Having over 22 years of Hosting/MCing/DJing & coordinating Wedding Receptions, I have seen so many things that I could write a book about my experiences. I have put together the following article to relay some of those experiences on to you so that hopefully with these tips and tricks your BIG day can run as smoothly as possible.
So gosh, where do I start?
Maybe the first thing you should do is read my blog article "You said YES, now let's start planning"
Now that you're back, let's start with etiquette and faux pas of wedding planning. There are many schools of thought on your wedding invitations, the following is what I have read and heard the most.
Your first connection to the wedding guests is through the invitations.
Write full guests names on the inside envelope of your wedding invitations, only the people listed are invited to the event.
If you know a guest is not in a relationship, do not feel obligated to offer an invitation addressed for "two".
Gift preferences, registries or any other matters involving gifts should not be mentioned on the invitation or included in the package, they can be added to bridal shower invitations though. If you have a website to share information about your wedding, you may add an insert with the web address.
Don't use labels on your invitations, hand write them, use a nice font on your computer printer or have them done professionally.
Setting the Wedding & Reception times:
I have no idea who started the trend of having a 2 to 4 hour window of time between your wedding ceremony and your reception, DON'T DO THIS...
Unless you have detailed plans and places for your guests to go, they will become bored, hungry and upset. Pease keep your guests in mind before you do this...
Another thing that couples do not take into consideration is the guests that might be diabetic, if you put too much space between ceremony and reception, they will have to find a place to eat so they can keep their sugar levels normal.
Natural human behavior for guests who get bored between wedding a reception is that they will show up at the reception hall early and get in the way of the vendors who are there trying to get set up for your event. This is very distractive and puts undo stress on the vendors and mistakes can happen. An easy way to resolve this issue is to have the hall lock the doors until the time that you stated on the invitations that the reception starts.
The easiest way to resolve these issues is to plan the wedding start time no earlier than 2 hours before the reception (Catholic wedding) or 1 hour (traditional religion wedding), depending on the travel distance to the hall.
Dinner should be scheduled to start 1 hour after the guests start to arrive at the reception.
Items that need to be at the Hall:
Any special items that need to be at the hall for the reception should be taken there the night before or the morning of when you are setting up. Please do not have things such as the guest book, table assignments, picture mattes, cake toppers, champagne goblets or anything else brought to the hall after the wedding ceremony by Mom, a bridesmaid or even an Aunt, they will not get there in time to be set up before the guests arrive. If you plan on having a guest book at the reception, this really is the only thing that needs to come from the church, assign a friend to bring it with them to the hall and have them get to the hall early so that it can be placed by the door with it's pen, before the other guests arrive.
Please have any items that the DJ will need, such as toss bouquet, anniversary dance bouquet or flower, special props for the night, special music for the night, placed on the DJ table for when he arrives, so that the DJ does not have to go looking for these items later in the night when they are needed.
Room Set up:
Don't just take the halls word for how they like to set up the room as being the best way. Look over the room and imagine where you want the different things that you will need for the reception, such as:
The Head table: count out the members of your bridal party so you know how many tables will need to be setup to make your table long enough, (only the bridesmaids and groomsman sit at the head table, not flower girls or ring bearers). If you are planning on having up-lighting on the wall behind the head table, make sure the hall knows that the table will have to be set up an extra foot further from the wall than normal. Don't put big gawky vases on the head table for your or the bridesmaids bouquets, they get in the way of the photographer who will trying to take pictures of you while you are sitting there.
Gift table: don't put it too close to the door, there have been receptions where strangers have come into the hall and taken cards and such from the gift table, also if you have a large guest list, you may want to think about having a bigger table or two tables so that gifts are do not have to be placed on the floor if there is not enough room. Please do not put burning candles on the gift table, gifts are covered in wrapping paper and it does not play well with open flames.
Cake table: when placing the cake table make sure that you put it where the most of your guests will be able to see you cutting the cake from the left or right side. Don't place it in the corner so that you two do not have enough room to get to a side and face out towards the guests while you are cutting it.
The biggest thing to think about with room set up is guest tables. There are two big things to remember when you are setting up the room, leave enough space for an isle that 2 people can walk arm in arm from the entrance to the head table (we will need this isle for the Grand Entrance). Second and equally important, DO NOT place or let the hall place guest tables in between to DJ and the dance floor.
The guests sitting at those tables will be miserable...... from the announcements and loud music later and it will force them to find a seat at another table later.
Assigned tables are a great idea at a reception, here are a few tricks I have learned.
If you are not going to assign tables, at least reserve tables that are closest to the head table for the Bride and Grooms families. Make the signs large and visible for these tables, you do not need to put a reserved tag at every seat of the table, 2 signs on either side should be enough.
When assigning tables, DO not put older guests close to the DJ, the will be miserable, put the younger guests there.
When setting up the room, make sure that there are no guests tables between the DJ and the dance floor, those guests will have a difficult time talking and will be overwhelmed by the music and announcements. It also block the straight path to the dance floor for the dance floor lighting.
Never placed divorced individuals at the same table or guests that you know might have issues with each other. Try to place family members, aunts uncles and so forth at same tables.
Consider table assignments for handicapped guests, so they do not have to travel to the other side of the room or through a maze of tables to get to theirs.
When making out table assignment cards, make sure the font is LARGE and easy to read from a few feet away. Put table assignments on a table by the entrance but not to close to the door and place them on the table in alphabetical order not by table order. All three of the above issues will cause guests to have to stop and take time finding their assignment card, this creates a bottleneck of guests at the door and sometimes even a slow moving line out the doors which makes for a bad first impression for your guests if it is Cold, Rainy or very hot outside.
You also don't want the table to close to the entry doors or wind from outside will blow your cards over every time the doors are opened.
Do not put Bridal party seating assignment cards on the same table with the guests unless you are not seating at a head table. If you have a head table, they already know where they are going to be sitting.
Receiving lines & greeting guests:
There are a few schools of thought on when and if you should have a receiving line.
"We will just walk around to each table after dinner". Give this some thought, I have seen this done many times. The average couple will spend about 5 minutes per table talking and getting pictures taken, this might not seem too bad to you but if you have more than 10 tables of guests, you have just spent close to 1 hour of your reception walking around to the tables. Imagine if you had more than 10 tables how the guest at the first table you greeted were feeling when you got to the last table (bored)....
Two good ways to do receiving lines are at the church as the guests come out of the sanctuary or at the reception hall, if you can be at the reception hall before the guests start to arrive.
Probably the best way that I have see to greet the guests is actually at the church after the ceremony, the Bride & Groom will come back in the sanctuary after the recessional and release the rows of guests greeting them as they are being released.
Unless You are wanting a really big wedding or the wedding and reception are a good distance for you to travel and it is going to be tough for you to to hire and plan with the vendors, don't waste your money on a wedding planner. In my 21 years of DJing weddings and receptions, I really have not worked with one wedding planner that I would even recommend here on my website.
Now don't get me wrong, I am sure they can help you a bunch in the planning process but on the wedding day, they have really dropped the ball. If you have a DJ doing both wedding and reception, you already have a wedding & reception planner / coordinator.
Here are some comments from a couple who's wedding & reception I DJed a few years ago.
"Scott, thank you So much for you exceptional DJing at our wedding ! You gave us exactly what we wanted in our memorable reception. Thanks, too, for taking the ball from our "amateur" wedding planner... we will definitely recommend you to anyone we know looking for a great DJ". Kara & Mark, 10/20/06
The key to all of this is that when you hire a good DJ, you are also hiring a reception coordinator, sometimes it is difficult for wedding planners to realize that once they get to the reception, it is my job to coordinate and make sure that everything runs smoothly. That is why I meet with couples about a month ahead of the reception to sit down with them and plan out the music, events & announcements of the reception the way that they would like it. When two different people are trying to both coordinate an event, things can get a bit sloppy.
Never open your gifts at the reception, wait until the next day over lunch or brunch or at a later date. A sure fire way to get your guests to leave the reception early and put a halt on the party is to open your gifts at the reception.
Another thing to think about is not putting your gift/card table to close to the exit door, in today's world it has not been unheard of to have someone sneak in a reception and take the cards.
Make sure that you or someone keeps track of this gifts as you open them so that when you send out thank you cards you can thank the guest for exactly what the got you. Example " John & Mary Smith, thank you for the toaster, it is something that we will be able to use for years to come"
Gratuities more often than not are included in the cost of wedding and reception services. However if a vendor goes above and beyond for you, extra tipping is appropriate. Here are some people who should receive a tip on the wedding day
Coat room attendant or bridal party attendant
Clergy or officiant should receive no less then $100.00
Limo drivers should receive 15% of the bill if the tip has not already been included
Organist or musicians at the ceremony should receive at least $50.00
If the DJ goes above and beyond, you may consider $25.00 to $50.00 extra.
DJ Scott's Blog Articles
(The DO's & DON'Ts of the Wedding Day)