: Daniel Milligan Photography

For fun that’s more cerebral, turn napkins at the bar or place settings at the table into wedding- related word search games. You could also print crosswords on the back of your orders of service – brilliant if there’s a trek between the ceremony and reception venues. We’ve even heard of a wedding where the menus were puzzles: each person at the table got one piece of the puzzle at their place setting, and then everyone had to put the pieces together to get the full menu description. Brilliant, simple and fun – and a great way to encourage bonding between guests.

For a quirky decorating idea, scatter amongst your place settings a few word games or let their competitive streaks show in a special wedding version of Scrabble or even bingo. ‘Mad libs’ are another popular option and can be the source of some helpful marriage advice… or, at the very least, some hilarious reading material.

10. KEEP ON TRUCKIN’

Photo: The Gehrrmans

Photo: The Gehrrmans

Ah, food trucks. It seems incredible to think that only a few years ago the only food truck most of us were familiar with was a Mr Whippy van. These days they’re a beloved and omnipresent part of every wedding/festival/special event. And, done right, they’re just cool. So be sure you do it right for your wedding and line up a vintage food truck for late-night snacks or dessert with a difference.

Today you can get food trucks serving just about anything – from tacos and dumplings to cocktails and peanut butter-filled cronuts. Mmm, cronuts. Though, sometimes you can’t go past the classic ice-cream truck for a summer wedding with chilled vibes. Extra fudge sauce, please.

11. STRIKE A POSE

Photo: Luke Going

Photo: Luke Going

Have you ever been to a wedding where they’ve incorporated some sort of organised dancing, like a barn dance, Bollywood moves or a Ceilidh (traditional Gaelic dancing, pronounced ‘kayleigh’)? Trust us, they are awesome.

Hiring a dance instructor to teach your guests some easy, fun moves they can do as a group may end up being the best and most fun part of your entire wedding. Bonus points if the dance is somehow personal and relevant to your lives.

12. EMBRACE THE ETHNIC

Photo: Wedding of Nykita + Aaron, Raconteur Photography

Photo: Wedding of Nykita + Aaron, Raconteur Photography

So, we’ve already mentioned Bollywood dancing, but depending on your heritage there are loads of other ethnic traditions you could include to personalise your reception. Continuing on the Indian theme, you could offer henna tattoos. Or how about a traditional Chinese tea ceremony? And of course you can’t have a Greek wedding without smashing a few plates.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

  • ESPRESSO BAR: Let’s face it, some of your guests will only be interested in a different kind of brew, but an espresso bar and a seriously good barista is guaranteed to appeal to caffeine addicts.
  • CAMPFIRE: Assuming your venue allows it, a campfire with guitarist, lattes and marshmallows will ensure the coolest of vibes at the end of a boho or beach wedding.
  • WEDDING ART: Book a caricaturist or an artist who’ll spend the night creating a painting of your wedding party. It’s a great way to get everyone chatting, plus you’ll have a lovely artwork to take home!
  • CANDY BAR: Hire a pick ’n’ mix sweetie cart and deck it out with jars and bowls overflowing with fizzing, popping, melting treats. It will create a real buzz (not to mention a sugar high) and a gorgeous photo op.
  • KIDS: Keep kids happy with a games room filled with things like a ping-pong table, air hockey, video games and a popcorn machine.
  • PIÑATA: Create a pretty wedding piñata, but instead of filling it with sweets, get your guests to fill it with notes, tips, advice and memories. Bash it open on an anniversary and prepare for some hilarious reading material!

Related Article: 10 Party Perfect Decorating Ideas


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