Your wedding may be a celebration of love and commitment, but it's also the biggest party you'll probably ever throw. So pull out all the stops and make it a night to remember. We consulted the country's top wedding experts to find out their best ideas for throwing a fun, fabulous reception. Whether you use one or 10 of them, they're sure to inspire you!
1. Create a buzz even before the party starts—with festive wedding invitations. "Bold-hued paper and ink, in colors like fuchsia and turquoise, signal a hot night ahead," says Mindy Weiss, a Los Angeles-based party planner. You could also get disco-flashy, with crystal appliqués or glittery silver ribbon bows.
2. A hip signature drink immediately sets the tone of your affair. As soon as the party begins, have waiters circulate with trays of glasses filled with a special concoction. Try raspberry-flavored Long Island Iced Teas, served with sugarcane "swizzle sticks." Ginger-infused martinis and mint-garnished mojitos are also swanky choices right now, says Lauri Dorman of Paula LeDuc Fine Catering, in San Francisco . Make sure the drinks are served in statement-making vessels, like oversized tumblers or colored martini glasses.
3. Plan creative presentations. "People eat with their eyes first," says Dorman, so make hors d'oeuvres look as enticing as they taste. Tempt palates with sophisticated bites served in startling ways—like tuna ceviche in Asian-style soupspoons, spicy jumbo shrimp or chicken satay on wooden skewers, or soup in shot glasses or sake cups.
4. The opening of the ballroom doors for post-cocktail-hour dinner and dancing should be an occasion, says Jamie Breslin, Catering Director of the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, in Illinois . Create a feeling of anticipation by having music wafting from the ballroom that's different from what's being played in the cocktail-party room. When the doors open, the new music will be the signal for guests to come in, and will make their entrance feel more exciting.
5. Surprise guests by setting up unusual furniture groupings—couches, comfy chairs, tables and lamps—in your reception room to create a sexy, clubby atmosphere. "We're doing a lot of sleek couches with shag area rugs, and adding low chandeliers and other light fixtures," says Weiss. In a ballroom, set up these arrangements next to the dance floor; if you have an outdoor wedding reception, place them directly on the lawn or under a tent.
6. Opt against those cookie-cutter tables that are all exactly the same size and shape. Create a dynamic effect by having, say, a rectangular table that seats 16 next to a square table for eight, suggests Breslin. And don't feel you have to keep the centerpieces uniform either—go for flower arrangements of differing heights and colors.
7. A simple idea to energize a space: "Use color wherever possible—with bright linens, glassware, flowers, even the ink on your seating cards," says Weiss.