6 Wedding Reception Trends for 2023 to Elevate Your Party

Your guests will be talking about these ideas long after the party's over.
Samantha Iacia - The Knot wedding style expert
Samantha Iacia
  • Samantha writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a speciality in wedding decor, trends, and fashion
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Samantha was a features and weddings contributor for The Baltimore Sun
  • She is based in Washington, D.C. and holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism
Updated Dec 22, 2022

You already know that your wedding reception will be filled with good music, drinks, amazing food and, most importantly, all of your loved ones. But if you're looking to level-up your party and make it all the more memorable, these wedding reception trends for 2023 will help you do it. The overarching theme: the latest wedding reception trends are all about wildcard elements and hyper-personal celebrations to make your special day stand out from the rest.

"Creating a fun guest experience will continue to be a top priority for couples," says Jeankarla Duran, a Rhode Island-based event producer for Mavinhouse Events. "Whether it's an amazing band, a fun photo wall, a watercolor artist or giant LED-stilt walkers, entertainment companies are pushing the boundaries and creating more immersive options to make memorable moments for guests to enjoy."

We asked industry experts to share their must-know trends and ideas for wedding receptions in 2023, and they didn't disappoint. See what they're excited about—plus our favorite ways to get creative for your own wedding reception—below.

2023 Wedding Reception Trends:

1. Wedding Ice Sculptures

If you needed any more proof that the early aughts are back, this cool trend is definitive confirmation. Custom ice sculptures, which were popular at weddings and formal events (prom, anyone?) in the late '90s and early 2000s, have returned as a big wedding reception trend for 2023. This time around, wedding ice sculptures will be designed as part of the guest experience rather than simply being decorative items. Turn your ice sculpture into a shot luge, dessert display, raw bar (oysters are one of the top wedding food trends for 2023) or beverage dispenser for an interactive element that your guests won't be able to resist.

2. Private Last Dance

Cue your new favorite core memory. "This is going to be huge in 2023," says Kathy Sanders, event and wedding specialist at Historic Hotel Bethlehem in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. "Couples are asking their guests to head outside and line up for a sparkler send-off while they enjoy a few precious private moments on the dance floor. It creates a moment of intentional connection and memory-making on a day that often goes by in a blur."

After months of planning and anticipating your wedding, finding moments for intentional connection with your partner when the day finally arrives is more important than ever. Building in little breaks for yourselves on the wedding day, like a private last dance, ensures that you'll actually remember the special moments instead of looking back and wondering where the time went.

On top of being a super-sweet way to carve out one-on-one time with each other, a private last dance is even more meaningful if you feel nervous about dancing in front of your guests—the private dance will give you a few minutes to really unwind and lock into your emotions without hesitation. Lastly, it's a perfect moment for your photographer to snap some photos of the two of you alone at the venue, surrounded by the decorations and other details that you worked so hard to pick out.

3. Telephone Wedding Guest Books

The wedding guest book is an old-school tradition that admittedly can feel a little…old-school. While we love the idea of giving your guests a way to share their well wishes on your wedding day, your options today have evolved beyond the basic book where everyone writes down their name and address. Enter: the telephone wedding guest book, one of our favorite wedding reception trends for 2023.

To do this, you'll need to rent the phone from a company that specializes in audio guest books (try FêteFone, At the Beep or After the Tone), but the memories you'll gain are priceless. Guests can take turns recording their messages using a handheld phone—and bonus, the vintage-inspired rotary phones are cute and charming. (Brace yourself for some cheeky and hilarious messages once the drinks start flowing.) After the wedding, you'll receive an audio file compiling all of your guests' messages together, like a big soundtrack from your wedding that you can listen to on repeat forever.

4. Unexpected Wedding Reception Timelines

It's no secret that weddings are becoming even more personalized and unique as couples look for new ways to surprise guests and create bespoke experiences. If you're trying to think outside the box for your wedding day, you might resort to an unexpected location or theme to get the job done, but those aren't your only options. One surefire way to plan a memorable wedding? Shake up the order of events to make the day (or weekend) feel totally tailored to you as a couple.

"Weddings have traditionally been very formulaic," says Lindsey Shaktman, destination wedding planner at Mavinhouse Events. "Ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner and dancing. While there's something nice about the expected, I'm seeing a lot of people lean into alternate formats for their wedding receptions moving forward. A small cocktail reception ahead of the ceremony, roaming dinner options rather than a seated reception and the use of transitioning into different spaces to surprise guests helps to keep everyone excited for what is coming next."

Even though it can be fun to switch up your wedding day timeline based on trends, the goal should ultimately be to create a celebration that reflects what the two of you love (and leave out anything you don't). If you're not into formal sit-down dinners or multi-course meals in your everyday life, there's no reason to force yourself to enjoy them on your wedding day just for the sake of tradition. Skip the entrées and serve a selection of gourmet finger foods or small plates instead, with lounge areas sprinkled throughout your venue to encourage mingling. Love to host friends for cocktail parties and get-togethers at home? Don't wait for the after-party to let loose with your guests—kick off the wedding day with a brunch or late lunch to start the festivities as soon as possible.

5. Live Wedding Painters

If you regularly scroll through #weddingtok or Instagram, there's a good chance that you're already familiar with this idea. Hiring a live wedding painter is just one of the latest ways to incorporate something memorable and one-of-a-kind as part of your wedding day. The concept, which started a few years ago, is going to be one of the biggest wedding reception trends for 2023.

"We're seeing more and more couples booking artists to paint the scene during their weddings," Sanders says. "It's part of the desire to share unique experiences with their guests. In addition to offering a creative experience, the live painting leaves the couple with a sentimental piece of art to cherish for a lifetime."

A live wedding painter is a professional artist who attends the wedding and creates a painting—on the spot—depicting your venue, decor, attire and other details. Guests can stop by and watch as the painter is busy at work during your reception, and by the end of the night, you'll have a one-of-a-kind portrait to help you always remember the day.

6. Memorable Wedding Entertainment and Experiences

The final wedding reception trend of 2023 is all about creating conversational experiences to wow your guests. "In a world ruled by social media impressions, couples are looking for viral moments," Sanders says. "They're adding unique entertainment and experiences like dancers, drummers, food trucks, special effects and so much more."

Hiring a group of live performers for your wedding day might seem like something out of the ordinary, but that's exactly what makes it memorable. For some cultures, special performances are already part of the wedding day, like the sangeet at Indian weddings and lion dancers at Chinese weddings. But you don't need to be honoring a cultural background or religion to put on dinner and a show for your guests. Drag shows, acrobat performers, dueling musicians or professional dancers are just a few other options.

If a Broadway-esque performance isn't your thing, that's okay too. You can still surprise your guests with a fun wedding reception activity by adding an interactive station or unexpected food options they won't see coming. Set up a tattoo bar (temporary or permanent!), rent an ice cream truck, let guests roll their own handmade wedding cigars or hire a secondary photographer to take celebrity-style photos of everyone in their finest attire.

"Food that tells a story and is practically being served at every turn is one of our favorite ways to create an experience for the senses [and] for our guests," says Nancy Park, founder and principal planner at So Happi Together in Southern California. "Traditional photo booths are fun, but we are seeing a desire for more 360-photo and video booths or the keepsake/custom portrait style photos provided by companies like The Collective You."

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