Wedding reception planning

When wedding reception planning there are a number of things that can help make your reception running smoothly and stress free. Keep scrolling for my favourite wedding reception planning tips and tricks.

Here is a list of things that typically happen at a wedding reception:

·•· Entrées and main meals (or more commonly grazing tables)

·•· First dance

·•· Games (the infamous shoe game!)

·•· Cake cutting

·•· Toasts/speeches

·•· Bouquet and garter toss

·•· Large group portraits with friends

·•· The exit of the newly married couple

Newlyweds doing champagne opening at Gold Coast Farm House
Your reception should be an absolute blast!

Here are my favourite wedding reception planning tricks to ensure everything runs smoothly and stress free.

1. Have food ready early in the reception.

Wedding receptions often happen straight after cocktail hour, when some of your guests will have indulged in a some alcoholic beverages. Unless you want tipsy and hangry wedding guests, I recommend you schedule dinner within an hour of the reception start time. Another good idea is to have substantial finger food that guests can line their stomachs with as soon as the reception starts. Or better yet, during cocktail hour also.

2. Ensure your photographer and videographer’s meals are served at the same time as you.

It seems to be the default with most wedding venues that vendors get served their dinner well after the main guests. This can create a lot of difficulties for your photographer and videographers. Hear me out on this one…

It’s an all too familiar situation where the weddings guests are served their main meals while the vendors are patiently waiting with, well, not much to do. After all, not many people want photos of themselves with mouth fulls of food.

Too often what happens is vendors will get served their meals when the speeches or first dance is starting. This results in your hard working photographer and videographers missing either meals or having to literally inhale their meals. We’re not after all going to sit there eating our meals whilst your first dance is happening!

Your photographer and videographer are the vendors that will be with you from start to finish. And they likely have it in the contract that they require a main meal. I encourage you to look after at the very least your photographer and videographers by requesting that the venue serves their main meals at the same time as you.

3. Take your guests’ plans into consideration when creating your timeline.

Don’t leave the cake cutting or first dance too late. Grandmothers love these – it would be shame for her to miss out on this timely tradition.

First dance with bride and groom at Deux Belettes wedding venue

4. Consider your seating arrangements.

Try and organise your seating so you and your newlywed are not seated smack bang in the middle of the reception room surrounded by guests. When this happens it’s very difficult to capture those close up reactions during speeches. Bridal tables are a tradition that makes a lot of sense and one I recommend.

Wedding reception setup at Tiffanys Maleny by Sam Wyper Photography

The above setup made it very difficult for me to capture the couple’s reactions.

Wedding reception bride and groom's reaction during speeches at Figtree Restaurant

In the above two images, I could get a much more straight on angle and better compositions because the couple had a bridal table with plenty of space in front of it.

Also, consider if there is any guests that don’t get along and arrange for them to seated separately. The last thing you want on your wedding night is a flare up between guests!

5. Think carefully about how much alcohol you need (and add a bit more).

Bottle shops often have online calculators to help you estimate how much booze you will need to buy for your special day, like this one here.These are great because they take into consideration the number of attendees, and how many light vs moderate drinkers will be attending. I do however recommend taking these with a grain of salt. No one knows your guests better than you after all.

First dance under a tipi

If it’s a hot summer’s day and there’s plenty of Stone and Woods on hand, then it’s likely there will be guests chugging down more than one drink per hour.

I think it’s always better to over order than under order. After all, who wants to run out of booze at their own wedding?

6. Purchase alcohol from a store that has a return policy.

Some bottle shops have a policy where if you are buying a substantial amount of alcohol to cater for your wedding, they will refund unused alcohol. This is really great for you because it takes the pressure off over ordering. For my own wedding I bought from Liquorland as they had this policy in place.

Whoever you buy from, be sure to ask in advance if they have a returns policy in place.

7. Don’t get too caught up in the formalities and details.

Sure, details make for pretty photographs but at the end of the day your wedding is about connection between people first and foremost.

8. Break speeches up into segments.

If you have five or six guests giving speeches I strongly recommend you split the speeches up into two segments. As a general rule of thumb, any more than three speeches in a row and the guests’ attention will start to wonder.

9. If you haven’t purchased enough coverage for me to capture your reception until the last exit, don’t stress.

I do however recommend planning your timeline so I at least have one hour to photograph the dance floor when it is in full swing. The guests that will be on the dance floor first will likely still be the guests dancing at the end of the night.

Guests at wedding reception on dance floor at Tiffanys Maleny

Sparkler exits are lots fun and can make for amazing photos. I love photographing them and highly recommend doing one. But what happens if you haven’t booked your photographer until the end of the evening?

Sparkler exit at wedding reception with newlyweds

Easy! Do an early sparkler exit before your photographer is due to finish.  And then get straight back into the festivities. That way all of your guests will still likely be present at the venue and you can have that epic moment sparkler exit captured.

I hope you’ve found my wedding reception planning tips useful. If you’re interested in learning more about my wedding photography, I’d love to hear from you. Get in touch by clicking here.