YOU are married, your vows have been exchanged, everyone is smiling, happy and it’s off to the reception.
And the reception is the time for you to celebrate your newly married state with the people who mean the most to you – your family and dearest friends.
There will be speeches and dancing, fun and laughter, a time to renew friendships and also get to know your partner’s family and friends. It is a wonderful time and the culmination of a wonderful day to have fine food and drink, great music and good company.
But that does not just happen and planning that reception must be high on your wedding agenda for it is one of the most important parts of your day and also one that will be foremost in the memories of all your guests.
The secret to a fabulous reception is careful planning, attention to detail, good food and the company of the people you love – and that applies no matter whether you are holding a traditional reception or throwing a sophisticated party, whether you are indoors or out, at home or at a lavish venue.
And it is that venue where you begin your planning.
Once you have determined your reception budget, it’s time to consider your options. Although choices usually revolve around function centres, restaurants, clubs and hotels, you could use outside gardens, even a beach or a cruise boat, perhaps a winery or a wildlife park, and then of course there is a private house, yours or a friends where things are usually a bit more intimate because of space and numbers.
Take into consideration the venue size, décor, atmosphere and location.
Your venue should be large enough to seat your guests comfortably, with sufficient room for your entertainers and their equipment, as well as a dance floor. If your reception is to be a more intimate affair, make sure the venue you choose has a suitably sized room. Restaurants can be an excellent option. Many cater for smaller wedding groups and offer menu choices suitable for wedding breakfasts, brunches, lunches or dinners.
When you have settled on your reception venue, the next big question is catering. If the venue you have in mind offers a catering service, make sure you are happy with their menu options and the quality of the food and if they do not cater, you will need to hire a catering company.
Pick a professional, that’s a must, and discuss what you want, how many people there will be and your budget and between you come up with some creative ideas within your price range.
Invariably, food that is elegant, tasty and easy to handle will be successful. However, the type of food you serve is influenced by the formality of your wedding, the time of your reception and your budget.
Remember that receptions do not have to be built around lavish three course dinners. They can also be breakfasts, brunches, lunches and afternoon teas. Or perhaps even the sophistication of a glamorous cocktail party. And do not forget to cater for any special dietary needs among your guests.
Decorating your venue is another important consideration for that will also leave a lasting impression. Decorations do not have to be complicated. You can achieve great effects with simple but creative use of flowers, candles, colour and drapes and well thought out lighting.
Of course, you could make things easy for yourself and hire an event co-ordinator or make it more intimate and special by inviting the guests to your own home.
But you have some searching questions to ask, and answer, first. Will there be enough space? What about catering? Where will they park? Is there really enough room for all your guests to be comfortable?
If your answers are all positive then go ahead, but make sure you have given yourself plenty of time to organise it; it will be well worth while.
Catering should be one of your first considerations. Will it be possible for a friend or family member to prepare the food? Remember that if they do, you won’t see much of them during the reception, as they’ll be busy in the kitchen. So unless you have plenty of willing relatives to share the load, the most popular and stress-free approach is to hire a caterer.
A professional catering firm will cook the food, provide the necessary tableware and supply staff. This leaves you and your family free to simply enjoy the event.
If you decide to hire a professional, first decide whether you want your caterer just to prepare the food, leaving all other details to you, or whether you want them to take care of everything. Discuss your requirements, menu choices and budget and get some references from their other clients.
A sit down meal for many guests is probably only an option if you have unlimited space, or decide to hire a marquee which can be fun. They are practical and romantic, with a stylish entrance, drapes, lighting, a dance floor and other extras, and they are very much more than the old tent.
If this is the case, you are likely to serve a traditional three-course dinner as well as drinks, so you will probably have to hire tables, chairs, covers, linen, crockery, cutlery and glasses. Another option is a cocktail-style reception with finger food and perhaps a hired bartender to serve the drinks.
You will want to create a special ambience for your home reception, and you can have lots of fun with this. Start with strategically placed flower arrangements, and after deciding on a theme, hire the additional props you need. With fairy lights, candelabra, chair covers and sashes, table lamps and vases or urns, you can create a sumptuous look for a relatively small outlay. At a function centre or a restaurant, at home or outdoors, the reception will be the wonderful finale to your day.