DIY Wedding Planning 101: The Reception

DIY Wedding Planning 101: The Reception

Others seek a professional to handle the details, but not you. You’re adventurous. You’re a pioneer. You’re on a budget. Your wedding will be one of the most wonderful days of your life, so the planning has to be on point. Admittedly, people get tripped up here, but you don’t have to. Follow these six essential wedding reception planning tips and you’ll be on your way to hosting one fabulous party.

Take Your Time

Once the engagement has been announced, you are sure to be bombarded by obnoxious well wishers wanting to be the first to know the highly anticipated date. As exciting as the prospect of marrying your love may be, remember not to rush it. Wedding planning takes time, and if you are looking to host an extravagant event with many moving parts, you need to give yourself ample time to make it happen.

If you want your event to take place sooner, that’s ok too; just remember that you may have to give up some things that feel pretty important to you along the way. (This doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t come up with new ideas to make the day special.) Planning a wedding can be as stressful as it can be enjoyable, so identify a confidant or two other than your partner to bounce ideas off of throughout the process.

Start With Budget And Guest List

Nothing is more important when it comes to planning a wedding reception than the budget and the guest list. After all, your budget will determine the kind of event it will be and your guest list will affect how successful that event is.

  • Budget. This will inform every other decision that you have to make—including your guest list—so you must start here. Once you have one large number in mind, you must decide how much you are willing to spend on each reception category: venue, food and spirits, music, decorations, favors, and photography. When you have a general idea of what you plan to spend, you can start planning the reception consciously and with purpose.
  • Guest List. Whether you like it or not, the people you invite to your wedding reception will largely depend on the budget you agree upon for food. Start by identifying the absolute most important people. This may or may not include parents, siblings, close relatives and friends. Once you’ve picked who you simply can’t live without having in attendance, you can start to identify other family members, friends, and co-workers you’d like to attend if there is still some money in the budget.

Design On Theme

Truly, some of the hardest parts of planning are over now. (Really!) What’s left should be fun for everyone involved. One of the best ways to maintain focus with your planning efforts is to design on a theme. If you are having the reception in a barn, you may want to keep things rustic for consistency and tone. If you rent a tent for the backyard, however, you have many more options. Pick something that holds meaning for you both like “nautical” or “red wine”. (Insert theme from the proposal or first romantic date here.) Keeping a theme in mind will help you keep your efforts focused and prevent you from getting distracted by every shiny, beautiful decor option that crosses your path. Before things start looking dire, remind your confidant that it’s her job to keep you sane. Well, as sane as is realistically possible anyway.

Hire With Care

With your design ideas firmly in place, it’s time to start hiring contractors. Again, consult your budget for insight as to what you can afford and what you can’t. Decide which components of your reception are most important to you: food, photography, rentals, flowers, or music.

If your food isn’t included in the cost of your venue, you’ll have many options available as there are several wonderful catering companies that work with all sorts of budgets and the right company can customize a menu to fit your specific needs.

Photography is often the element that gets cut when the wedding budget is small, and that’s ok. Instead of looking to a family member with a nice camera, reach out to a local college’s photography department or a photographer who is just starting out and needs some work for her portfolio. You’ll have the advantage of working with a professional still, but at a highly discounted price.

You can’t get away from rentals unless you have a big, beautiful tent in your backyard and 200 or so spare chairs lying around in the garage. When you start looking for companies to supply seating and shelter for your wedding reception, keep budget and style in mind, but most of all, make sure it’s a company that you can trust.

Nothing can really top the atmosphere of a live band at your wedding, and a DJ is a really great option too. However, spending an afternoon compiling a playlist on your iPod of your favorite songs can be really fun, and it will save you a ton compared to live entertainment.

When you decide to hire help for one, two, or all three of these aspects of your dream wedding reception, remember to spend the time doing your homework. Testimonials are great, but a service provider is only going to include their most stellar feedback on marketing materials. A better gauge of their successes might be found through a Google search. Look for reviews, magazine article features, or endorsements from other brands you trust. Most importantly, schedule an in-person interview and see how they make you feel before you lay down cash for a deposit.

Assign A Wedding Day Coordinator

So far, the planning and coordination of everything has been completely up to you—and you’ve rocked it. You’ve kept a cool head, gotten all the best vendors, and designed a reception that would put Martha Stewart to shame. On your big day, however, it’s time to let go and leave the details to someone else. Find a friend or a family member you can trust to follow up with the caterer, arrange the place cards and party favors, and scold the photographer for making you cry after your makeup was just done. Everything will fall into place, and you need the space and peace of mind on the day of your wedding to sit back and enjoy every moment of it.

Maintain Perspective

We won’t tell you to remain calm; there’s no doubt that this can be a stressful time. It should also be fun and exciting though. Don’t focus so heavily on making this event your dream wedding reception, but instead focus on the fact that it is a celebration. Things will go wrong. There’s nothing you can do about that. Plan everything out to the best of your ability and let everything else just happen. The weirdest mishaps can make for some amazing memories!