With over a decade of experience in the wedding industry, I’ve attended more than my fair share. of receptions. Some as the couple’s selected Master of Ceremonies & Wedding DJ, others as a photo booth host, and some as a part of the A/V crew. Through it all, I’ve seen – and heard! – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Over time, I’ve realized every “fun” wedding reception I’ve ever been a part of abides by the following ten tips. When followed correctly, they lead to magical wedding receptions no one leaves until the venue’s house lights come on, and are reminisced by family and friends for years to come.
Without further ado, here are my Top 10 Tips for Creating A Really Fun Wedding Reception Experience:
1) Don’t Micromanage Your Reception’s Timeline
In reality, there are only three points of time that really matter: the ceremony’s scheduled start time, what time dinner will be served, and when the reception (unfortunately) ends. Avoid scheduling formalities to exact times, and instead, allow formalities to flow smoothly and naturally. Leave. the pacing of your event in the hands of a competent professional.
2) The Floor Plan Matters
If you truly desire a fun dance party with as many of your guests on the dance floor as possible, please don’t place your DJ in an obscure location or hide them in the corner of the room. In order to get a good feel of the crowd’s energy, the DJ needs to be easily visible and near the dance floor. Furthermore, inquire with your DJ about their “set design”, as an ugly DJ setup is the primary reason why wedding planners and coordinators try to hide the DJ in the corner.
The following is an optimal floor plan I would recommend for my most wedding receptions:
Slight variations are okay, but for the most part, keep the focus towards the center of the room for the majority of the night.
3) Be Mindful Of Who Is Sitting Where
Talk with your DJ about where speakers will be placed, and try to arrange the floor plan so that only your friends sit in close proximity to them. Older guests are typically more sensitive to volume changes and bass frequencies, therefore they should sit in a location where the audio is still clear, but won’t affect their enjoyment of the evening.
4) Don’t Give Guests A Reason To Congregate Elsewhere
If guests are not on the dance floor, they often are hanging out at the bar or over by the photo booth. Keep these elements in the main room, as they provide a short path to the dance floor when one’s jam comes on. Furthermore, if the bar or photo booth is placed outside or in the foyer, your party may look “dead” and give some guests the impression that it is time to depart – well before they should.
5) Leave Them Wanting More
Here’s the secret that every headlining performer knows: end just before the audience knows they are ready to go home. Why? Because the next morning, concertgoers won’t stop talking about how much fun they had and that they wished the performer would have kept on playing. Perception matters.
So, how does this apply in regards to planning your wedding reception? Most wedding receptions usually go one hour too long. Oftentimes, I’ve witnessed a large percentage of guests exiting 30 to 45 minutes before the scheduled end time of the reception, worn out from a long evening. Had the reception been one hour shorter, they would have been there for the Last Dance and Grand Send-Off. Furthermore, their perception is “I had a really nice time, thank you for inviting me” when it could have been “It was the most fun I’ve ever had a wedding, ever! I wish it never ended!“
Allow ALL of your guests to experience the wedding reception you’ve planned in its entirety: from Grand Entrance to Grand Send-Off. Then, for those that want to keep celebrating late into the night with you, they can come back into the ballroom for the after-party or head to the next location where the party continues.
6) Don’t “Handcuff” Your DJ With Your Song Requests
It is perfectly okay to request a handful of songs that you really love and want to dance to. However, if you hired a competent professional wedding DJ, don’t handcuff them with a lengthy must-play list. Trust your wedding DJ to program the evening in a manner that ends with your guests in an absolute frenzy on the dance floor.
Furthermore, do allow your guests to make song requests, as the right requests can inspire some amazing moments on the dance floor. However, not all song requests are good ones – so allow your DJ to use discretion and have final judgment on the merit of guest requests.
7) Dance Lights Up, House Lights Down
For some guests, the difference between getting down on the dance floor and staying seated at their table is the brightness of the room and the fear of being watched by others. House lights, such as sconces, chandeliers, cafe lighting, string lights, etc. should be dimmed as low as possible when the dance floor opens.
8) Someone Needs To Orchestrate The Reception
A well-organized, insanely fun wedding reception requires an event director that can make sure everything – and everyone! – is accounted for before each formality commences. For most wedding receptions, this role should be bestowed upon your Master of Ceremonies, who not only captains the wedding vendor team during the reception, but also coordinates with the applicable members of your wedding party of what is next on the timeline.
With great responsibility comes great power: your guests will consistently look to the Master of Ceremonies as he/she guides them throughout the evening. Therefore, make sure you have selected a Master of Ceremonies who is capable of maintaining complete control of the presentation and production of your wedding reception.
9) Make It Magical, Not Cheesy & Contrived
Make sure the timeline for your reception is thought out and logically makes sense. You don’t need to do a formality for the sake of doing a formality, or because that’s the way you have always seen it done. Envision your reception through the perspective of your guests and how they see it presented to them. Seek the advice of an experienced professional who can give you some insight on the order of your formalities and if they flow smoothly and naturally together.
Want to create magical moments that will become unforgettable memories? Focus on the presentation and desired result of each formality – the how, where, and why – more so than the what and when.
And last but not least…
10) Always Remember: The Ceremony Is About You, But The Reception Is About Your Guests
All of your invited guests are investing their time, money, and energy to be a part of your special day. Show them your appreciation by designing a party that will be well worth their effort and expense. A great party involves only a few simple elements done extremely well: food, drinks, entertainment, and purpose (that’s celebrating you two tying the knot!). If your budget dictates having to cut corners somewhere, don’t skimp on the food, drinks, or entertainment – as these three elements will truly make or break the celebration for your guests.
Originally Published: February 1, 2019
Last Updated: January 12, 2022