25 Romantic Reception Ideas

Pink cocktails, heart-shaped desserts, flickering candles on every table? We've found 25 wow-them ways to share the love at your dream reception.

Your wedding will no doubt be the most romantic day of your lives, but how can you maximize that feeling so it tugs at the heartstrings of your guests? It's all in the details—carefully chosen food and drinks, decorative touches, even a few stolen moments together, away from the group. Try some of these wildly romantic ideas.

In the Mood

1. "The first thing guests see when they walk into the reception venue is the escort-card table, so that's the place to set the romance for the party ahead," says New York-based wedding planner Preston Bailey. Pin a creamy gardenia onto each card, or scatter rose petals among them.

2. Make the entrance leading into your ballroom unforgettable. Ask your florist to create arrangements in the shape of a heart or your monogram, then hang them from grosgrain ribbons on the open doors.

3. Having a garden ceremony? Evoke the courtly feeling of the early 1900s by passing out parasols in delicate pastel colors to your guests. Los Angeles-based wedding planner Alyse Sobel suggests tying a ribbon to each one with a card that reads, "May you always be sheltered by love." You can find inexpensive paper parasols at your local party goods store or at pearlriver.com, which sells Asian-inspired crafts.

4. Request that guests jot down their favorite date idea in your guest book, instead of the standard signature. You'll remind them of a romantic occasion of their own, and also have great suggestions for married life.

5. Share your wedding meal at a small "sweetheart table," reserved just for the bride and groom. Sobel recommends dressing the backs of your chairs with lush greens and flowers (a lovely idea, even if you choose to sit at a larger table), or bringing in upholstered armchairs for a throne-like feel.

6. Have romance delivered to your new spouse! Michael Meuer, senior wedding consultant for Blue Plate Weddings in Chicago, suggests surprising your guy or gal by writing up little love notes in advance of the big day (you could even have the notes professionally printed), and then asking a white-gloved waiter to deliver them on a silver tray to your beloved throughout the evening.

7. Carve out a little alone-time in the midst of your party: Sneak away to a private room in your reception venue—you can ask your caterer in advance to have champagne and strawberries waiting for you. Kiss, toast to your future, and relish the fact that this is your wedding day!

8. The easiest way to create a romantic mood is to light your reception room in a flattering hue, says New York City-based lighting designer to the stars Bentley Meeker. "The best are pink, amber, magenta, honey and fuchsia," he adds. Ask your site manager to replace the white lightbulbs in the fixtures with colored ones for your event: It will create a golden glow. 

9. Another simple, yet evocative, idea from Meeker: Use softly glowing candles to illuminate your reception room. Turn off all the overhead lights, and place hurricane lanterns on all of the tables. Look for ledges or fireplace mantels where you can place pillars and votives. Just remember to be moderate in your use, he advises: Masses of candles generate more light than you might expect, and you don't want your space to be as bright as if the electric lights were on.

10. Changing your name? Celebrate it by projecting your new monogram onto the dance floor. Your lighting designer or wedding planner can create a custom gobo (a special type of stencil) of your initials, and attach it to a spotlight on the ceiling so the design is projected onto the floor. If monograms aren't your style, Meeker suggests creating the feeling of an enchanted forest by projecting a pattern of leaves or branches with a slowly rotating spotlight fitted with a gobo cut to resemble foliage.

11. "When you walk into a room and see the floral centerpieces softly glowing, it takes your breath away," says Meeker. To get this romantic garden look, highlight each of your arrangements with "pin spots," tiny spotlights your wedding planner can arrange to have rigged to the ceiling.

Dishing Up Dreams

12. Serve up foods at your cocktail hour that are said to have aphrodisiac properties, like oysters and lobster, says Meuer. Create a "frozen bar," with trays of these delicacies kept cold on dramatic ice sculptures (dare we suggest nudes?).

13. Even the salad course of your wedding meal can make a lovely statement. Dress up the greens with edible flowers, such as nasturtiums or delicate peach blossoms.

14. Showcase your new monogram — in the soup. Serve a thick concoction (like pumpkin soup in fall or vichyssoise in winter) and have your caterer spell out your initials with heavy cream in each bowl. If you're not changing your name, you could have the soup garnished with your first initials intertwined or, simply, the shape of a heart or another special symbol.

15. Add a splash of romance to your cocktails with the color pink. "A Kir Royale—crème de cassis mixed with champagne—creates a pretty, light color, and it's also a very popular wedding drink right now," says Meuer. For an even sexier alternative, offer a deep-ruby concoction such as red-wine sangria, garnished with star fruit.

16. To finish off the feast with a little romance, ask your caterer to bake heart-shaped biscotti. Then have cups of coffee served to your guests, with one of these sweet treats perched on each saucer.

Posey Particulars

17. Make a grand getaway from your ceremony site under a shower of pink and red rose petals instead of birdseed or bubbles. Simply fill a basket with tulle sachets containing the petals, and ask your bridesmaids to distribute them to guests before the big send-off.

18. Fill your reception room with a beautiful aroma, suggests Bailey, who recommends roses, gardenias or even a few rose- or gardenia-scented candles. "I love to use garden roses in the summer," he says. "It's the ultimate romantic thing—a classic." Or, consider placing small, potted orange or lemon trees around the perimeter of the room for their spring-like perfume. Whatever you do, make sure to use only one scent, advises Bailey, because competing fragrances can be overwhelming.

19. Share the romance by giving your guests flowers. Place a small bloom with a wrapped stem next to each escort card, or on each plate along with a note of thanks for sharing in your big day (they can serve as favors). If you provide pins, men can use the blooms as boutonnieres, and women can wear them as corsages. Or, the ladies can simply tuck them into their hair.

Songs of Love

20. Imagine taking your first spin around the dance floor while listening to the words that joined you together as husband and wife. According to DJ Kevin Dennis of Fantasy Sound Event Services in San Francisco, California, it's relatively easy for your DJ to record your vows at the ceremony, and then splice them into your first-dance song. Dennis says swoony tunes containing long spaces without words, such as Etta James' sultry rendition of "At Last," work best for this treatment.

21. Hire professional dancers to perform the tango, one of the most romantic and passionate dances ever created. Guests who know it can join them out on the floor! The salsa is another excellent option.

22. Take your guests back in time to when they first fell in love. Ask your DJ to play a famous slow song from each of the last five decades, and watch as your parents, grandparents and younger friends and family lose themselves in happy memories.

Sweeter Still

23. There's probably no more romantic moment during your big day than that in which you exchange your vows. So feature them on your cake! You can ask your baker to pipe "I do" in frosting onto the various tiers. Rather than using neat lines across each layer, have him or her create interest with different sizes and styles of calligraphy.

24. What's better than ice cream? Having the cold stuff served in heart shapes (your caterer can use heart-shaped molds). Consider using strawberry ice cream, or vanilla with raspberry sauce.

25. Set a romantic mood with each slice of wedding cake. New York wedding planner Francesca Abbracciamento suggests asking your baker to create edible ribbons from pulled sugar and decorate each one with a word, such as "love" or "joy." Your caterer can place one on each guest's cake plate.