How to Re-organize the Traditional Wedding Reception

Let’s face it—in the new millennium, everything is moving just a bit faster. Children are carrying around cell phones these days and movies are planning sequels before the first one even premieres. With so much hustle and bustle going on in the world, it’s wise to take time into consideration when planning your wedding.

Your parents’ six hour reception sounded lovely, sure, but take into account the meetings and kids’ matches and harsh schedules your guests are pioneering today and you might think twice about the competitive dancing part of the reception you had your heart set on.

Your wedding is a day that should be all about you. Therefore, it’s important that you have the final say in the organization of the reception. If you are determined to stretch your celebration long into the night, don’t let anyone stop you (unless there is a financial or time restriction on your venue, of course). Your wedding night should be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so don’t miss out, because you deserve every second.

The Right Place at the Right Time

A key element to the happy couple enjoying the celebration is having the right guests there at all the right moments. The groom knows his grandmother desperately wants to make a toast before they cut the cake she baked, but he’s worried Grandma won’t be able to stay up through the hours of food and dancing beforehand.

The bride’s father has been dreaming of the daddy-daughter dance for years, but after standing through the ceremony, he’s not sure how long his legs will hold him through the night. There’s a simpler solution than learning how to time travel: shake up the tree of tradition and rearrange your reception.

There are suggestions, but there is no set law that specifies what event must happen when in your reception. Toasting generally comes with dinner, while the dances often take place before and after, but cake-cutting and bouquet-tossing are usually banished to the end of the night. If you want to ensure that no one misses an important moment, talk to your wedding planner about arranging the big events to occur before dinner, guaranteeing each guest’s presence.

When you enter the reception fresh from your ceremony, your guests are filled to the brim with love and attention for the new happy couple. Why let that focus dissipate over the course of one or two drinks that make up cocktail hour? Instead, use that palpable feeling of love to dive right into your first dance.

Keep the party going by doing the bouquet- and garter-toss early on, allowing everyone a fair chance to participate (including little girls who still pull the pillowcase on, veil-style, before bed each night). Let your guests get caught up in the moment again and again with toasts in between activities to spread the emotion throughout the celebration.

Once dinner takes place, it’s much more common for guests to disappear. Some may head outside for a smoke, others may plant themselves at the bar, while others still will wander through the hotel lobby to unknowingly take the road less traveled.

If your family tends to get flaky once food has been served or you just know your Aunt Belinda’s patience will wear thin waiting throughout the entire reception, execute the more traditional aspects right off the bat and leave the after-dinner hours wide open for schmoozing. In such a modern celebration, it’s not that strange to cut the cake before dinner has been served, either! (Just because you cut it, doesn’t mean you have to eat it—but don’t think you can’t!)

A Little Something Extra

One of the bonus points of rearranging your reception is that your guests will be a bit more sober for the ceremonial portion than they would be at a lengthier reception. While it can be entertaining for the best man to get carried away with his speech, the bride might not be psyched on his full disclosure of the Spring Break vacation the groom took with their other frat brothers. Moving the more formal part of the evening up before much of the alcohol has been consumed guarantees that each act be swift and clean (or at least easier to handle, if not).

Front-loading everything also gives your photographer the opportunity to get the necessary shots in first. Of course, you may want to ask him or her to stick around for a bit after dinner to get some candid shots, but if you’re on a tight budget, grouping the traditions at the beginning of the reception is the smartest way to get the most bang for the least buck.

If your guest list consists of relatives with aching joints or friends with new babies, the benefits of an altered reception will be clear. After a thrilling day, you’ll have the luxury to sit back and enjoy your wedding night without a strict schedule keeping you in one place.

The fresher reception rearrangement allows your guests to savor every special moment with you and, if necessary, head home at their leisure without missing a thing. With all the formalities behind you, you can focus on dancing the night away with your new spouse!