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.


pomegranate pear dazzler signature cocktail
Photo Credit: Lover.ly

21. At your cocktail party, serve a signature cocktail that reflects the season. Summer's ripe for mojitos or fresh peach bellinis. Fall calls for green-apple martinis. Lemon drops or hot cider with applejack brandy are perfect for winter. In spring, serve daiquiris made from the season's fresh strawberries.

22. Ask your planner to set up a square-shaped bar so guests can approach from all four sides. This way, you'll prevent long lines from forming and keep the party flowing.

23. A standard bar can look very unappealing. Remember to dress it up with small flower arrangements or even just beautiful bottles of wine, vodka and other spirits.

24. If you have a sit-down dinner, the appetizer and entrée courses, combined, will last roughly an hour. Guests shouldn't be made to sit around any longer than that, so forgo the dessert course and have a dessert table, where people can help themselves to an array of sweets. That way, you get people up and moving around.

25. Presentation is everything. Serve pommes frites in paper cones or gazpacho in bowls made of ice. You want your guests' senses to be surprised and delighted on every level, not just taste.

26. The final memory you leave your guests with is the most lasting one. Just before the party's over, pass around whimsical treats, such as demitasse cups filled with crème brûlée or mini grilled-cheese sandwiches on artisanal bread.

27. Favors shouldn't be for guests only. Send yourselves off with a treat, too. Ask your caterer to create a basket filled with champagne, cheese, crackers, fruit, cookies and chocolate that you can dip into when you're up in the honeymoon suite.

Budget Smarts

28. Skip the champagne for the toast. Most people take only a sip or two, then put down the flute, which means that most of the bubbly goes to waste. Instead, guests can simply raise a glass of whatever they're drinking with dinner.

29. Beef and lamb are expensive. Salmon, halibut and duck breast cost a lot less, and yet you won't look cheap serving them. If beef is really important to you, opt against ultrapricey filet mignon and offer short ribs, a more wallet-friendly cut.

30. Many caterers bring in their own glassware, which includes different vessels for specific drinks (highballs, wine, martinis and so on). Of course, they'll charge you accordingly. Cut costs by asking your caterer to use all-purpose glassware rather than a bunch of specialty ones.

—Lauri Dorman, vice-president, Paula LeDuc Fine Catering, San Francisco, CA 

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