When it comes to planning, considering your guests needs can be just as important as your dream dress or perfect venue.
From thoughtful touches to wacky entertainment ideas, here’s how to keep them so happy they won’t ever want to leave.
IMAGE | Craig & Eva Sanders Photography
1. Arrange transport for your guests
If you’re holding your reception in a separate venue, arrange transport for your guests; it’s a thoughtful gesture that saves them a headache.
It doesn’t have to be fancy, but if you want to give them their first treat of the day you could hire the likes of a vintage double decker bus.
A cute touch is to have the conductor hand them a ticket with your names and wedding date on.
2. Provide light bites
Of course, when they arrive at your reception venue the hunger will be setting in.
So if you do nothing else, make sure there’s plenty for them to nibble on.
Tray canapes are always a welcome sight, but we’ve seen a shift in recent times towards more unusual light bites; think food trucks serving tacos, or ice cream stands doling out 99s.
The bonus of going for something unconventional is that it gives your guests an instant talking point. Plus, a more informal style of tucker will set a relaxed atmosphere.
IMAGE | Susan Renee Photography
3. Ensure there’s plenty of drinks
If your venue has a drinks package, great, but if there’s more flexibility then you can really have fun with it.
Hire a prosecco van to serve up chilled glasses of fizz; set up DIY cocktail stations; or fill a wheelbarrow with ice cold bottles of beer.
We’ve even seen couples serve up their own custom his’n’hers wedding cocktails!
4. Consider post-ceremony music
Got the budget for more post-ceremony entertainment?
Live music is always a crowd pleaser. If you’ve hired the likes of a string quartet for the ceremony, you could ask them to stay on for an hour during the drinks reception.
Or go for something a bit livelier to get a party vibe on the go; we love the idea of a mariachi band (with frozen margaritas as an accompaniment, of course – sombreros optional).
5. Try interactive entertainment
If you prefer the idea of interactive entertainment, magicians and caricaturists appeal to all ages and make a fantastic ice breaker.
Lawn games, meanwhile, are a more budget-friendly option if you’re getting married in summer and have a venue with suitable grounds.
This type of activity is entirely weather dependent, though, and bear in mind that no amount of alcohol is going to make your grandad think that Giant Jenga is a fun idea.
IMAGE | Caireen Harvey Photography
6. Create a laid-back atmosphere
Couples sometimes worry that conversation will be stilted at dinner between guests that haven’t met before.
If this is a concern for you, there are subtle ways you can encourage a more laid-back and convivial atmosphere.
Depending on how flexible your venue is, you could have everyone seated at long banquet style tables rather than small circular ones, or ditch the three-course meal in favour of sharing platters.
7. Surprise your guests
If you want something that’ll really wow them and you’ve more to spend, singing waiters are great fun, or you could arrange for a band to make a surprise appearance.
“We had a tribal pipe band burst into the room before our meal began,” says SWD reader Karen. “It really charged up the room and meant that everyone was talking and laughing by the time dinner was served.”
8. Welcome your evening guests
Everyone knows that the evening reception is when the party really begins, and your day guests will already be in good spirits.
But if you have additional evening guests, they might need a bit of a helping hand to catch up.
It’s good manners to welcome them as they arrive – you don’t have to stand there all night, obviously, but be there for the ones that show up on time – and this is another point where welcome drinks are a thoughtful touch.
IMAGE | Fairytale Asylum Photography
9. Create cosy areas
You’ll likely have a band or DJ playing, but remember that not everybody will want to dance – and some may not be physically able to – so consider setting up cosy break-out areas away from the music where guests can have a chat and catchup.
10. Hire a photobooth
A photobooth is another excellent addition to your evening reception, and if you forgo favours with the justification that the photos are a nice keepsake, it doesn’t have to count as an extra spend (right?).
Most booths can be hired for a few hours and come manned with staff, but a more budget-friendly alternative has arrived recently in the form of Luna Booth, a ‘pop-up-and-go’ portable booth that comes in two formats, photo or GIF, from Edinburgh company Blushbooth.
It’s delivered straight to your door, you and your guests can use it all night (and it allows you to share the pics on social media), then you simply return after the day. Easy!
11. Fireworks display
If you fancy upping the stakes, a fireworks display is a guaranteed showstopper, particularly suited to winter weddings when it gets darker earlier.
Just remember that fireworks can’t be set off after 11pm (midnight on Bonfire Night; 1am on New Year’s Eve), and while it’s nice to keep it as a surprise for guests, you should at least give them a heads-up before you go outdoors so they’re not shivering away sans jacket.
IMAGE | Weddings by Hayley and Craig
12. Keep the kids entertained
There are loads of easy, cheap ways to keep wee ones entertained.
Make up goody bags with colouring-in books for the younger ones, or if you want to be more inventive, hand them a disposable camera and a list of things to photograph – ‘A lady in a nice hat’, ‘A man in a kilt’ – they’ll love snapping away, and you’ll get some (admittedly quite blurry) pics to boot.
13. Set up an entertainment room
You could even set up a games room with a few consoles if your venue has space for it. If there’s a room with a TV, stick a selection of films there and have a makeshift ‘cinema’ room.
And it wouldn’t have to be makeshift if you got married at The Blythswood in Glasgow; this venue has its very own private cinema, which wedding couples can use as they please!
14. Basic can be best
It can be tempting to think every detail of your day needs to be planned to perfection but just remember basic can be best.
If all else fails, a good party usually contains three essential ingredients: pals, booze and music. (And maybe rolls and sausage!)