50 Fabulous Reception Ideas


Make it a dream day! We invited top wedding planners to share their biggest, brightest ideas for your flowers, cake, decor and more.



Photo Credit: Tantawan Bloom

11. Instead of keeping all your tablescapes uniform, jazz things up by creating three distinct looks. Each could feature different centerpieces, charger plates, candlesticks and linens. You can even vary the table sizes. Doing so creates the feeling you're having a party in your own home.

12. Think your ballroom looks a little blah? The quickest way to add interest is with hanging elements. Ask your planner about using Chinese lanterns or glass globe-shaped vessels overflowing with hydrangea.

13. Change the mood at your reception by adjusting the lighting. Ask your party planner or lighting specialist to arrange for bright, cheerful lighting when guests first enter the ballroom. Lower, amber-colored lighting is best during dinner, when things are calm. For dancing, pump up the energy with funky purple-hued lights.

14. Don't forget to dress up those little spaces in your reception room. Sideboards, shelves, nooks and niches are all perfect places to create lovely vignettes with flowers or candles. In a corner, or next to a bare wall, a grouping of urns filled with roses makes a dramatic statement.

15. During the reception, people will be looking at the band, so don't forget to decorate the area behind the musicians. You could hang panels of shiny vinyl to create a sexy nightclub vibe, or pieces of sheer fabric, accented with long ropes of orchids, for a romantic ambience.

16. Guests naturally gravitate to the cake table, so be sure to showcase yours. Place a full-length mirror behind it, or position the cake on a sideboard with a hanging mirror above it. This doubles the visual impact of your gorgeous confection — and gives guests a 360-degree view.

17. Ask your planner to adhere strips of colored tape to the dance floor, maybe in a combination of fuchsia, pale pink and white. It looks fun, fresh and modern.

Budget Smarts

18. Although hiring a harpist or guitarist to play at the cocktail hour is nice, live music isn't really necessary. Why? Because sounds coming from a soloist or even a group of musicians in the corner of a room will get lost when you have lots of people chatting and moving around. Instead, play your favorite tunes on the sound system.

19. Create a sexy lounge-like area in a corner of your ballroom. If you're having your event at a hotel, ask the manager if you can borrow couches and chairs from an unused suite. He or she may arrange this for you at a minimal cost.

20. Get a warm, intimate ambience with candles. But don't place them on every table. The room will still twinkle if only one-third of the surfaces contain them.

—Bryan Rafanelli, owner, Rafanelli Events, Boston, MA, New York, NY, and Palm Beach, FL

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