Wedding reception basics

It’s the biggest party of your life, so start planning now!

Traditionally, the bride’s family is responsible for making all the wedding reception arrangements and absorbing the cost, which can mean shelling out for food, drink, a wedding cake, caterers, waiting staff, a toastmaster, flower arrangements, a band or disco, entertainers or musicians and any security arrangements.

Today, however, couples often cover the cost of the wedding reception themselves, or share it between the families. Whoever’s paying, it’s the wedding reception that is likely to be the single biggest expense of the wedding, so plan it carefully.

Planning for your reception should begin as soon as you set the wedding date ‐‐ usually at least three months in advance. Popular venues (or any venue on popular dates like a bank holiday) may need to be reserved up to one year before the event, so get a provisional booking in as soon as you can.

And remember, the sky’s the limit. Celebrate your marriage in a style that suits you and don’t feel forced into the conventional sit‐down meal in a marquee, if you’d rather eat sausage and mash in a pub.

What time shall we have our reception?

As long as it fits in with your wedding service, the timing of your reception is really up to you.

You can have a wedding breakfast ‐‐ the traditional name for what is actually a sit‐down lunch following a morning wedding ceremony

Alternatively, you might choose an afternoon reception, held after a 2.30pm or 3pm service. Usually this is followed by an evening party/disco held a few hours later to give everybody time to change in‐between if they want to. Sometimes, even if they are not hosting the wedding, the evening do is hosted by the couple themselves and invitations are issued in their names. It’s also a chance to invite people you couldn’t afford to feed!

The more continental late‐afternoon service, followed by an evening reception with dinner and dancing is another option. Guests are invited to wear evening dress to the ceremony.

If you are getting married abroad, in a hot climate, a late afternoon, or early morning ceremony is best, unless you want to fry!

You might find your reception timetable is partly dictated by is alcohol license. You need to check how late a venue’s license extends before you make a firm booking. There may also be limits on how late the music is allowed to play.

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