Originally introduced as a way of celebrating the marriage and the joining of the two families. The reception, or wedding breakfast as it was once called, is almost as old as the ceremony itself. Historically only close family members or members of the church attended, unlike today where everyone invited to the ceremony normally attends the reception.
Today, the usual format for the reception would be drinks on arrival followed by a meal, speeches, cutting of the cake and then less formal celebrations such as a disco or dancing. Financial constraints may dictate which style of reception the bride, groom and their families choose. Some may opt for a sit down meal with unlimited drinks while others prefer a buffet style affair.
Until you have booked the reception and ceremony venues you won't actually know how large the guest list can be. It's always a good idea to establish numbers of family members and close friends that will make up the essential invites. Before compiling the guest list, a budget for the reception must be decided and agreed between those who will be paying the bill. Once you establish your budget, decide how many people you can invite, and be realistic. Now is the time to agree ground rules. You may decide on a separate list of those that you would rather not attend (perhaps ex-boyfriends/girlfriends etc). If parents are paying, you should ask them how many people they wish to invite. Be prepared for some negotiation if they want to invite far more people than you had anticipated.
Remember, it is your wedding day and ultimately you decide the names and numbers that will appear on the final guest list.
Having left the ceremony before everyone else, the bride and groom will hopefully be first to arrive at the reception, closely followed by the parents. A receiving line is formed to greet the guests individually as they arrive. The hosts (usually the bride's parents) stand at the front of the line. Ushers introduce each guest by name to the mother of the bride. (it's a good idea to have an usher from each family). Next in line would be the groom's mother and father, followed by the bride and groom and any other attendants. The guests then make their way to their respective tables. When all the guests have been received, the bride and groom lead the bridal party to the top table and take their seats. Guests remain standing until the bride and groom are seated. For smaller functions it is not unusual for the bride and groom to welcome guests themselves.
To avoid confusion it is essential to have a seating plan. Handwritten place cards - in the style of the invitation, numbers on tables and a plan of the room will help guests find their seat with the minimum of fuss. The ushers can be utilised to direct arriving guests to their table and help any who are having difficulty finding their seat. It may be a good idea to have a few extra places available for unexpected guests.
The reception venue will advise on the best table layout depending on the number of guests attending. Round tables give a less formal impression and allow partners to sit next to each other. If long tables are used partners would normally sit opposite each another. When devising the seating plan, try to group together guests who know each other. It might also be beneficial to pay attention to guests interests and ages.
The most popular layout is a long top table for the bridal party and a series of small round tables for the guests. Smaller display tables for the cake and gifts should also be provided.
The Top Table
The following diagrams illustrate a traditional top table seating plan. We have also provided diagrams to show other possible scenarios where certain parties would benefit by not sitting next to each other. For example, divorced parents, or where there is conflict between the two sets of parents. In these situations it is advisable to adopt an alternative seating arrangement in order to satisfy all parties.
Traditional Seating Plan.
Avoiding potential friction between Bride and Groom's parents.
Bride's parents divorced and remarried.
Groom's parents divorced and remarried.
Both set of parents divorced and remarried.
The cake is traditionally cut after the speeches and toasts, and would normally conclude the formal part of the wedding reception. It was believed, in order for the bride to bear children, she (with the help of her groom) should cut the first slice. Today the first cut is more symbolic to the couple's shared future together. The couple would normally pose for photographs just prior to cutting the first slice, allowing guests to take snaps of the occasion. The cake is said to spread good fortune to all who eat it, hence the reason for sending a slice to all those who were unable to attend the wedding.
Traditionally a time for the best man and friends of the couple to be a little mischievous. They would decorate the going away car with balloons, crazy foam and tin cans without the couples' knowledge. The best man would announce the departure of the newlyweds, who by this time would have changed into their going away outfits. The guests would usually participate in the throwing of confetti or rice over the happy couple. So as not to disappoint the guests, it is recommended the couple have a strategically placed second car a few miles up the road, in which they would continue their journey.
A White Dove Release at your wedding creates a spectacular visual effect. White Doves have long been a symbol of peace, love, faith and fidelity. The release of White Doves by the Bride and Groom signifies a romantic and everlasting new life together and is now a popular alternative to the throwing of confetti. Whether a single Dove, a pair of Doves or a flock of Doves, this will be one of the most talked about events of the wedding day - a magical moment to be captured forever on camera.
The only traditional entertainment at the reception takes the form of the speeches and the bride and groom's first dance. With modern weddings it is common for there to be a very informal evening party, usually including a buffet. Sometimes a live band or comedian provide the entertainment but more often a disco is preferred. A wider circle of friends are normally invited to the evening party, some of whom may choose to bring gifts. The best man would take responsibility for the gifts. Remember to inform guests when the reception is expected to end. If the party is expected to last into the early hours, it should be explained to elderly guests that they may leave when ever they wish without causing offence. It can be considered rude to leave the party before the bride and groom.