Every wedding has that awkward moment when the ceremony ends, and guests need to transition to the reception venue.
Whether your ceremony and reception are in the same place, or you must travel from the wedding ceremony hall to the reception venue, making the transition easy for guests helps your day go smoother.
Here’s how you can make that transition as seamless as possible.
Instructions might seem silly, but your wedding day becomes a little more enjoyable when everyone knows what to do. You can provide instructions in four ways:
1. In the invitation
Add a slip of paper into your invitations that give guests instructions on what to do following the ceremony. This makes it easier for guests to create a plan of action in advance.
For example, if your reception is quite a ways away from the ceremony site, guests will need to know how to get there — and how long it takes — so they know if they have time to go back to the hotel or plan transportation.
2. In your program
If you plan to hand out programs at the ceremony, highlight instructions on how to proceed after the ceremony so people can make the transition in an organized fashion.
3. Make a short announcement
Have your officiator, chief usher, or a member of your wedding party make a quick announcement before or after the ceremony to provide instructions.
4. Use signs
Create fun signs and hang them at the ceremony entryway with instructions on where to go after the ceremony.
You can choose one or ensure your guests get the message with all four!
Schedule Photos with Guests
While you won’t be taking photos with every single guest, you should inform anyone you would like to include where they should go for photos. A schedule is the best way to do this.
Some people might be needed directly following the ceremony at the hall, such as on the front steps, at the altar, at a side garden, etc. Others might be at a local park or site, while others might be at the actual reception hall. Inform all involved where they should be and when and you will avoid confusion and delays.
Create a Cocktail Area for Transitions
Sometimes, holding both the ceremony and reception at one venue can be a little awkward. If the bride and groom want some alone time for photos or celebrate with a bit of champagne before the festivities begin, guests are left to their own devices. If the venue staff must transform the wedding ceremony into a dining and dancing hall, they’ll need some time to do so.
To avoid awkward waits, direct guests to a cocktail area where they can mingle, stretch their legs, check the seating plan, drop off their gifts and enjoy a cocktail or glass of champagne. Signs can be beneficial when hung above each area, so people see where they can sign your guest book, identify the gift table, find refreshments, etc.
Plan Some Alone Time
In-between the ceremony and reception, plan some alone time for you and your new spouse. This time allows you to do what you choose, including:
- Having a toast with you and your new spouse
- Handing out gifts to your wedding party
- Freshening up for your photos
- Unwinding from the stress of the morning
While guests will have to fend for themselves, anyone involved in your photoshoot should have transportation available. If you expect people to travel to a photo location, make sure they know how to get there or provide transportation such as a rented limo, minibus or volunteers to drive them. Make sure everyone knows who goes where and how, so no one gets left behind.
Providing an Activity
While guests wait, have an activity to keep them busy. Some fun ideas to help kill time might include having a backdrop for Instagram photos with a hashtag for sharing, renting a photo booth, setting up a screen with a slide show/video of the bride and groom or showing a romantic comedy.
Have a Cocktail Hour
A cocktail hour is a festive way to kick off the night. Create a signature cocktail and serve them up to guests who can mingle and relax until the bride and groom arrive. Don’t forget to include a mocktail for kids and non-drinkers.
Weddings tend to leave people feeling peckish when waiting for their often delayed meal. Set up space where guests can enjoy some hors d’oeuvres, a charcuterie table, a wine and cheese hour, etc. at your reception venue.
Plan a Receiving Line
Some couples prefer a dramatic entry once everyone is seated in the reception hall, while others opt for the traditional receiving line. If you are taking the receiving line approach, you’ll need to plan this.
Make sure you give yourself enough time to take photos and get to the venue in enough time to greet guests as they enter the reception hall. Many casual weddings plan for the newlyweds to have time to mingle with guests at a cocktail or wine and cheese before entering the main dining area together.
Assign an “MC”
If you have a lot planned and want to keep on schedule, consider having an MC for the day. Choose a favourite funny uncle, friend, or your DJ. They will have a program and make announcements, so everyone sticks to the plan.
An MC helps avoid people over drinking at the cocktail hour or wine and cheese party and breaks up conversations that can lead to delays when people fail to make their way into the reception hall.
It just takes a little organization to make your wedding day run smoothly. With the right plan, the transition from ceremony to reception will be seamless.