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Wedding 101

Choosing the Events of your Wedding Reception

     There is no longer any right or wrong way to choose the events of your wedding reception.  Anyone who insists that there is, is not keeping up with the latest trends.  Traditional does not mean required, not by any means.  It's your wedding, don't be afraid to say no.  Also, don't be afraid to be bold and come up with new ideas.  In this article, we'll talk about events for traditional and modern receptions, while always telling you to follow your heart and include what you truly desire.  We will share questions you should ask and answer in order to be prepared and prevent surprises.   We'll get into this a bit deeper in future articles, but here we'll cover the basics. 

     The more traditional events are the ones that most likely took place when your parents were married, and maybe even when their parents were married.  Some of these traditions may appeal to your taste, while others may not.  Some traditions certainly feel like requirements when they are not by any means.  Some people feel pressure from family members to do certain traditional events even though you may not want to.  In any case, there are important factors to consider.

     Will you have a cocktail hour?  Most weddings do.  If so, what appetizers and drinks will you provide for your guests?  What selections will be played for background music?  Will there be open bar?  We always recommend that if you can afford it, have open bar at least for the cocktail hour.  Alcohol helps people loosen up, and you don't want fun at your wedding to be a significant expense on any of your guests or wedding party members.  This is expensive and is obviously not an option for everyone.

     Will you have formal toasts?  Most weddings do.  Most of the time, they are given by the best man and maid of honor, but sometimes the father of the bride or another loved one would like to speak as well.  Be sure you anticipate the number of people speaking and the length of their speeches, and let the entertainment know.  Also, make sure there is someone ensuring that the speakers know when they are speaking, where they go, and that they have a microphone available to them.

    Will there be a blessing?  Most weddings today have them.  Depending on your religious background, this may be something you want to include.  If you do have it, consider who will give it and how long they will take.  Make sure that, just like the toast givers, they are prepared to give the blessing.

     What about dinner?  Dinners happen at most weddings, but not all.  Will it be a formal sit down meal, or a buffet?  If a sit down meal, how many courses?  Will the dance floor be open between courses or during dinner?  If it's a buffet, how many lines will there be?  How long does it take the catering staff to feed everyone?  Make sure you find out.  

     What special dances are you having?  Is there a special first dance?  Father/daughter, mother/son dance?    Have you selected your songs yet?  Do you need to get dance lessons?  Do you know how much time you want to dance for?  When do you want to have the dances?  All important stuff that you should have down and accounted for.

     Are you having a formal cake cutting?  When are you cutting the cake? What song will be played during the cake cutting?  Will your guests stay seated, or gather around the table?  Are you going to feed each other nicely, or smash the cake in each other's face (let your spouse know).  Who is in charge of making sure the knife is on the cake table at the time of the cutting?

     Are you having a money dance (dollar dance)?  If yes, is it both of you, or just one?  Do you have a purse for the money?  Who is your designated person to collect the money?  When will the dance happen?  Will the dance be to fast, slow,or moderate songs? 

     On to the bouquet toss.  What music do you want played?  Will there be a 'throw bouquet', or are you throwing your bridal bouquet?  Will the bouquet toss be for all the single ladies, all the ladies, or everyone?


Will you have a garter removal (it's about 50/50 now between weddings that do it, and do not)?  What song will be played?  Just single men, all the men, or everyone?  Have these questions answered.

    Will you be having a last dance?  If so, do you have a song picked?  Is the song fast or slow?  Do you both know the song, or is it a surprise to one of you?  What time will the last dance happen, and will all of the guests join?  Are you having a big sendoff?  If so, do your guests need instructions to participate?  Are you giving them something (sparklers, flowers, rice)?

From the first dance to the bouquet toss and beyond, plan for everything so that there are no surprises.

     All of the things discussed above are the more traditional events you will see at a wedding.  Now, let's move on to the more modern, trends that have taken hold over the last few decades- along with the questions you should be asking.

     Are you going to be giving away centerpieces?  If so, when and how?  Will you be doing an activity, or giving them away low key?  Will you have any special requirements for the centerpiece giveaway?  Are you giving away the entire centerpiece, or just the floral arrangement?

     Are you doing a slideshow/video montage?  If yes, how long does it last?  Who is making it (Ensemble Events does, click here)?  Is there an audio track included, or do you have to provide one?  Is it possible to patch the feed to the sound system, or do you need a speaker, and are the proper connections available?  When will the slideshow happen, and was there a chance to test it? 

     Are you having a special song, or sorority song?  If so, how many people are involved, when will it happen? 

     If you have limited time, or you want to create more time at the end for dancing, you can combine some of the events at your reception.  One thing that stands out, and is common practice here on the East Coast, is combining the grand entrance and the first dance.  Here, the first dance usually happens after the bride and groom walk in.  This gets it done and out of the way so you can get on with things.  If you do this, will your wedding party go to their seats, or line up around the dance floor during the first dance? 

     Some people combine the father/daughter and mother/son dances.  If you do this, make sure to select a more moderate song, one that is not geared toward the bride or the groom in particular.  Will you both begin at the same time, or will one of you join in with your parent later?  When will the dances happen?  Having your wedding party join in your first dance or party dances is perfectly fine as well.

     The things we discussed above may seem unimportant, but don't take them for granted.  The key is to get as much information as you can, and plan as best you can in order be as prepared as possible.  Thanks!




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