15 Ways to Wow Them at Your Reception

Take your reception from fun to fabulous with these fresh ideas.
Colleen Brewer
by Colleen Brewer

Kiss the old cutting-the-cake moment and garter toss good-bye? No, not exactly, but you can add some new traditions to the mix. When it comes to hosting a wedding reception today, the trend is to throw a sophisticated party that reflects the couple -- and allows guests to feel pampered. How are couples doing it? By adding one or more highly personalized, highly spirited extras.

1. Amazing Arrivals

Beyond limos, some couples are transporting guests in old-fashioned trolleys or even having everyone arrive on foot European-style (if feasible) with the bride and groom leading the way to the celebratory soiree. Find wedding transportation in your area.

2. Heartfelt Displays

A special toast from the groom to the bride is also a hot trend, and one bride we know said it was her favorite part of the entire wedding! Alternatively, toasts from the bride and groom together to their guests are a tasteful way for the newlyweds to thank friends and family verbally. This is especially true as more couples host and pay for their own nuptials.

3. Special Performances

For brides and grooms who are talented vocalists, getting up on stage and crooning a sentimental tune adds a wonderful, personal note to the day's festivities. We know one bride and groom who performed together, shaking up the festivities with a lively rendition of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."

4. Artists On Hand

Some couples are hiring artists to create caricatures, sketches, or trendy black hand-cut silhouettes of guests during the cocktail hour and throughout the reception. While the dancing is in full swing, guests can take a break and

pose -- then have something unique to take home with them.

5. Novelty Acts

Fortune-tellers or palm readers have become popular additions to the event. They can predict wonderful developments for curious (and single!) partygoers ("You will meet your future husband at this wedding...") -- or for Aunt Jane, who's wondering if she should buy that lottery ticket.

6. Musical Additions

Couples are infusing their shindigs with special music beyond the main band or DJ. During the cocktail hour everything from a pianist or jazz trio to a steel drum band -- even a well-crafted compilation CD -- will kick the party off on a high note.

7. Photo Finish

Capture the spirit of the evening by renting a photo booth. Friends and family can really ham it up and create great keepsakes. Another idea is to set up a photo area by creating a backdrop so that guests can stop by and have playful portraits snapped by a photographer.

8. Illuminating Idea

When hosting an evening affair, lighting goes a long way to set the mood. Many caterers and event planners hire lighting designers to highlight different areas of the room, or to provide special effects like an overall tint (amber is popular) or appropriate shapes (your new monogram, perhaps?) spotlighted onto the dance floor. A more low-tech approach is to hang beautiful Chinese paper lanterns or line a walkway with luminarias -- paper bags weighted with sand and filled with votives. Or do like one of our Knotties did and suspend wrought-iron chandeliers filled with candles for rustic charm.

9. Table Toppers

Table numbers are easy to do and bona fide crowd pleasers. Give your reception tables clever monikers. Flower types can be fun, say, if you're getting married in a garden, or names of runs are cute for ski buffs. Movie fans name tables after Hollywood classics. After guests pick up their escort cards and sit down with their tablemates at their special outposts, the table name becomes an instant icebreaker.

10. Dance Fever

Rather than get out on the dance floor and go through the motions, many brides and grooms take professional dance lessons to get ready for their big night. However, we are now seeing couples go several steps further (literally) by mastering intricate, choreographed moves from tango to disco that they can show off at the reception for their first dance together.

11. Lounge Acts

Creating a swanky lounge area of sofas and chairs where guests can hang out at the end of the reception is a trend that's been gaining popularity since the cigar bar craze. A new take on the lounge idea is adding a self-serve dessert wine and artisanal cheese station -- an oh-so-chic way to wind down the evening. Handmade chocolates can (and should, yum) be offered.

12. Super Send-Offs

As guests leave the reception, many thoughtful hosts are sending them off with a breakfast bag -- a new take on the old favor idea. Filled with bagels and cream cheese or OJ and scones, the bags are tagged with a cute note thanking guests for attending the wedding and left on a table by the door.

(See TheKnot.com/favors for a gallery of great gift ideas.)

13. Close Calls

Brides and grooms who want to keep the party going into the wee hours are now capping off the reception with a lively parting song (see our favorite wedding music ideas )and then leading guests (who wish to continue the merrymaking) to the after-party venue.

14. Transit Issues

Providing guests with transportation back to their hotel or home is a thoughtful way to show that you want them to whoop it up, yet not get behind the wheel if they've had too much to drink. Have a bus or van driver on hand to shuttle guests over the course of the evening, or rent several flashy cars (convertibles are fun if weather permits) with drivers to take a few guests at a time to their destination. Display a placard explaining the service (near the restrooms is a good spot) so everyone knows that it's okay to leave their cars in the lot overnight.

15. Clean Getaway

Some couples are ending the party by inviting guests to watch them take off in an attention-getting vehicle—from a vintage convertible to a helicopter (go for a private spin before landing at the after-party!). We even know one military couple who departed the reception in an army-green truck. How's that for fun?

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