Planning The Reception

The reception is a party where all your guests will come together to celebrate your new life as a married couple. It should reflect and complement the style of your ceremony. If your ceremony is not in the same place as reception, choose a place that is not more than 30 minutes drive from the ceremony venue. The selection of a reception site will depend on its availability, price, proximity to the ceremony site, and the number of people it will accommodate.

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Reception StyleFood can be served either buffet style or as a sit-down meal. It should be chosen according to the time of day and style of the wedding. A sit down meal features several served courses. In this style the guests sit down and food is brought to the tables.

This is the most expensive service. To keep costs down, go for a simpler menu. The buffet style can also feature several courses, the only difference is that the guests assemble their own plates and get the food from the food stations.

The other kind of reception style is the least expensive and less formal stylish cocktail reception where waiters pass drinks or food offered at various food stations. This type is very rare and not suitable for wedding formalities.


There are two basic types of reception sites. The first type charges per person fee which includes the facility, food, tables, silverware,tableware, and so forth. Examples: hotels and, restaurants. Indeed most venues with on site catering prohibit outside caterers. They provide you with everything including chairs and tables plus minimal decoration, leaving you to hire only the florist if you need extra decoration.

The second type charges a site rental fee and you are responsible for providing the food, beverages, linens, and possibly tables and chairs. Examples: gardens, clubs, school grounds, private homes and halls.
The advantage of the first type is that most of everything is done for you. The disadvantage, however, is that your choice of food, tableware and linen are limited. Usually, you are not permitted to bring in an outside caterer and must select from a predetermined menu.

Venue Options: Private homes, gardens, hotels, clubs, restaurants, halls, parks, museums, are some of the more popular choices for receptions.

Tips to save money:

  • The cost of reception is approximately 50% of the total cost of your wedding; you can save the money by limiting your guest list.
  • Hire a wedding planner, she/he may be able to negotiate good rates since she brings in good amount of business in a year and may have better rates with the venue or caterer.
  • Reception sites that charge site or a ballroom rental fee may waive this fee if you meet minimum requirements on food and beverages consumed. But try to negotiate this before you book the facility.
Things to consider:
When comparing the cost of different locations, consider the rental fee, food, beverages, parking, setup
charges and the cost of rental equipment needed such as tables, chairs, tents, and so forth. If you are planning an outdoor reception, be sure to have a backup site in case of rain. Be sure to book your venues as soon as you make the decision, as most venues are booked a year in advance.

Things to Beware of:
Be careful of hotels that book events too close together. You don’t want your guests to wait outside while your room is being set up for the reception and you don’t want to be ‘forced out’ before you are ready to leave because the hotel needs to arrange the room for the next event. Get your rental hours and the name of your room in writing.

You will need to rent some items that your reception site does not supply. There are companies that Tentsspecialize in party rentals. Some caterers’ package includes sourcing all the items you need but some may source on your behalf though if your caterer is handling food preparation and serving only, you may need to deal directly with the party rental supply company yourself. If your wedding is in a remote place expect to pay the transportation fee. The rental company should deliver the items early enough to allow for set up. Most companies will deliver and set up at a fee.

Tent/ Marquee

If your event is to be held outdoor, you may require tents or a marquee to protect you and your guests from the sun or rain. It is better to rent these items through a party rental suppliers company.

Options: Tents and marquees come in different sizes and colors Your options will depend on the shape of your reception area. You may need to rent several smaller tents rather than one large one. Contact several party rental companies to discuss the options.

Things To Consider:
Consider the cost of renting tents or marquee when making a decision between an outdoor and an indoor reception.

Tips To Save Money: Shop early and compare prices with several party rental suppliers.

Dance Floor
Most hotels and clubs will provide a dance floor. However, if your reception site does not have a dance floor, you may need to rent one through your caterer or a party rental supplier.

Things To Consider: When comparing prices of dance floors, include the delivery and set up fees.

Tables/ Chairs
Some reception sites do not provide tables and tents as part of their package. In this case you will have to rent these items.

Option: There are various types of tables and chairs to choose from the most common are made of plastic. The round table arrangement can seat 8 to 10 guests and is great for conversation.

The rectangular head table arrangement seats your entire wedding party and is most popular.
Things To Consider: When comparing prices of renting tables and chairs, include the cost of delivery and set-up.

Tips To Save Money: Attempt to negotiate free delivery and set-up with party rental suppliers in exchange for giving them all your business.

Lighting will impact on the mood of the wedding. This is especially true for evening receptions. Outdoor events have different requirements from indoor receptions. Choose the proper lighting to complement
your decorations and style of your wedding. Fairy lights can add to drama and elegance for the evening reception. Lanterns are also often used at evening receptions. Lanterns come in
many choices like fire lanterns to electric ones. The soft glow of candles is another choice to add a touch of romance and intimacy.

Floating candles can be added to a shallow bowl of water or they can line up the pathway. The choice is endless.

Linen / Tableware
The plastic chairs look stylish when dressed up in linen. If your reception site or caterer doesn’t provide them as part of their package, you will also need to provide linens and tableware for your reception. For a sit-down reception where the meal is served by waiters and waitresses, tables are usually set with linen. The color of the linen can be in white or may be color coordinated with the wedding theme color. Include a complete place setting and don’t forget centerpieces for decoration. If it is a buffet style the plates and silverware may be located at the buffet table, next to the food.

Sanitary Facility
You will also need to evaluate the adequacy of the sanitary facility for the venue just incase you need to rent extra sanitary facility.


If your reception is going to be in a venue that provides food e.g. a hotel or restaurant, all you will need to do is select a meal to serve your guests from a predetermined menu. You can also customize your own menu should you want to. Incase your reception is going to be in a venue that does not provide food, you will need to hire an outside caterer who will be responsible for preparing, cooking, and serving the food and cleaning up after the event.

The caterer can also be responsible for beverages but this is entirely up to you. Book your caterer in advance especially if your wedding is going to be in the busy season. Ask to see the caterers portfolio including pictures of previous work so that you see how the caterer presents their work, ask for references and be sure to counter check on them or better still visit an event they are catering. Make sure your caterer is fully self-supported with catering equipment. A competent caterer will prepare much of the food in his/her own kitchen and should provide an adequate staff of cooks, servers and bartenders.

Before signing a contract, make sure you are clear on all the services the caterer will provide. Your contract should clearly state the amount and type of food and beverages that will be served, the way in which they will be served, the number of servers who will be available, the cost per item or person, and the rental items the caterer will provide such as tables, chairs and tableware.



Chicken and beef are the most popular selections for a large event although there are many main dishes to choose from. Ask your caterer for their specialty.

If you have a special type of food you would like to serve at your reception, select a caterer who specializes in preparing it.

Things to consider: Assign someone to work with the caterer especially on the Dday to ensure everything is done according to your wishes.

Caterers have various ways in which they compute for the charges. Most base their costs per head count. You will be asked to pay a deposit of which the remaining money is likely to be due just weeks before the event. Some caterers will ask for 90 percent when you confirm the final head count.

Tips to save money: Depending on how certain you are on the number of your guest that are likely to show up, give just 85 to 95 percent of your final guest count to your caterer. This way if all your guests do come, your caterer should have enough food for all of them and at the same time if some do not show up, you will
not have to pay for so many unused plates. If you give a complete count of your guests to the caterer and some guests do not show up, you will still have to pay for their plates. This is especially true with sit in receptions, in which case the facility or caterer will charge extra for each additional guest.

To regulate the amount of food consumed in a buffet meal style, have the catering staff serve the food onto guests’ plates rather than allowing guests to serve them. Select food that is not too time-consuming to prepare, or food that does not have expensive ingredients.


There is usually price latitude with beverages and liquor, depending on the amount of alcohol served.

Options: Sodas and fruit punch are popular non- alcoholic beverages served at receptions. While white, red wines and beer are the most popular alcoholic beverages, you may also serve scotch, vodka, gin, rum, and of course, don’t forget coffee or tea.

Things to consider: If you plan to serve alcoholic beverages at a reception site that does not provide alcohol, make sure your caterer has a liquor license to serve alcohol and that your reception site allows consumption of alcoholic beverages.

classic cosmoIn selecting the type of alcohol to serve, consider the age and preference of your guests, the type of food that will be served, (most receptions last three hours) and the time of day your guests will be drinking.
Never serve liquor without some type of food, allow 1 drink serving per person per hour on the average.
A bottle of wine, (most come in 750ml) will serve six glasses. Plan for an average limit of at least 3 glasses of wine per person. This means for instance, that you will need 4 bottles of wine (preferably 2 of white and 2 of red) per table for an 8- person table.

If you intend to serve cask wines, you will need an average of 8 casks of 5litres each to serve an average 100 people. For the spirits- one 750ml bottle can serve up to 25 tots. Assuming that each guest will have 2 tots per serving per hour, you will need 8 tots per person translating to a bottle per 3 people If you are hosting an open bar at a hotel or restaurant, ask the catering manager how they charge for liquor: by consumption or by number of bottles opened. Get this in writing before the event and then ask for a full consumption report after the event. It is also helpful to have a person you trust behind the bar to ensure it truly is your party that consumes all the liquor.

Beware: Ensure you put in place adequate security, as the host of a party is held legally responsible for the conduct and safety of their guests. Therefore keep this in mind when planning the quantity and type
of beverages to serve. Remind your bartenders not to serve alcohol to minors.

Tips To Save Money:

  • To keep beverage costs down, serve punch, wine, or non-alcoholic drinks only.
  • If your venue or caterer allows it, consider buying liquor from a wholesaler.
  • Avoid salty foods such as potato chips; these foods will make your guests thirstier so they will tend to drink more.
  • Host alcoholic beverages for the first hour, then go to a cash bar. Or host beer, wine, and soft drinks only and have mixed drinks available on a cash basis.
  • Cask wines are less expensive than serving bottled wine.
  • Corkage fee can be waived if you meet the minimum requirements on beverages consumed.
  • For the toast, serve champagne only on the high tables. Many people will make a toast with whatever they are currently drinking.
  • Consider serving sparkling wine in place of champagne.
  • Avoid waiters and waitresses. Instead, have an open bar in which your guests have to get their own drinks. People tend to drink almost twice as much if there are waiters and waitresses constantly asking them if they would like another drink and then topping up their drinks.
Cokage Fee
ChampaigneMany reception sites and caterers make money by marking up the food and alcohol they sell.

You may wish to provide your own alcohol for several reasons. First, it is more cost effective. Second, you may want to serve an exotic wine or drink that the reception site or caterer does not offer. In either case, if your reception site or caterer allows it, be prepared to pay a corkage fee. This is the fee for each bottle brought into the reception and opened by a member of their staff.

Things To Consider: You need to consider whether the expenses saved after paying the corkage fee justify the hassle of bringing in your own alcohol.

Alcoholic beverages are the most expensive. There are a number of options and variations for serving alcoholic beverages:
  • A full open bar where you pay for your guests to drink as much as they wish
  • An open bar for the first hour, followed by a cash bar where guests pay for their own drinks
  • Cash bar only
  • Beer and wine only
  • Non- alcoholic beverages only; or nay combination there of

    Amount based on 100 guests
    Gin 33 bottles (750ml)
    Rum 33 bottles (750ml)
    Scotch 33 bottles (750ml)
    Vodka 33 bottles (750ml)
    White wine 50 bottles (750ml)
    Red wine 50 bottles (750ml)
    Cask wine 8 casks each 5 liters
    20 bottles (for just tossing)
    Other 2 cases each; tonic water, Ginger ale, cola, beer