25 go-to tips for a perfect (and super-fun!) reception

Receptions // Tips + Advice // by Emily Russ

Whether striving for perfection or simply aiming to create a memorable and joyous wedding celebration, we’ve got your back with our 25 go-to tips that will navigate you through the planning process with ease and ensure your reception is the fun-filled event you dream of. From securing the ideal venue to crafting a seamless seating plan, from curating a delectable menu to collaborating with your chosen vendors, our tips are designed to streamline the planning process and ensure your reception is unforgettable – for all the right reasons! 

PS. Remember, when it comes to planning a wedding, there are no questions that are too silly (or obvious) to ask!

1. Try and stick to a realistic budget

There’s no one magic number that works for all receptions, but by doing your homework, talking to the experts, and writing a basic (but thorough) list of what you want at your big bash, you should be able to come up with a realistic budget. Discuss with your partner how you envision your dream reception and work together to create a budget outline you’re both comfortable with. [TIP: Check out our dreamy reception styling ideas for all budgets ]

2. Suss out the staff

If you’re checking out a reception venue in person (and we strongly recommend that you do), note how the staff treat you. You’ll likely get the VIP treatment on your big day but assume that how you’re treated before then is how your guests will be treated at your wedding. Sure, the gardens might be pretty, but a pushy waitress or a rude bartender can make your wedding memorable for all the wrong reasons. You might have your heart set on a venue, but if things feel odd, move on.

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3. Keep in mind time and flexibility

Usually, the first step after agreeing on a budget is locking in a venue. The key to securing your top spot is time and flexibility: time to look around and the flexibility to change your wedding date if necessary.

4. Consider a less-busy time or day

There are many great ways to cut costs and save money on your wedding, so if you’re trying to keep overall costs in check, be sure to ask your venue about less-popular times (i.e. not a Saturday). Friday and Sunday weddings have quickly become a new standard, while more and more couples are asking about Thursdays or brunches/ lunches. Not all venues will offer these, but it can’t hurt to ask.

5. Talk to your married friends

Word of mouth is one of the best forms of advertising, so talk to your married friends and get their opinion on what they loved (or didn’t love) about their venue. Got a venue in mind already? Check out what people have said about it online.

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From the wedding of Pippa and James, image by Edwina Robertson

6. Ask about wedding coordinators

It’s not exactly a deal-breaker, but if your reception venue has a dedicated wedding coordinator or planner, it’ll make your life much less stressful. They’ll know the venue’s ins and outs and will be able to show you examples from past weddings to give you ideas.

7. Assess the number of bathrooms

It’s not the most charming of topics, but don’t forget to check if there are adequate bathrooms when you visit your venue. If you’re expecting 100-plus guests and there are only two WCs, you’ll want to hire portaloos – which costs money.

8. Don’t be afraid to negotiate

If there’s a supplier you really love, but they’re a little out of your price range, don’t be nervous to – politely – ask them for the best rate they can offer. If they’re keen to make something work, great. If not, the worst they can do is tell you that the price is non-negotiable.

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From the wedding of India and Joshua, image by Lover of Mine Photography

9. Find out exactly what’s included in your quote

Consider all the little things you’ll need at your reception, such as glassware, flatware, and decorations. When considering a venue, get them to spell out the specifics for all of these things – if they won’t even touch the subject, it might be time to rethink venues.

10. Keep all your records together

Even if you have a wedding planner, keep all your records together on your phone, on an external hard drive or in an old-school binder folder. It is a great way to keep track of your spending and help clear your head of all those pesky wedding details.

11. Help guests get from A to B

If you’re having your ceremony and reception at two different locations, be aware of the distance between the two and how you can help people get there. Think about including a little map with your invitations. Want to go the extra mile? Most stationery suppliers can create a beautiful version – but even a Google Maps print-out will do the job. At your reception venue, ensure it’s well sign-posted and plenty of (preferably free) parking.

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From the wedding of Meaghan and Liam, photography by Ivy Road Photography

12. Seating plans matter

Okay, so it is not crucial for smaller celebrations, but for weddings with 50 or more guests, you’ll want to display a seating plan at your reception. Getting guests seated smoothly and quickly is essential for a fuss-free reception and will avoid any disruptions to the flow of the festivities. Check out our top tips to help you master your seating plan!

13. Get it in writing

Contracts will be your best friend during wedding planning, so make sure you get everything in writing from your suppliers and venue. Remember to pay particular attention to the fine print—including cancellation fees—to dodge any surprise charges that you’ll only find out about after the big day.

14. Agree on a finishing time

Nothing clears a reception faster than the staff turning the lights on and clearing tables at night’s end. Lock in a finishing time with your venue and stick to it – remember that staff might need to be paid overtime if things run later than expected.

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From the wedding of Gigi and Luke, image by Frankly Photography

15. Pay with plastic

Once you sign any contracts, deposit with a credit card rather than cash. Fingers crossed, it never happens, but if anything goes wrong (like a supplier declaring bankruptcy), your credit card company shouldn’t charge you for any costs.

16. There are no dumb questions

Your venue and wedding planner have heard and seen it all, so don’t be afraid to ask anything, no matter how silly you might think it is. Yes, that includes ‘Do I need to bring matches for my sparkler exit?’ In fact, we’ve come up with 100 more questions to consider asking …

17. Speak up about the menu

If you have a favourite dish in mind that you’d love to serve on your big day, speak up! Many venues and caterers will be happy to customise a menu – or a particular dish – for you, but be sure to taste samples before you lock anything in. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it…

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18. Get creative with the reception serving styles

It’s easy to forget some really obvious things when you’re planning a wedding, so take a moment to consider the many different serving styles for your reception. Share plates, grazing stations and even food trucks are amazing at laid-back celebrations, while plated meals and cocktail receptions are classic options for more traditional weddings. Think exactly what vibe it is you’re going for, think about the style of your venue, and discuss it with them or your caterer.

19. Provide drinks for the in-between time

Expecting your post-ceremony photo session to take a while? Even if you think it’ll be super-quick, chances are it will take a lot longer than you expect. Keep your guests happy and serve nibbles and drinks at your reception venue during this in-between time, but keep things light so no one fills up too early.

20. Consider alcohol consumption

Chances are your dream wedding features free-flowing Champagne, plenty of good wine and unlimited top-shelf spirits. But alcohol costs add up, so back in the real world, your venue will be able to make helpful and realistic suggestions about quantities – the quality will depend on your budget. If it’s tight, an easy way to play the good host without breaking is to serve complimentary pre-dinner drinks and good quality Champagne for toasting.

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From the wedding of Andrea and Matthew, image by Kiss the Groom Photography

21. Don’t forget about the kids

Are you expecting a few young guests? If they’re very young, seat them with their parents or carer. If they’re school-age, seat them all together and make the kids’ table the place to be. Colouring books, toys, and activity booklets will keep their minds (and hands) busy, but be sure to seat a few responsible adults at the next table to keep an eye on things.

22. Work out a basic timeline

All good weddings have a flow that seems effortless, but it’s likely that a lot of thought has gone into the wedding day timeline. Organising a basic wedding day timeline will keep things stress-free, so ask yourself these questions: Will your post-ceremony photos likely delay the reception? When will you serve each course? Will you devote time to speeches or let them happen naturally? A little thought goes a long way.

23. Look into transport

In addition to your own stylish wedding day transport, it is important to consider your guests. Is there a taxi rank nearby? Will an Uber or a taxi come to your venue? Will your guests be able to get taxis home without being hit with ridiculous bills? Ensure you look into all of this before securing a venue, or you’ll risk leaving your guests stranded or out of pocket. If your venue’s really out of the way, think about hiring local charter buses or maxi taxis to get everyone home safely.

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24. Want to bring your fur baby?

Does your vision of your dream wedding include your beloved fur baby by your side? We love it when couples include their pets (and not just for the amazing pet photo opportunities!), but be sure to check first that your reception venue will accommodate any four-legged family members. If you’re marrying somewhere outdoors with a large amount of space, you might be able to party the night away with Rocky the Pug. If not, organise someone to take them home after the ceremony.

25. Don’t forget the vegans!

On your invites, ask your guests to inform you of any special dietary requirements or food allergies in advance. It’s always a good idea to have a vegetarian option at your reception, but you’ll probably need to let your venue or caterer know about any vegan, celiac or pescetarian guests from the outset.