The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Receptions

You’ve marched down the aisle, exchanged vows, and now it’s time to celebrate! You’ve likely dedicated a good amount of your wedding planning process to the fun-filled, joyous follow-up to your ceremonious nuptials. Your wedding reception is a chance to rejoice with loved ones, savor your first moments together as newlyweds, and take part in wedding traditions you’ll cherish throughout your marriage. 

When it comes to planning your wedding reception, there are no hard and fast rules. It is your reception, after all! While every wedding reception should feel unique to each couple, here are a few tried-and-true reception traditions that create some of the most memorable moments for newlyweds. 

 

Key Wedding Reception Events

Your nuptials will undoubtedly be the focus of your big day, but the wedding reception is another excellent opportunity to create lasting memories with your partner and loved ones. While there are no formal rules for planning your reception, including a few key events in your wedding reception timeline will help the party run smoothly.

Couple at a wedding reception

 

Grand Entrance

After the formalities of your wedding ceremony, the reception is an opportunity to let loose! The grand entrance is a highly anticipated part of every wedding for both newlyweds and guests alike because it’s your official debut as a couple. Whether you’re planning a coordinated dance routine or going for a more laid back entrance, the song you choose should reflect you and your partner. Work with your DJ or band to pick a song that will set the tone for the reception and put everyone in a celebratory mood. 

After the big entrance, some couples have their first dance or kick off the toasts with a “Thank You” speech. Check out this Spotify Playlist for grand entrance song ideas!

Couple's grand entrance on their wedding day

 

Toasts

Toasts are an opportunity for loved ones to share their favorite memories and best wishes for the couple. These speeches are often some of the most memorable parts of your wedding that will surely include a few tear-jerkers. 

Speeches from the newlyweds, wedding party, and parents are standard; however, you can have anyone special to you and your partner gives a toast as well. After the main toasts, some couples choose to open the floor to anyone who wants to say a few words. Toasts don’t have to be limited to speeches either, you can have guests perform a song or read a poem to express their love. 

These toasts not only make for some of the rawest and most authentic photo-ops, but you’ll cherish these words of encouragement from your loved ones for the rest of your lives.

Guest making a wedding toast at Flora

 

Special Dances

A time-honored tradition across many cultures, dancing is a wonderful way to celebrate your nuptials with your loved ones at your reception. Special dances with your partner, family members, and guests will allow you to spend some intimate moments with your loved ones and break it down on the dance floor.

Couple's first dance at their wedding reception

Here are some of our favorite wedding reception dances:

  • First Dance: the first dance between the newlyweds & usually the first dance of the reception
  • Family Dances: parent dances (father-daughter dance, mother-son dance, mother-daughter dance, father-son dance, etc.), grandparents dance, siblings, dance, or a dance with any other special people in your lives 
  • Group Dances: dances that get the guests involved in the festivities such as the Anniversary Dance, Dollar Dance, or line dances 
  • Cultural Dances: traditional dances from each partners’ family heritage to celebrate the coming together of two families

Visit our Ultimate Guide to Wedding Music to find the perfect songs to go with these special dances.

Couple's first dance at Flora

 

Bouquet Toss

Originally the bouquet toss started as a way for newlyweds to pass along their good fortune to others. It’s now believed that the person who catches the bouquet is next to get married, making it a fun and (at times) competitive tradition for your guests. Your bouquet toss doesn’t have to be limited to your single female friends, either. You can have anyone you’d like to pass your good fortune to join.

Brides getting ready for the bouquet toss

If you’d prefer not to toss your handcrafted bouquet and would like to save it for posterity, have your florist make an additional smaller bouquet for you to throw to your guests. Some couples who decide to ditch the bouquet toss all together, give their bouquet away to the Anniversary Dance winners.

Wedding bouquet

 

Garter Toss

It’s a superstition that owning a piece of your wedding dress or attire brings good luck​, hence the garter toss tradition. Traditionally, the groom removes the garter from the bride and tosses it to guests in the same fashion as the bouquet toss; however, many couples choose more personalized alternatives to this tradition these days. It does not need to be a garter; it can be any piece of fabric from one’s wedding attire that is passed along to a special guest.

In place of the garter toss, you can opt to throw a tie, a swatch of your dress from your seamstress, a secondary bouquet, or even a football that says ‘You’re Next!’ If you choose to do the toss with a garter but want something a little more modest, your partner doesn’t have to remove the garter in front of your guests. Instead, have the garter on hand, and then your partner can sling-shot it into the crowd without the risque theatrics. 

The real foundation of this tradition is to commemorate your special day by giving your guests a little piece of your wedding. Get creative and choose something truly meaningful to you and your partner.

 

Cake Cutting

It’s the sweetest part of the whole evening: the cutting of the cake! In this tradition, newlyweds cut their wedding cake together ​to reaffirm ​their promise to support and care for ​one another. The cake is usually sliced from the bottom tier, symbolizing the longevity and continuity of the couple’s relationship. After the couple cuts the cake, they often take turns giving each other the first bite. While this makes for some funny photo-ops, feeding​ each other from the cake symbolizes a commitment to take care of one another.

Couple cutting a cake during the reception

 

Grand Exit

The grand exit is an ancient tradition that started as a way for guests to wish prosperity and good fortune over the happy couple as they embark on their journey together. While rice is a traditional item to shower the couple with, it creates a massive mess, so it’s best to opt for something that your guests can hold onto as parting gifts.

Some of our favorite ways we’ve seen guests send off the newlyweds include:

  • Glow sticks
  • Ribbon wands
  • Cheer poms
  • Flags
  • Bells

Couple's grand exit at Flora

This moment can create some amazing photos, so get creative! Just make sure to check with your wedding reception venue first to find out which items your guests are allowed to use in your grand exit.

Couple kissing during their reception exit

 

Do What Feels Right For You

These are just a few wedding reception ideas that you can use to celebrate your special day. You can choose to include all of these, only a few, or do something completely unique. 

If you feel that the most important part of your wedding is spending time with your family and friends, schedule some more downtime to mingle with guests. If your favorite way to celebrate is dancing, you can skip the garter & bouquet tosses and make the dance floor the main event! 

Remember, it’s your wedding, and you can do anything that you feel will celebrate your partnership.

Happy couple on their wedding day

 

Choose the Perfect Wedding Reception Venue

Receptions often create some of the most special moments for newlyweds and guests on a wedding day. Choosing a wedding reception venue that can accommodate your guests and overall vision is crucial to pulling off a successful after-party. 

Complete your special day with a glorious celebration hosted in Flora’s dynamic San Diego wedding reception venue. With a delectable selection of food and drinks and a night-long party full of dancing, you and your guests can celebrate all the joy that comes along with a great wedding. Get in touch with us to learn how our event team can help make your day unforgettable. 

 

By Haley Rose @byhaleyrose

Alyssa Ricole Photography @alyssaricolephoto

Pretty Branch Photo & Video @prettybranchphoto

Ariel Min Photography @arielminphoto

Lindsey Marie Photography @lindsmariephoto

Ball Photo Co @ballphotoco

Joey Reger @joeyreger

Socal Standard Photography @socal.standard

Rachael Consaul Photography @rachaelconsaulphoto