When it comes to preparing for your “big day,” there is so much work that needs to be put in. For those that have already gone through this experience, I’m certain they’d describe it as nothing short of a physical, emotional, and mental ordeal. But more than everything that needs to be taken care of, such as the venues, suppliers, and everything in between, what is usually regarded as the highlight of the day is the reception. And rightfully so! Because aside from the solemnity of the marriage ceremonies, it’s celebrating with the guests and loved ones that couples most usually look forward to!
But in preparing for all these festivities, there are so many questions that come up, “How do I get started?” “What should be in the program?” or “How do I keep my guests happy?” If you’re someone who’s about to get married, or just someone who is simply interested in knowing how these things usually work, then this may be a helpful read for you! Although each wedding celebration is definitely unique from the next one, there still is an ideal flow to consider in piecing together a successful program.
I’ve had the pleasure of hosting weddings for over three years now, and around ninety percent of the time, I am the one who helps the couples put their programs together. And this isn’t anything out of the ordinary, not because I’m the host, but because more often than not, couples aren’t familiar with what should be in a reception program or how to make their guest enjoy. So, based on my experiences, allow me to share with you some tips on how to make your big day a little more special.
1. Know What You Want
Before all the other specifics of the program, it’s important that you identify your must-haves. This includes traditional ceremonies (which I will get to shortly), videos to be played, games, special dances, and the like. This is because once these have been identified, it would be easier to build around these segments, in putting together the whole program.
2. Minding Traditional Ceremonies
Should you want to include traditional practices into the program, these are the basics that you might want to consider including in your program.
- Parade of the entourage
- Couple’s grand entrance
- Couple’s first dance
- Cake cutting and wine toasting ceremonies
Anything above that may already be a little extra, so if a priority is keeping the guests from getting restless, consider the additional time needed for anything beyond those I’ve mentioned.
3. The Shorter The Program, The Better
The average duration of a wedding reception is two and a half to three hours, with dinner included. Anything longer than that is too long, and could be tiring for your guests, especially if they also attended the ceremonies. The program proper of the reception usually starts three hours from the beginning of the ceremonies, so by the time the reception ends, that would have already occupied half a day’s worth of their time!
So, with that in mind, best to keep the program as compressed as possible, with the ideal length being two to two and a half hours, at the most. The key to this is to try not to overload the program with special numbers, plenty videos, numerous games, and lengthy speeches. Best to limit all these, and if necessary, just pick out what you feel is most important to you, and discard the rest.
4. Should You Want a Game, Best to Only Have One
Keeping time and the enjoyment of guests in mind, it's best to have only one game, and a crowd game, at that! It’s also nice to be able to break the ice and to have your guests loosen up and be a part of the program, which is why I’d recommend a game inclusive to everybody. By squeezing in just one game, you don’t prolong the program too much, you allow your guests to enjoy, and if you have SDEs (same day edit videos), you allow the editors more time to finish their material.
5. Feed Your Guests
As I previously mentioned, weddings usually take half a day, from the start of the ceremonies to the end of the reception. People are naturally going to get tired, so to keep your guests from getting into a hunger-driven frenzy, it really is important to have food and drinks available all through out the program.
The gap between the conclusion of the ceremonies and the start of the reception is usually for cocktails. By this time, your guests would already be hungry, so make sure to prepare cocktail food, to go along with their drinks—the drinks also help your guests relax! If in case that might not be enough, consider having the option of opening the soup and salad stations before the program begins.
6. Get Good Coordinators
Perhaps the most important element in the success of a wedding reception, as they will act as the backbone of the whole program, shouldering the most responsibility in keeping everything together. Aside from attending to your needs, as well as accommodating all the guests, they are also in charge of making sure everything in the program goes as smoothly as possible, from coordinating all the audio and video with tech, aligning all necessary details with the host, and to supervising all the jazz throughout the entirety of the program.
7. Hire a Good Host!
If the coordinators are the backbone, the host would probably be the blood of the program. The host really is the life of the party, and will be the one to set the tone for the whole affair. Some couples opt to get a friend or a famly member to host, because they’d want someone familiar, but if that person doesn’t really know how to host, there is no guarantee for a smooth and lively program.
Special points too if you get a seasoned host, and especially one who’s been in the wedding industry for a while now! Because chances are, he/she will be helping in putting your program together, so come the big day, it's best to entrust someone who knows the ins and outs of the program, so that you and your whole celebration will be as successful as you'd intend for it to be!
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Photography by the author