Humans love weddings. We love to witness love. But we love parties at least as much. The excitement, the interaction. Even just the food, for those of us who might otherwise prefer a quiet night in. There’s just something about being surrounded by people you care about while celebrating something important and good.
So, while the wedding is, of course, the reason everyone is together, the reception is just as important. The wedding is a commitment to loving each other, but the reception gives the bride and groom a chance to remind everyone of their commitment to friends and family as well. Make the reception a reflection of how much you care for your family and friends and give them a party they’ll remember fondly for years to come.
There are lots of blogs out there claiming to share ways to get your guests involved – but the most involved they get are playing yard games, signing alternative guests books such as surfboards, and writing notes of advice for the bride and groom. Here are some ways to really involve your guests in the reception.
Some of my best memories from every wedding I’ve gone to are of the dance floor. My extended family has every type of dancer covered – the foot-shuffler, the crazy arms, the bumper car, the person doing all the “classic” moves. You’ll see a little bit of everything at one of our family weddings. Because the dance floor is one of the highlights of the night, it’s also easy to remember the awkward, less fun parts on the dance floor; like when the DJ played a song no one liked. We liked to stand in a huddle on the middle of the dance floor, staring at the DJ until he or she played a different song. For us, and for many others, music is one of the most important parts of the reception.
Why not let your guests have a say in what they listen to? Sure, you can ask a DJ to play a particular song, but they don’t always have it in their files, or they don’t always play it when you want it played. When your guests have some say over the music, they’ll get to dance to what they want, and they will enjoy the evening all the more. You might also hear songs you wouldn’t expect to hear on a typical wedding playlist from a DJ but are perfect for your wedding. Not to mention giving your guests the option to participate (not forcing them to) is a great way to ensure everyone will have a good time.
A DJ is important, too, because they typically make announcements and steer the reception through the night. However, they’re not totally necessary. Maybe someone in the bridal party is a great emcee, or a close friend or family member who wasn’t part of the bridal party but you’d still like them to be involved could host the evening. Or, if you want a more laid-back reception and aren’t planning on doing some of the more formal traditions, you don’t have to have an emcee at all. This frees you up to let your guests choose the music.
With Spotify, you can make playlists, listen to a radio station, play every song one artist has ever produced, or you can create a queue. Playlists and queues are fairly similar, but each has its own benefits for a reception.
Source: Spotify Playlist
When you create a playlist, you pre-pick the music for the night. Guests can still add to the list, but there’s less say over when the song will play. In a playlist, you can listen in a random order or sort by artist, date added, or alphabetical by song title.
You can still pre-pick songs in a queue. The main difference between a queue and a playlist is you can choose which order the songs play in the queue. Guests can add any song they want and play it whenever they want.
If you have a lot of children, or maybe some rowdy friends, at the reception, you may need someone to keep an eye on the music – a guest-run playlist has the potential to be disruptive. Maybe two people have a little too much to drink and they begin to fight over which song to play next; the back and forth could cause a lapse in the music and dancing, which should never happen at a wedding reception! Or, a child might think it’s funny to play an inappropriate song. But, if you know your guests and trust them to not be unruly, you can let them have free reign over the music. You might also want to include a note or sign with guidelines, like in this example:
Now that you’ve got the perfect mix, get on that dance floor!
After the Maid of Honor and Best Man have said their pieces, the bride and groom should take a moment to thank everyone for joining their celebration. Then, invite your guests to make a toast as well.
Source: Group Toast
These toasts don’t have to be dedicated to the bride and groom. If you have a more outspoken crowd, you could try asking other married couples to stand up and ask if they have any advice or stories to share. Start by asking all married couples to stand up. Say something like “If you’ve been married ten years or less, what advice can you give the bride and groom? Do you have any stories about how you know their marriage will last well beyond the ten-year anniversary?” After everyone who wants to speak has, they can sit down. Continue with couples married up to 25 years, 50 years, as far as you can go before no one is left standing.
If your group is less bold, ask the children! Kids are full of hilarious and surprisingly insightful advice. Their comments can liven up the room and, who knows, maybe they can teach you something about love. Make sure you videotape these speeches – you never know when a little one will strike gold with their opinions.
A long-standing tradition says whenever a guest clinks their drinking glass, the bride and groom have to kiss. Let’s get a little creative with this one.
During the cocktail hour or before the bride and groom arrive at the reception, have guests write down “dares” (remind them to keep it PG!) for the bride and groom. Collect these dares in a vase or bowl. During the reception, whenever a guest clinks their glass, the bride or groom should draw a dare and do whatever the paper says. Here are some ideas:
- Dance to a particular song, chosen by the guest (it may be best to keep this one short, depending on the timeline for the reception – pick out a 30-second or so clip of the song)
- Share a funny story about each other
- Share the moment they knew they would marry the other
- Name a particular dance move or two (the moonwalk, the Charleston, raise the roof, the sprinkler). The bride and groom must have a dance off with that move only
- Take a shot
- Give the oldest family member there a kiss on the cheek
- Give the youngest family member there a kiss on the cheek
Source: Dance Moves
If the bride and groom are a little uncomfortable with this, it’s easily turned around. The bride and groom can come up with their own list of dares, and when someone clinks a glass, before the couple kisses, the clinker must complete a dare.
- Share a story about the bride and groom
- Share a story about their own significant other
- Kiss their significant other
- Take a shot
- Take a funny selfie with the bride and groom
- Impersonate a famous person until someone guesses who it is
Of course, the key to a great reception is knowing your audience. What will they enjoy? Maybe your family is on the introverted side, so the dares may make people more uncomfortable than it makes them laugh. Maybe everyone is fighting for the title of court jester, and you can have a friendly roast of the bride and groom or other guest of honor. Think about activities your family would adore and do your best to incorporate them into your reception.