(Closed) I'm afraid my reception will be a dud…

posted 6 years ago in Reception
Post # 3
415 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: June 2014

I’ve seen the ‘dinner and dancing to follow’ on many invitations! Also, we got a DJ that was great at getting people out of their seats and dancing, so maybe make that a priority to make sure your DJ will be enthusiastic. Also, the bride & groom and wedding party “set the tone” for the wedding, so if you guys are all out celebrating your guests will most likely follow 🙂  

Post # 4
2440 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

I have heard the easiest way to keep people around is to not have big gaps. Havignt he ceremony and reception closer together on your timeline may help.


Aside from that, what is your group like? I am considering having some games with prizes going on in the background. We’re going to have “I spy” camera requests on each table with check marks next to them. If anyone fills out their card, they will get a gift/prize. I’m considering setting up a dance central game and our playstation as well. 😛 It would have prizes as well, though I am not sure if it’s worth it yet.


We will have board games out for the people who don’t want to dance, as well as some other stuff to do.

Post # 5
2295 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: April 2013

I’m with you on not wanting people to leave really early, although my reception starts at 6 (ceremony at 5:30 in same location; dinner will start around 6:30). Here are some things I’m doing to try and help with that:

– I’m publishing a specific ending time for the reception, 11:00. I think a lot of people leave because they think this thing is going to go on into the wee hours of the night. The 11:00 end time is written on our entertainment/menu cards (see below) as well as on the brochures in the out of town bags. Tell people what to expect, if you can give them an outline of how the night is going to go (like telling them cake cutting at 8:00), they are more likely to stay for it because they aren’t left wondering.

– We are having a fun send off at the end and put that on the entertainment cards, so hopefully it is some sort of motivation for people to stay and participate. If it’s 10:00 and they are starting to feel tired, maybe they’ll see that and think, “Oh, we can hang in there another 45 minutes.”

– Open bar.

– When I leave receptions early, it’s because I don’t care for dancing and feel awkward because there is nothing else to do. So we are having some non-dancing entertainment. We are having a photo/video booth, a lounge area with comfy furniture, and a games area (for adults!) with life-size Jenga and a Wii.

– Our cake will be cut and put out on a dessert table right around 7:45 or so (not that long after dinner). But we ordered lots of extra cake and I am putting a framed sign on the cake table that says “Wedding Cake for Breakfast? Sounds good to us. Please feel free to box up an extra slice of cake after 9:30 for later or those back at home.” So people will have to stay until 9:30 if they want a takeaway slice! Our DOC will put the boxes out then.

– A lot of our guests are staying at local hotels, and we coordinated the shuttle times. We have one at 9:15 and one at 11:05, right after the reception ends. So anyone taking the shuttles will have limited options (we did provide cab numbers as well).

– Seat people well! Have assigned tables where people are seated with those that they really enjoy. Don’t try and be all creative and put people with those they don’t know and think it will force people to mingle. Keep them comfortable with those they already know, and if they don’t know anyone, try to put them with people who they have very basic things (kids, stage in life, age) in common with, not obscure things that won’t come up.

Does that help at all? I do think keeping it relatively short from beginning to end (seating starts at 5, everything over at 11) rather than having a gap will help, as well as everything in the same location, but that doesn’t apply to you. I do think a 5:00 dinner will have people leaving pretty early… could you do a longer cocktail hour or some of the formalities (dance, cake cutting, toasts) before dinner to make that a little later?


Post # 6
529 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: December 2012

I wanted to avoid early departures as well, though our ceremony didn’t start until 5. My DOC recommended that we hold the cake cutting until 945, reception ended at 11. Honestly, this worked great! I can only recall one couple who left early and they split about 15 min after the cake ( though we had one no show couple and one couple who cancelled night before ) I think everyone else stayed until the end, thanks to a great dj and great drinks! I was bummed that only 20 people came to the after party.

Stinks because it was in the same hotel and we set up a sparklers send off thinking it would help lure people to the next party, well not so much. None of my bridesmaids went, and none of the Groomsmen, except for 2 who showed up an hour later. Really stinks bc none of our friends really came which pissed me off since we went out if our way to go to their after parties. I chalk it up to a Friday wedding ( people worked that day) plus, being 12/21 people probably had Christmas stuff to attend to the next day. I am only telling you this in case you are planning a post wedding event. No clue how to help you there!

Post # 7
4687 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: June 2013 - Upstate NY

Booze, booze and more booze. That keeps people festive and dancing.

Post # 8
4518 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: September 2010

I think having the ceremony start later is the best way to keep people around after dinner. I find that people usually have about 4-5 hours in them for a wedding + reception. If everything starts at 3, I wouldn’t be surprised if people started trickling off around 7 or 8. Is there any way you can start the ceremony later? 4, even?

Post # 9
374 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: July 2014

@NAvery:  I favorited this thread just for your suggestions! Thank you!!!

Post # 10
9181 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: August 2013 - Rocky Mountains USA

@NAvery:  um, AMAZING!  Can I come?!

Post # 11
1102 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

@NAvery:  Cake for breakfast is my FAV!

Post # 12
581 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: July 2013

Think about it this way, how long would you stay at someone else’s party? 5 hours would DEFINITELY be the limit for me… 

Post # 13
187 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: March 2014

I wouldn’t put off cake cutting.  I think that people would leave, regardless of whether or not the cake was cut.


The people that are going to stay, will.  The people that are going to leave — think the elderly, those with kids at home, those with long drives — will.  Unfortunately, that’s the nature of having a schedule like the one you’re having.

Post # 14
8444 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: April 2013

@NAvery:  +1, all awesome suggestions

OP, my Fiance and I are transplants living in NC, and what I’ve noticed is that many southern weddings do not have open bars, of course many of those weddings are 300+ guests so I can understand why.  We plan on keeping our night going by:

  • having an open bar
  • guests are staying in the same hotel that the ceremony and reception are located at (this way no one has to drive, even our local friends are getting a room)
  • we’re giving away a prize around 10pm (bouquet toss for everyone)
  • We’re sitting families by age group (i.e. cousins together, aunts and uncles together, etc)
  • limited dance time.  FI’s family doesn’t really dance so we’re doing a shoe game, we have other activities, and a loung area to sit in away from the dance floor.
  • No children
  • room rental time extension.  If our party goes into the wee hours of the night, we won’t be surprised with a huge bill at the end.  Be sure to talk to you venue about what happens if you end up staying later than anticipated.

Post # 15
2295 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: April 2013

Back from my wedding and honeymoon and wanted to come back to this and update.


The games were a HUGE hit! People loved them! Photobooth was also a hit, but games let more people get involved than the photobooth.


The dance floor definitely wasn’t packed, although it would get busy at times and then more sparse (or empty) at other times. I think if we had only had dancing, it would have been much more boring.


Our ceremony was at 5:30, reception started immediately after (about 5:55), we entered about 6:20, dinner was right after, party really started about 7:30. By 10:15, the reception was starting to die down quite a bit. We were slated to go until 11, but about 10:20, we told our DJ to start wrapping it up, reminding people about the streamer send-off, and then we were doing the send-off about 10:40, so a few minutes early. I think having an early exit plan is a good idea – it’s better to end on a high note, and you can feel when the party is starting to die down.


HOWEVER – we did have an after party plan (going to this one specific bar, and we put up door signs and had the DJ announce it), and that was AWESOME!! Like 30 people went, it was great.


Even though things felt like they were dying down at the reception by 10:15, it’s just because the room is so big that when you lose 40 – 50 people, it starts to feel quiet. 60 people in a space meant for 120 doesn’t feel as fun as 30 in a space meant for 30. Moving on to a second, smaller venue sort of revives the fun. We did our exit, went back to the hotel and freshened up, then headed over to the bar. We didn’t reserve a room or anything, we just picked a bar that would have plenty of room. When we went in, everyone cheered and it was like a new party all over again. Totally recommend that!


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