Planning Your Reception

The secret to a fabulous reception is careful planning, attention to detail, good food and the company of the people you love. So where to begin? Venue, venue, venue!

Image by Red Berry Photography, Reception at Novotel Wollongong Northbeach

Once you have determined your reception budget, it’s time to consider your options. Although the choices usually revolve around function centres, restaurants, clubs, and hotels, other locations can include halls, gardens, cruise boats, private houses, galleries, cocktail lounges, wineries and museums.

Take into consideration the venue size, décor, dance floor space, atmosphere and location. Ideally, the venue should suit your personality and reflect your individuality; it should say something about your sense of style. Most venues will have a dedicated wedding co-ordinator who can assist you with all of your planning.

It’s also important to consider the distance between your ceremony location and your possible reception venue. Guests should be able to travel between the two without having to rush. And by the way, it’s a great idea to arrange with your venue to have a sign placed outside with your names so that your guests know they’ve arrived at the right place.  

If you’ve opted for an outdoor wedding, complete the picture with a marquee. Marquees make a practical and romantic addition to any reception, and their arched entrances, stylish window walls, silk drapes, fairy lights, parquetry floors and air conditioning make them much more than mere tents.

Image by Dan Evans Photography

If you have a demanding work schedule and only limited spare time, hiring an event co-ordinator could be the answer to your prayers. These professionals will work within your chosen theme, colour scheme and budget to create a sensational reception setting. They are usually well-versed in the use of lighting and sound systems, and can create a special touch of magic to make your reception the party of a lifetime.

Your reception will be the first social function you attend as man and wife – and it will be a special occasion, both for you and your guests. The venue you choose should reflect your personal style. Start looking around for likely premises, keeping in mind that they should be within relatively easy reach of your ceremony location.

Once you’ve short-listed several venues, make a preliminary visit to investigate specifics such as whether a private dressing room is available for the bridal party, the size and shape of the tables, whether any special needs your guests may have can be catered for, if there is a fully equipped kitchen for food preparation, and whether there are any hidden charges.

Image by Jonathan David Photography

Your venue should be large enough to seat your guests comfortably, with sufficient room for your entertainers and their equipment, as well as a dance floor. And ask whether the venue has a lounge or similar area for your guests to gather and mingle while you and the bridal party are having your photographs taken. If your reception is to be a more intimate affair, make sure the venue you choose has a suitably sized room. Restaurants can be an excellent option. Many cater for smaller wedding groups and offer menu choices suitable for wedding breakfasts, brunches, lunches or dinners.

It could be that your favourite venue is perfect except for one apparently fatal flaw. Before giving up on it, think laterally. See that unsightly ceiling? Could it be covered with hundreds of fairy lights, draped fabric, or swags of greenery? With a little creativity, you could turn a minus into a fabulous feature.

When you’ve chosen your venue, make an appointment to revisit the site with your wedding co-ordinator (if you have one) and your florist. Both will need to assess the space so they can determine the decorations and colour scheme that will match the mood and theme of your wedding, and the venue itself. When you have finalised all your reception arrangements, draw up a running sheet for the event and give a copy to your caterer, entertainers and/or musicians, your MC, the reception venue manager, and to the bridal party – it will make their lives easier, as well as your own.

Reception at Dryridge Estate

Now think back o­­­­n some of the most enjoyable celebrations you’ve ever attended. What was it that made them so memorable? Usually it’s a combination of great company, good food and fine wine. And those exact same factors are what will contribute to making your reception a success.

You’ve found your venue, selected some fabulous decorations, and you’re confident that your seating plan has placed together people who will enjoy one another’s company. Now comes the  good food and fine wine part. As we’ve already mentioned, if your reception venue offers a catering service, you’ll need to discuss the menu options with them at length so that you can choose a palate-pleasing feast.

If you need to find an outside caterer, it’s not a bad idea to start off by contacting professionals who have a Restaurant and Catering Australia Gold Licence. This is an indicator of high professional catering standards.

So let’s assume that you’ve opted for a sit-down three course meal. Here are some useful guidelines. If you’d like pre-dinner canapés served to your guests while they await your arrival at the reception, ask your caterer to prepare a selection that includes meats, seafood and vegetarian-friendly options. For both your entrée and main course, offer red meat and either a white meat or seafood dish. Your dessert options should allow a choice between a light dish (perhaps a fruit soufflé) and a richer offering (a steamed pudding with sauce, for example).

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