Planning Your Wedding Reception

The Key to Stress-Free Decision Making

By Mikey Fuller, Classic Party Rentals of Virginia

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When planning the wedding reception, there is so much to think about. The venue, caterer, florist, baker, rentals, etc. At first glance, it can look intimidating, but with the following questions, answers, and suggestions, you will sweep through the decision-making process stress-free!

How many guests will be invited? This will help you figure out the budget and the type of venue to look for.

Venue Considerations – When planning the reception and décor, you will want to factor in the type of lighting, wall and carpet colors, and amenities offered. Some venues provide full-service with staff, food, set-up, tables, chairs, linens and place settings. Others are simply a space to have the event, and you are responsible for bringing everything needed. The venue may require you to work with a list of preferred vendors. In some ways this can be limiting, but in others, you will be working with someone who knows the space and has proven worth to the venue owner.

When can vendors access the property to deliver the necessary items and setup? Keep the budget in mind when choosing a venue. It may be a great price, but if there are lots of time-specific delivery requirements or after-hour pickups, these will all add to the overall expense. Additional questions to consider are, how many guests will the venue hold, or if the venue is a tent, what do you want to fit under it? Under normal circumstances, for a formal reception, about 20 square feet per person is needed. For a stand-up style event, it is about six square feet per person.

Pro Tip: In this time of COVID-19, those estimates do not factor in social distancing recommendations, and would need to be at least doubled.

What are the wedding colors? Be sure your colors don’t clash with the venue. Keep this in mind when choosing tablecloths and napkins. No longer are you bound to basics like black, white, or ivory. There are hundreds of textures, patterns, and colors from which to choose. Not every table needs to be the same. The head table can feature a spectacular linen to draw attention to you. Copy this same linen to highboy cocktail tables to pull the “wow” factor around the room. Use a solid one on the cake table so the cake really pops. Can’t choose between many you love? Alternate them around the room. Fell in love with a pricy tablecloth or a busy pattern and don’t want to overdo it? Use it on a few tables and pick a more budget-friendly or subdued one for the remainder. Remember to know the table sizes when choosing linens.

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What is the menu? Will there be a meal or just appetizers? Will it be a buffet, waiter service, or family-style? Having the menu set before starting to design the place settings and tablescapes is a must. It will factor in what size tables are needed, how many guests that can be seated per table, and how many plates, glasses, and pieces of flatware each setting will need. A more formal menu requires a more formal place setting. Keep in mind this type of place setting will take up more space. For example, a 5’ round table comfortably seats eight adult guests, but if you are having a three-course or more meal, that size table can only accommodate six guests due to the additional flatware and glassware needed. A four-course meal with wine pairings, a champagne toast, and coffee with dessert will require one napkin, one bowl, one cup and saucer, two knives, three forks, three spoons, four plates, and five glasses per person. That’s a lot of places to set. And don’t forget to consult with your wedding team to see who will be responsible.

For appetizers and passed hors d’oeuvres only, not having formal seating for everyone becomes an option. This is also a great budget saver for any event. Be sure to provide cocktail tables and some bar stools. Seating for 25% to 50% of the guest list is adequate for a stand-up cocktail style reception.

For buffet service, you may opt to only set the table with the necessary flatware for dinner and dessert or have the guests arrive to a plated salad, then go to the buffet for their meal.

For waiter service, guests could enter a set table with a charger, necessary flatware and glassware for the meal, and each course will be brought to them.

For family-style, think about the tables themselves as you will need lots (and lots!) of room in the center of them. On a standard rectangular banquet table, there isn’t enough space in the center for all the platters of food, so it’s better to choose a round table, king’s table, or farm style table as these give extra wiggle room in the middle to pass the potatoes.

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Additional Considerations – For the table setting, is the caterer providing disposables or will you need to rent these? Buffet service will require extra dinner plates and forks on the buffet. A rule of thumb is 1 ½ dinner plates and dinner forks per person. For a stand-up cocktail style reception, you will want smaller 6” – 8” plates and need 2-3 plates and forks per person. Glassware is another monster that can’t be forgotten. You will need a minimum of one glass per person per hour of the event, plus the glassware for the table setting. Have an extra 5% of everything just in case something gets dropped or broken. Don’t forget the vendors! While you don’t need to set a place for them, it is customary to offer a meal so have some extras. The caterer can help work out all the details. In fact, many will coordinate the china and glassware needed.

PHEW! Yes, this was a lot of information to take in, but knowing what to expect upfront will take the stress out of planning your dream reception. Once all these questions are answered and the team of dream vendors is in place, all you are your sweetheart will have to do is relax and enjoy the day!

Mikey Fuller is the Marketing Coordinator at Classic Party Rentals of Virginia. His photography, styling, and interior design work has been nationally featured. His quirky, yet elegant sense of style sets him apart from the rest. Reach out to him today for a consultation!