Welcome to the third and final installment on how to plan a unique wedding! We have covered ideas for a unique engagement shoot and how to plan a unique wedding ceremony, so in this post we will be focusing on the last act of your big day– how to make your wedding reception unique!
Your wedding reception is the big ending to the day you’ve been planning for months or years. You are announced as a couple and can finally relax and celebrate with your loved ones. Follow this guide if you are looking for ideas to help you plan a personalized event that sets your reception apart from the traditional –or stuffy– receptions of the past.
Ideas to make your wedding reception stand out
Focus on your unique shared interests
Overall, when planning a unique wedding reception, you want to remember that it should reflect you as a couple. You should feel free to nix any of the traditional “steps” of a reception that don’t suit you, and you can personalize any of them to suit your own tastes. Think about what interests or hobbies you share together and build your theme, decor, favors, food & drink around that.
Choose one-of-a-kind wedding favors
To avoid the clichéd Jordan almond, choose to instead give wedding favors that represent your relationship together. One of my Brides choose to give out jars of honey from her Dads beehives on their family property. Your favorite wine, beer, or coffee would be a welcome gift that allows you to share your favorite things with your loved ones. Perhaps your first date was at a coffee shop, so you can gift a bag of beans. Or maybe you share a favorite chocolate shop, so packaged sweets make for a meaningful favor.
Pick a non-traditional guestbook
While your guests are mingling during cocktail hour they will be taking in your decor and signing your guestbook, so give them something different to work with! Non-traditional guestbooks have been gaining in popularity, and the possibilities are endless. My personal favorites are always a coffee table book that speaks to you as a couple. Or, if books aren’t your thing, choose a more unexpected way for guests to leave their names and messages. Travelers can have guests pin their name/message on a map, or sign them on a globe. Perhaps you’re board game lovers- have guests sign Jenga blocks. If you are music lovers, have guests sign old records that you can frame and hang at home. Whatever you choose, do it in your own style! The goal is to end up with a cherished piece of decor for your home that you will see often.
Create unique table numbers, seating charts + signage
When focusing on making your wedding reception unique, you should incorporate your favorite hobbies or interests and make them the focal point of your tables. For instance, I chose table names after our favorite National Parks that we had visited so far. If you are travelers as well, you can have each table represent one of your favorite places. Perhaps add a centerpiece picture of you taken at your favorite spot in each city. If you both love sports, name each table for your favorite teams. You can hone these by virtually any category you love: music, movies, books, famous couples, food and drink etc. On the other hand, you can stay traditional with table numbering but choose to create unique signage. I recently had a couple who both created the invites and signage together which made for an incredibly personal touch.
Make a unique entrance to your reception
You’re finally married and you’re ready to be announced as a married couple to all of your guests! This is a moment you can choose to shine and tailor your entrance to represent your relationship. If you aren’t shy you can plan a dramatic entrance that showcases your talents, whether it be a choreographed dance, a flash mob with your bridal party, playing your own music, confetti cannons, or a lightshow. You can choose to have guests greet you outside as you roll up in a cherished classic car, or have your guests participate in tossing rose petals as you enter for gorgeous photos! Encourage your wedding party to be creative with their entrance as well, or plan a show that builds up to your entrance (costumes optional!).
Create a unique cocktail menu
Nothing goes better with a wedding than a cocktail (or a mocktail)! The trend of mixology has officially made its way to the wedding circuit, and couples are jumping on board to curate their own cocktail lists. Work with your caterer or bartenders to create signature drinks for you and your partner made with your favorite ingredients. You can tailor these to the in-season produce or flavors at the time, or make a twist on a classic. Name cocktails after yourself, your pets, or other favorite things. If you are planning a dry wedding or want to be inclusive for non-drinkers, ask to have “mocktail’ versions of each drink as well.
One of my couples got engaged at a vineyard in Italy, so they had that same wine flown in for their guests to share in that part of their story! These are exactly the type of special details you can incorporate into your day!
Choose a fun menu
You’ve gotta feed yourself and your guests, so do it intentionally. Choose your favorite foods or meld your cultures together for a specialized menu. With a mixture of your favorite Italian and Greek dishes, your guests will appreciate the options and the insight into your heritage. Or bring in a food truck instead of a traditional caterer. Whether it’s tacos, pizza, or even a mobile bar, this can be a lot of fun! It’s also perfect if you have a venue that isn’t traditional and doesn’t have a kitchen- and a food truck can meet you wherever you are.
Plan surprise events
This is where you can get really creative! I’ve had a couple who met in a band sing a song together for their guests. Another couple decided to DJ together. It can be as substantial as an entire fireworks display, or as thoughtful as hiring a local food or ice cream truck to offer your guests a late night snack during dancing. Any little extra you can add will help set your reception apart from the rest.
Highlight your unique cultures
We mentioned how to do this through food, so definitely take that into account. If you are looking for other ways to highlight and meld your families, think of the environment you’re creating. The decor or theme, events and traditions. Perhaps your heritage celebrates with plate smashing, a Mariachi band, circle dances, etc. Mix it all together for a wedding experience like no other!
Plan a unique dessert
To have a unique wedding reception you can choose to buck tradition when it comes to your menu and focus instead on what your personal favorite desserts are. If you aren’t a fan of cake, there is nothing stopping you from serving pie, cookies, cannolis or ice cream! Our favorite meal is brunch, so we had a pancake cake! Don’t be afraid to veer away from the norm and choose the unconventional options.
An outfit change
An outfit change tells your guests it’s time to party and allows you to display your personality! Choose something that is fun and unexpected- you can even add some color, or family heirlooms to make it really unique. Now that most of the formalities are done with, you can really throw all the traditions out the window and allow your personality to shine! Mini dresses have become very popular (and are easier to dance in than a full length dress with a train)
Ready to plan a unique wedding reception?
I hope this guide has given you some ideas on how to plan a unique reception to end your big day with a bang! Remember, it is ultimately your day and you can plan it however you see fit. The little details you choose will come together to make your wedding reception memorable for you and your guests! So lean into the unexpected and really make your day shine. If you are ready to discuss your vision for a unique reception, reach out! I would love to capture your story!