Advice For Throwing The Wedding Reception Of Your Dreams

Everyone wants their wedding reception to be the perfect party that guests will remember for years to come. However, there will likely be some bumps in the road during planning. We answered reader questions to help navigate some of these bumps here:


From a full sit-down meal to buffets to passed hors d’oeuvres there are endless choices for serving food at your reception. Add in cake and dessert and you’re left with a lot of decisions to make. We’ve answered some questions about food for our readers here:

Food Allergies

Q: How should I handle “food allergies” at my reception?

A: People with severe food allergies tend to take the appropriate measures when dining out or at events. A buffet-style meal is a good idea, so long as it’s properly labelled. Guests can pick items that fit their allergy or dietary restriction. If you really want a sit down meal and are aware of severe allergies of friends or family members, speak with your caterer about getting the full ingredients list or accommodating them with a separate meal.


Q: I have vegetarian family members and I want to accommodate them at the reception dinner. I also want meat at my reception; how do I get what I want and at the same time provide my guests with what they want?

A: There is nothing that says you can’t have meat at your wedding if you have vegetarian family members and guests. Find out what type of vegetarian they are and include an option that suits that. If you’re having a buffet, have vegetarian and vegan items labelled to make it easier.

Cocktail Receptions

Q: Is it possible to have a cocktail reception? If so, what types of foods would you serve?

A: A cocktail reception for a wedding is more casual than a regular reception. It is usually less expensive since less food is served, fewer decorations are needed, less staff is hired and fewer rentals are ordered. Popular food choices are cold and hot hors d’oeuvres. Just a few choices are chicken or beef satay, mini spinach quiche, spring rolls, cheese trays, deviled eggs, crabmeat salad on cherry tomato, and finger sandwiches. Your caterer will have a menu to choose from which can be customized to fit your palate. Don’t forget to include wine and dessert.

Groom’s Cake

Q:What shape should the groom’s cake be?

A: As history goes, the groom’s cake was a fruitcake that was put in little boxes for guests to take home. Nowadays, the cake is baked in the groom’s favorite flavor and shaped in one of his favorite hobbies.

Anniversary Cake

Q: How do you keep wedding cakes fresh for your first anniversary?

A: Appoint one of your bridesmaids to take the cake home. Leave the cake in the refrigerator overnight. The next day use plastic wrap to cover the cake in several layers and place it in your freezer. The plastic wrap will protect it from freezer burn. On your first anniversary, allow the cake to thaw in the refrigerator before unwrapping it. Serve and enjoy!


Alcohol & Beverages

Weddings are certainly a time to celebrate, but that doesn’t always mean free-flowing drinks. Check out our advice on including or not including alcohol at your wedding:

Dry Wedding

Q: How do we tell our guests we will not be serving alcoholic beverages?

A: You do not have to tell your guests there won’t be alcohol at your wedding. The purpose for your guests attending your wedding is to witness your new life together, not to drink alcohol. You and your fiancé choose the drinks you serve at your reception. and the guests should understand that.

Signature Drinks

Q: What is a specialty drink?

A: A specialty drink is a signature alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage that either reflects the taste of the bride and groom or the theme of the wedding reception. It should not only taste good but the color should match or be complementary to your wedding colors. Keep it simple. There are many websites dedicated to helping you create your signature drink and if you are not web savvy then start with your favorite fruit drink or alcohol and build from there.

Setting Limits

Q: My family likes to drink and party. I am concerned that if I serve alcohol at my reception they might over consume. However, my fiancé says he wants to have alcohol anyway. Do you have any suggestions?

A: If you and your fiancé have agreed to serve alcohol at your reception, then there are a couple of ways to keep drinking under control. Instead of having an open bar, have a cash bar. You can provide the first two drinks for free and then any drinks after that, guests will have to pay. Most of the time guests will designate a driver if they are going to drink heavily and those that are light drinkers might not drink at all because they have to pay. If you have guests that are not responsible, then you can designate your own drivers to take intoxicated guests home or at least to a designated location close by to sleep off the intoxication.

An alternative to a cash bar is an open bar with set time limits. Some couples will have alcohol served for 2 hours and then after that guests are limited to punch, lemonade and soft drinks. This helps control the amount of alcohol consumed by your guests and can save you money.



Get advice on finding the perfect venue and getting married in the setting of your dreams.

How Do I Know It’s ‘The One’?

Q: How do you know if the reception site you’ve chosen is right for you?

A: The best thing to do before choosing a reception site is to visit. Try to make your initial visit during the week when there aren’t any events going on. This will ensure you get a good look at the reception site. The venue representative should give you a tour, answer all your questions and discuss your menu ideas. When you have narrowed your selection down to 2 or 3 places revisit them during a wedding. This will give you an idea of what the place looks like during an event, how efficient the staff is and if you can visualize your reception there. Finally, if the reception will be catered by the reception venue, plan to have a tasting so you can make sure you like the food. Analyze the results from these 3 visits and pick your favorite.

Seat Yourself

Q: We are Having Trouble With Our Reception Seating Arrangements. Have You Ever Heard of Letting People Seat Themselves?

A:Yes. I have planned many weddings where couples use the “seat themselves” method. It can be very stressful to develop the perfect seating plan where everyone is happy and mingling with each other. Then factor in divorced parents that do not get along or feuding families and you could pull your hair out. Many brides choose to have reserved seating for their bridal party, and immediate family. They also have reserved seating for divorced parents and other family members that might be uncomfortable if seated next to the wrong person. Then everyone else seats themselves with the help of your ushers. Have your ushers keep an eye out for open seats and encourage family members to fill up tables before sitting at an empty table. The smaller the guest list, the easier it is for everyone to seat themselves but even with the largest parties everyone finds a seat and ends up happy.


Q: My mom says we can save money by purchasing our linens, chair cover and sashes instead of renting them. Do you have any advice on this?

A: Yes, there are cases where you can save money by purchasing your linens, chair covers and sashes instead of renting them. Some things to think about are do you have time to press the linens before your wedding or steam them if they get wrinkled in travel. The linens are packed tightly and usually arrive with deep creases. After the wedding, you should factor in cleaning and pressing the linens. Consider what you will do with them after the wedding. If you sell them, you have to spend the time finding someone to buy them. In the meantime, you have to store them in a climate controlled environment so they stay in good condition. So before you make a decision, think about all the costs and choose the one that works best for you. Both ways have pros and cons.



Hiring the right people will make your reception go off with a hitch. Here are answers to some of the many questions about vendors.

Hourly Wedding Planners

Q: Can you hire a wedding planner by the hour?

A: Yes you can hire a wedding planner by the hour. As a matter of fact if you just need a few hours with a wedding planner for a little direction, contract reviewing, vendor referrals or help with your wedding day schedule, this option will save you money. Keep in mind that most wedding planners will offer hourly consultations at a higher rate than purchasing a package. Usually after 3 or 4 consultations, you would be better off purchasing a small planning package. I also recommend if you are planning the wedding yourself or cannot afford a full service planning package, pair a few consultation hours with the Rehearsal and Wedding Day Package. Many brides who do this find their wedding runs more smoothly and they are able to enjoy their day.

Wedding Planner Benefits

Q: What are the benefits of using a wedding planner?

A: There are lots of benefits to using a wedding planner. A wedding planner can help you keep your budget in check and navigate contracts while keeping your wedding vision in mind. They may also have access to vendor discounts. One of the biggest reasons to hire a wedding planner is having someone act as the single point of contact for vendors leading up to and on the day of the wedding. A wedding planner can also help coordinate the entire day and ensure things go smoothly.

How Much Music

Q: What is the limit for the number of reception songs played per hour?

A: It depends on how organized the reception is. Typically, anywhere from 6-10 songs could be played in an hour. If the reception music is not clearly communicated by the bride and groom, 3-4 songs might be played.

Catering Fees

Q: I am meeting with a caterer and want to know if there are any additional fees I should look out for?

A: When you meet with the caterer talk to them about your plated and buffet options.

Many people have the misconception that buffet service is cheaper than plated service. Most of the time they end up being very comparable in price. Plated service is when all the plates are prepared by the catering staff in the kitchen and then served to your guests. Buffet Service is when food is displayed in a central location and guests serve themselves. To avoid hidden fees make sure all the items you are paying for are itemized on your contract, for example overtime charges, additional guests, extra meals for vendors, set up and clean up charges, and serving liquor fees.

And don’t be afraid to negotiate the caterer providing buffet table decorations, the cake cutting fee, and Bride and Groom Toast fee.

Wedding Photographer Costs

Q: What is the Average price of a wedding photographer in Williamsburg?

A: Hiring a photographer can range from $900 for a basic package with a semi skilled photographer to thousands of dollars with an outstanding photographer. In the process of selecting a photographer, keep in mind excellent photographers book up quickly and require more advanced notice than the novice photographer. The price you pay will be based on the photographers skill, travel distance, photography style, the package you choose (which can include wedding albums for you and your family), and the photographers availability. Unless you have a reputable reference, interview several photographers before you make a decision. Once you have narrowed your selection to a few photographers, make your selection based on the total services the photographer is going toprovide for the price.

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