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The Reception

While marriage can be somewhat restricted by legal and religious requirements, when it comes to your wedding reception you can choose to do whichever and whatever you want. There may be some traditions you may like to include in the celebrations, but the whole purpose behind the reception is to continue to celebrate your marriage with your loved ones and to create a moment that you will all look back on and smile.

Your reception should be as individual as the two of you, so identify the style that suits you both and consider each other’s interests and traditions. Here are some common inclusions that you may wish to include:

  • Welcome speech
  • Introduction of the bridal party
  • Meal
  • Speeches and toasts
  • Readings of messages
  • Cutting of the wedding cake
  • Bridal waltz
  • Bouquet toss
  • Garter toss
  • Farewell line

Your Venue

Picture all your loved ones in one place at one time. The venue can be wherever you want it to be. It may be a function centre at a five star hotel, a restaurant, a marquee or backyard.

The Theme

Your reception venue can play an important role in enhancing the overall theme of your wedding. Depending on your style and mood eg. casual, sophisticated or romantic will determine on your look. You may decide you want a traditional evening look with candles and flowers, or you may decide on a contemporary setting with balloons, a contemporary centre piece, or even an ice sculpture. Keep your budget in mind when choosing your theme, as this will guide you in how much you can spend on your decorations. If decorating is something that you would prefer to leave up to the professionals, then you can always hire the services of a wedding decorator.

Sticking to the budget

The costs charged by venues and services they provide vary dramatically. Some function centres, who specailse in wedding functions may include everything from table decorations, the cake, meal and entertainment. Other venues may only provide certain services such as meals and drinks, so you will need to keep this in mind when making your choice. Ask for written confirmation of the fees charged upfront with a list of any inclusions – and most of all make sure that it meets within your budget before making your decision

Proximity between Ceremony & Reception

For most weddings your ceremony is held in a different location to your reception. So you will need to keep in mind that both your bridal party and guests will need to travel between locations. Remember that some guests may be from out of town and may not have their own transportation, so you may need to cater for them and ensure that you’re allowing travel time. If you’re arranging transportation for them, make sure this is within your budget, or let your guests know of any fees that they may incur.

Guest Numbers

The number of guests that you invite to attend your reception will play a part when you’re deciding on a venue. Most venues will accommodate a maximum number of guests, but they may require a minimum number of people in your booking. Keep in mind a sit down dinner with room to dance will require significantly more space than a stand up cocktail party for the same number of guests.

Table Seating

If you’re planning on seating your guests for a sit down or buffet meal there are several seating options you can choose from. You can allow your guests to seat themselves or you can allocate a place for them.

A head table for the bridal party is usually set aside, and the parents of the bride and groom are often seated at the head table which is generally the table closest to the bridal table.

You will want your guests to enjoy themselves, so when choosing their seats for them it’s advised that you take in to consideration closer family members and familiar groups.

Planning the seating can take some time, and can be a bit complicated, but create a few drafted versions and you’ll eventually get there. Make sure you know the type of dining tables your reception venue supply and how many people per table they fit. Keep in mind to keep couples together, and if there are single guests and partners of the bridal party make sure they’re on a table with people they will be comfortable with.

Once you’ve organized the seating plan you will be able to write each person’s name on a name card ready to be placed on the tables on the day.

Keep in mind when planning your reception that you have all the necessary tableware available to you – dinnerware, cutlery, tablecloths and glassware. You may also wish to personalize your tables with table decorations that tie in with your overall theme. Table centerpieces such as candelabras, floral arrangements or even a fish bowl with goldfish can create a talking point for your guests. And don’t forget the place cards, and possibly menu cards. All these small things can be combined to add a touch of magic to the day.

Tip: Cocktail party receptions are becoming more and more popular and can be a way to have more guests for less money per head. While this suits a more casual style wedding reception, it would enable you to invite more people to the wedding ceremony  and reception. You can then have an intimate dinner with a few selected guests and close family afterwards.

Wedding Bomboniere Gifts

To bomboniere or not to bomboniere? You’re under no obligation to give gifts to your wedding guests; however, it is a nice gesture to thank them for coming to share your special day.

Bomboniere (Italian) is also known as wedding ‘favours’ or special gifts given to your guests as a keepsake in thanks of their attendance. Traditionally bomboniere is made up of five sugared almonds representing health, wealth, happiness, long life and fertility, wrapped in tulle. If you’re after something a bit different however, read on.

We’ve listed a few ideas for you to consider when choosing your wedding bomboniere:

  • Photo frame with a picture and special message (poem, quote or short story) from the bride and groom.
  • Chocolate gifts with personalised wrappers.
  • Small cakes, individually wrapped with a note from the couple.
  • White noodle boxes, filled with chocolates or lollies and your names and wedding date printed on the outside using stickers or a gold pen.
  • Miniature wine or port bottles with personalised labelling from a local winery.
  • A simple key ring personalised with your names and wedding date.
  • Miniature flowering plants for your guests to take home. They can double up as decorations for your wedding guests’ tables.
  • A simple box, tied with a textured or patterned ribbon or diamante buckle, filled with goodies of your choice.
  • Support a local charity? Make a donation and leave a card or note for your guests.
  • Bomboniere tags; if you have the facilities print your tags yourself including your names and the wedding date.

Remember, this is one detail for your wedding day that you can keep simple and have fun with. Research online for many more wedding bomboniere ideas and take advantage of the discount rates available for bulk ordering.

The Food

Selecting a menu for your reception will depend on the style, venue, guest numbers and budget. Whether it be cocktails and canapés, a buffet or a three-course meal it really comes down to your personal preference. There are no rules!

The food served is generally provided by your reception venue, particularly when at a restaurant, or you may hire a professional caterer who specializes in wedding catering. Some venues and catering companies charge per person, others a flat fee, and many will insist on a minimum number of guests to make the booking.

Most venues and caterers will offer a selection of dishes which you can choose from or tailor make a menu to suit your personal taste and budget. For sit down meals they may offer your guests a personal selection from or they will simply alternate them around the table. If you offer a selection of two dishes you will most likely make the food more appealing to suit most tastes. Make sure there are no dietary considerations you may have to put into account on the menu. You may need to check with each guest of any specific considerations, and then discuss these with your caterer or venue.

The Beverages

No meal is complete without a refreshing beverage. How you make this available to your guests may vary. Most couples offer an assortment of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to their guests. However, to keep costs contained, limiting the selection of alcoholic drinks offered is one way to keep to the budget.

Water should always be available to your guests. Some venues may offer a beverage package as part of their service.

The Cake

Your cake will be prominently displayed, and the cutting of the cake will be made by yourself and your partner at the key moment at the reception.

What cake do you have? Cakes today can come in a different range of styles, shapes, colours and tastes. Flavours can range from chocolate mud through to the more traditional fruit cake. It can have multiple tiers or no tiers. It may be cupcakes or mini cakes. You can have decorations on it that may include hand made chocolates, silk, sugared or iced flowers, riben, fruit, piping or figurines created from marzipan.

By discussing your ideas with your cake supplier you will get the perfect finished product on the day. To find a wedding cake specialist in your area click here

Tip: If you and your partner plan on keeping the top tier (if it has multiple tiers) make sure when cutting the cake you cut the bottom tier. You will also require someone to distribute the cake amongst the guests or place them in bags or boxes for them to take home with them.


The inclusion of music and entertainment at your reception will provide the fun and the atmosphere of the event ensuring your guests are having a great time.

Master of Ceremonies

If you want a wedding reception that’s fun yet focused you may like to have a master of ceremonies or an MC. An MC will be able to guide you and your guests through the schedule of the reception and help transform your party into an occasion.

The MC might welcome your guests and explain the schedule. They may introduce speakers, performers and the different activities that may happen throughout the celebrations.

When choosing your MC keep in mind that the person’s manner will set the tone of the evening, so depending on their personality will vary the night from quite formal through to comical. You will need to provide them with a clear and detailed schedule so they will help keep things flowing smoothly and also keep to the schedule.

If you don’t have a suitable guest that can MC your event, there are professional Master of Ceremonies that you can hire to provide this service for you on the day.

Reception Timesheet for your MC


Music will add life and personality to your reception. Music can be a background entertainment to enhance the mood, or it can be a focal point where entertainers encourage guests to take the dance floor.

If you choose to have live musicians as your source of music on the day options vary on what you can have. You can also choose to employ different musicians at different stages throughout the reception, such as pre dinner drinks, speeches and informal dancing. Eg. You may hire a string quartet as pre dinner drinks and then hire a DJ for the reception dinner and dancing.

When choosing your music selection there may be significant moments where you will require a certain song or style of music played, such as the bridal party’s entrance, the cutting of the cake, the bridal waltz and the exiting song. Choose songs that will mean something to you and your partner.

Speeches & Toasts

Speeches and toasts can contribute to the sentiment of the day. Traditionally speeches are made from the principal males, but nowadays females including the bride often say a few words. There are no real rules anymore when it comes to speeches which makes the event a little bit more relaxed.

You may like to let the guests who are making speeches on the day, time to prepare. It’s best to let them know when, how long and any topics that you don’t want spoken about at the reception (to save any uncomfortable silence and you don’t want anyone to be offended.) The MC, Best Man or Master of Ceremonies will introduce each speaker so that the speeches flow seamlessly and the guests don’t get distracted.

The Bridal Waltz

Once the majority of the formalities are out of the way it is tradition for the bride and groom to take to the dance floor for the bridal waltz. Despite the title, you don’t have to actually dance the waltz.

You may want to go and get dance lessons and surprise your guests by dancing the tango or fox trot, but if a side step is enough for you that’s okay too.

After the first dance, your wedding party will join in, followed by the parents and families and then the remainder of your guests. Your MC will be able to coordinate this for you.


When the time comes for the wedding celebration to come to a close you and your groom should make your grand exit. You may want to throw your bouquet, or have your groom toss the garter. You may want to go around the room and say goodbye to all your guests. You will need to make sure you have your getaway transportation phone number on hand, just in case they are running late.

Guest Book

Weddings can be emotional occasions, and because you probably won’t get a chance to talk in depth to everyone present, ask each guest to record their thoughts and messages in a guest book. Leave the book open, together with a pen, and have the MC at your reception alert guests of its location, or have your bridal party pass it around the room.

Polaroid Your Guest Book!

Why not also include a Polaroid camera and have the guest who writes a comment also have a photo snap taken of themselves to stick next to their comment. I’m sure some of the shots will be quite humorous… Another special memory to take away with you!
Please see word document for photos to go with the poloroid guest book

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