More about wedding planning

Choosing you Officiant

For some, choosing a clergy-member is easy, if you have been a member of a parish for any length of time. For others, this can be an emotional decision. If you are both from a different religion, you may need to consider the differences in beliefs in both and talk about what is important and compromise.

Once a decision has been made and any compromises made, meet with your clergy. You will want to get a sense of his/her style and personality. Are they sincere and interested in your plans and dreams as a new couple, do they welcome you and invite you to join the house of worship?

If you are planning a civil ceremony, you will only need to contact the town hall or courthouse. They can tell you who in the area is qualified to perform civil ceremonies, usually a judge or justice of the peace. You will want to meet with this person to determine if he/she is right for your wedding.

Interfaith ceremonies may require you to hold your ceremony outside the house of worship. Some religions are very strict on beliefs and marriage; talk with the clergy to find out what can be done. Seek out other interfaith couples and talk with them may give you leads on what to do.

See more about photos from weddings here.

Personalizing your Ceremony

Every relationship is different, so why shouldn’t every ceremony be different. Here are some ways to add uniqueness and individuality to your wedding ceremony without getting in the way of tradition.

To begin, your ceremony setting can add a lot of personality to your style. Outdoor weddings, at-home weddings and alternative ceremony sites can say a lot about the two of you!

The time of year or a holiday wedding can add special meaning. Just keep in mind; major holidays can sometimes limit your guest’s ability to attend.

The ceremony itself may have a lot of tradition and personal writings included. Speak with your officiant about your own vows or changes in the ceremony itself. These changes will have to be approved, and you may want to work with your officiant to create your own ceremony.

Reversing your positions at the altar, where you and your groom face your guests will give them (and you) a very different view of the ceremony.

At very small weddings, have your guests gather round you in a circle for the ceremony creating a circle of love.

Welcome your guests as they arrive to the ceremony site.

Create a wedding program that reflects your personality. For example, a bride and groom that were filmmakers listed their bridal party and participants as “The Cast”. The program listed each name, their role, and a brief bio on each friend with a twist of fun and thanks.

Include parents in the processional – this is a Jewish custom that can be used in any ceremony.

Deceased or divorced parents

When parents are divorced, remarried or deceased, you may need to rework your ceremony.

If your father is deceased or has not been involved in your raising, you may wish to seek alternatives to walking down the aisle. Walking down alone is an option, or having your mother, brother, sister, relative or close friend walk you down. Your children or that of the groom may also escort you, or you may choose to walk down on your groom’s arm.

If parents have divorced and you are close to both, it is still acceptable to honor your father by asking him to escort you.

If your parents are divorced and your mother is remarried, you may wish to include your stepfather. Having both fathers escort you can be a great option if they get along. You will want to discuss this with them.

Civil Ceremonies

A civil ceremony can be big or small event, with varying degrees of formality. You can include many traditions in the ceremony, depending on the officiant. What will probably not be included are references to god or religious services.

Finding an officiant to provide service, you may wish to contact the marriage license bureau in the town where you wish to wed. Family and friends may also know someone that is qualified.

When it comes to civil ceremonies, your location can be almost anywhere. Most civil ceremonies are performed in a judge’s chambers or a courthouse. You can use your imagination and have your ceremony on a beach, home, hotel, garden, historic site, on a ship in the ocean, or in a park.

The dress of a civil service can be tailored to the mood and setting of the service, also to your personal preferences. A formal suit or dress can be worn, or casual clothing.

Writing your own vows

You want to make your ceremony more personalized? You have dreamed of speaking your wedding vows that are straight from the heart and not the traditional “I Jane take you John…”

Here are some tips on writing personal vows:

Before you start dedicating a lot of time and emotion to the writing of your vows, talk it over with your officiant. The church or officiant may have rules or guidelines they must follow that may or may not allow you to personalize your vows. Your religious customs will play an important role in your vows, there may be wording you must include. Present your vows in writing a few weeks before your wedding to your clergy for approval.

Study the traditional wedding vows of your faith, are there meaningful words and phrases you want to keep and use? Read the Bible. There may be other passages you may wish to incorporate.

Your personalized vows should be just that, personalized. Writing your own vows gives special meaning to one another.

Include children from a previous marriage in your vows, or include a special vow that is given to them. Talk with your clergy about special ceremonies to include the children.

Keep the vows short. They should be under three minutes.

Practice, practice, practice! If you can, recite your vows from memory for the wedding. Provide your clergy a copy of the vows so they can prompt if you loose your thought.

Put your personalized vows in your program. This will allow guests to read them and know what was said.

Your personalized vows will show the strength of your love and reinforce your commitment to each other.

Writing your Wedding Program

You will want to discuss with your clergy about your program. Most traditional programs list the sequence of events and cast members along with other special people.

Programs can be professionally printed, photocopied or printed off a computer. You can color coordinate them with your invitation or your stationer may have a matching program. Check with them as to the many options available to you.

You will want to include in you program your full names, the time, date and place of the ceremony. Your clergy, parents, cast members, and other special wedding helpers. You may want to include an “In Memory” for deceased parents, grandparents or friends. You may consider writing a thank you for attending message to your guests and your new address if you can.

Your officiant will help you with wording and placement of your program, and he/she can suggest including explanation of religious or ethnic customs.

Ceremony Music

Music can lift the spirit and set the mood for your ceremony. Here are some tips on choosing your wedding ceremony music.

The best place to start is by talking with your officiant and your musician together. What music do they recommend and what music is objectionable. What types of fees are requested and what equipment and instruments are available for use?

Songs for the Prelude and Postlude

At a traditional religious ceremony, the music usually begins about 30 to 40 minutes prior to the prelude. Discuss the timing with your officiant and musician. You will want music played during the seating of guests.

After guests and the bride’s mother have been seated, there may be a solo or special music performed. Talk with your officiant about these choices. Some religions may allow only certain songs or music be played.

For the processional, you and your wedding party will want to walk down the aisle to joyous music. The more traditional songs are:

Trumpet Voluntary – Clarke

“Spring” The Four Seasons – Vivaldi

Allemande, G Major Suite – Pachelbel

Canon in D – Pachelbel

Wedding March – AKA ‘here comes the bride’

Your ceremony may have additional music with solos, a choir, taped music or organ music. Your officiant will help you select times for the music in the ceremony, the most common are times between readings and lighting of the unity candle. Just remember, the more songs you have in your ceremony, the longer the ceremony will take.

Talk with your officiant about special or non-religious music you would like played during the ceremony. He/she may request to pre-screen the music and approve its use. Keep in mind; you can always use this music as your first dance if the officiant feels it is not appropriate.

Your recessional should be bold and announcing. You may wish to leave to the tune of the “Bridal March” or “March no. 4” aka ‘pomp and Circumstance’ Talk with your musician to discuss options; he/she will have advice for you.

Postlude music usually consists of selections by your musician and will last until all guests are out of the sanctuary.

Unity Candle Ceremonies

The unity candle symbolizes the very essence of the wedding ceremony. Two taper candles represent the couple’s individuality. They are used to light a single center candle as a visible symbol of their commitment to each other. There are many variations on the ceremony and the individual details are completely up to you. Here are some ideas to help you as you plan your own ceremony.

A Christian Unity Candle Ceremony

The text of this unity candle ceremony mentions the meaning of the unity candle and taper candles, as well as the significance of the entwined cross and rings. Today, [Name] and [Name] make a loving commitment to follow the greatest Commandment of all: “Love one another, as I have loved you.” They do this in hopes that their union will become a symbol of God’s promise to merge two lives into one.

The two distinct flames represent your lives to this moment; individual and unique. As you light the center candle together, the entwined rings symbolize your two lives joined in dependence and growing maturity. Your plans will be mutual, your joys and sorrows will be shared alike. The cross is a reminder of your faith in the Lord who enriches your marriage in every way.

Extinguish the two, and you are forever united in God’s love.

Humanist Ceremony

This ceremony signifies the heritage each is bringing to the marriage and the blending of these two heritages.

Those who have passed beyond this life share our community in a different way. Their roles in the lives of [Name] and [Name] are no less remembered and honored as we savor today’s joyous moments. Join with us, then, in fond memory of all these people, and in particular [Names of deceased family and friends]. In their memory, let us be silent together.

In all the quiet of this very special moment, we pause, also, to give thanks for all the rich experiences of life that have brought [Name] and [Name] to this high point in their lives. We are grateful for the value in which they have found by their own strivings. We are grateful that within them is the dream of a great love and the resources to use that love in creating a home that shall endure.

We are especially grateful for the value in which has flowed into them from those who have loved them and nurtured them and pointed them along life’s way. The heritage each brings to this marriage will continue to be an important element in their lives, but now will be shared between them. In commemoration of the merging of these two rich heritages and in memory of those, living and dead, who were part of these heritages, I now invite [Name]’s parents and [Name]’s parents to bring forth lighted candles, representing each of the families of this couple.

[Name] and [Name] will now light the flaming chalice with these candles, symbolizing the union of their two families in this marriage and the rich heritage each brings to it.

As [Name] and [Name] light the chalice, they do not extinguish their flames. Although they are embarking upon a new and unique relationship in the union of their lives in marriage, they, nonetheless, retain their own separate and unique identities and personalities.

Note: The parents of the couple each obtain a lighted candle from opposite sides of the front of the sanctuary or room in which the wedding is taking place, lighting it from stationary candles that have been burning throughout the service. They, in turn, present the lighted candles to their respective child. The couple then jointly lights the flaming chalice at the center of the sanctuary. This ceremony signifies the heritage each is bringing to the marriage and the blending of these two heritages. If the third paragraph is used, the candles are not extinguished as the chalice is lit, but are placed in holders alongside. Appropriate music should accompany this ceremony.

Spiritual Ceremony

Performing over 50 unique weddings per year, Joyce Gioia specializes in providing couples with very spiritual, customized wedding ceremonies. Incorporating as much or as little religion as each couple dictates, she works with them to design and craft ceremonies that are a reflection of how they feel about God and each other. Here is the text of one of Dr. Gioia’s unity candle ceremonies:

Now, we’re going to engage in a ceremony of spiritual symbolism. Ancient sages tell us that for each of us, there is a candle, a symbol of our own Inner Light, but that no one can kindle his or her own candle. Each of us needs someone else to kindle it for us.

When two people fall in love, they kindle each other’s candles, creating great light and joy and glorious expectations.

Now, [Name] and [Name], I’d like you to remember when it was in your relationship that you first realized you were truly in love and wanted to spend the rest of your lives together. And holding that thought . . .

[Name], take this candle, symbol of the inner light in [Name], light it by the eternal light, with the dedication to rekindle it again and again, whenever necessary. And [Name], take this candle, symbol of the inner light in [Name], light it by the eternal light, with the dedication to rekindle it again and again, whenever necessary.

With these candles, we can see how to achieve a beautiful marriage. In your marriage, you will try to bring these lights, the symbols of yourselves, closer and closer to each other, until they become [join the flames] one great torch of light; a radiant symbol of love, joy, peace and harmony. [hold flames together] This is the mystery of the union two becoming one.

Yet, it is vitally important to remember that there are always really two [divide the flames] in a marriage, each with his or her own desires, yearnings, dreams and wishes. And these must be respected and responded to with great love, with great compassion and with genuine tenderness.

We know that it is the prayer of your beloved, as it is the prayer of each of us here, that you will continuously light these candles of love, so that there will always be light and joy, peace and harmony in your hearts and in your home.

Please kiss each other.

About the Author Dr. Joyce Gioia performs all kinds of weddings, including Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Interfaith, Co-Officiated, Humanist, Native American, Civil, Buddhist, Moslem and any combination thereof. Her multicultural wedding ceremonies are often enhanced by her competency in other languages.

How to Prepare for your Candle Ceremony

Before the ceremony begins, place the unity candle on a small table near the altar. If you have an on-site coordinator who may have specific instructions, be sure to check in advance. To prepare for the ceremony, it is a good idea to light the wicks for a moment. (We know you won’t be nervous or anything…but just in case, your candles will light much more easily.) Oh, and who’s got the matches?

There are several popular options for lighting your taper candles. You can have your parents come forward to light the side tapers as a symbol of your two families coming together as one. At this point, some couples choose to present their mothers with a rose. If you wish, the minister or best man and the maid of honor can light the tapers. Or, you may light the tapers yourselves from a candle on the altar.

To Extinguish or Not To Extinguish…

When it comes to your unity candle ceremony, that is often the question! While some folks feel that you should extinguish the candles to symbolize your commitment to one another, others argue that to emphasize your individuality within your union, you must leave the tapers lit.

Whether or not you extinguish the taper candles is a personal decision and, like many aspects of your wedding planning, is entirely up to you.

If you choose to extinguish your tapers, try this reading…

As [Name] and [Name] together light the center candle, they will extinguish their own candles, thus letting the center candle symbolize the union of their lives. As this one light cannot be divided, neither will their lives be divided. If you’d prefer to leave your tapers lit, try this one…

[Name] and [Name] come into their marriage relationship as individuals and they do not lose their identity, rather they use their individuality to create and strengthen the relationship of marriage. Therefore, the three candles remain lighted, one for each of them and one for their marriage, as symbols of their commitment to each other and to a lasting and loving marriages.

Planning Advice

Starting early in with any wedding planning is the key and carries through to the reception. Popular reception spots book up early along with caterers and DJ’s and other good service professionals.

Before you start your reception planning, have a few details about your party such as:

Budget: how much can you spend in each area before meeting with a service provider.

Size: how many guests are you planning to have?

Special Requests: do you require a certain food or music, do you want table services? Make sure the service providers you contact can provide you with your special requests before investing a lot of time or any money.

Once you have this information, your next step is to compile a list of providers you would like to call and interview. Create a list with your families on what you are looking for. Then call around for availability and estimates.

Finding a reception site

Your reception site can be a grand hall or a church meeting room, a community center or a club. Depending on what type of reception you are planning your site can be as imaginative as you wish to get.

How do you find the perfect reception site? You need to focus on what the two of you want, then spend some time and view only those sites that meet you specifications.

Where do you find reception sites? Check with your local chamber of commerce as well as other wedding professionals for sites. Look in the yellow pages, local bridal magazines and also check with motels and convention centers. If you are wishing a more unique reception site, check with wineries, lighthouses and historical buildings/societies.

Once you think you have found the perfect site, here are a few questions to ask:

Rental fee and what does it include? How much to reserve the site and what extra fees might be added? How many hours does the fee cover? How late can the event go?

Are other services available and if so, what are the charges? (e.g., doorman, coat check, valet parking)

Is Parking for guests easily accessible, enough space and are there any charges (e.g. meter parking, parking garage, etc.)

How many people can the site hold comfortably, seating and space available for a sit-down meal or buffet?

Will you have the site exclusively or do they hold more than one event at a time? If so, how are the facilities divided? How is privacy ensured?

Can you decorate the night before the event? What times can you have access to the site? What restrictions, if any do they have on decorating the site?

What type of restrictions does the site have? Can you use outside sources (e.g. caterers, DJ’s, bartender) or must you use their staff?

Is the site air-conditioned or provide adequate heat depending on the weather?

Is there a dance floor? What size? how many people can it hold at any one time?

Bathrooms are adequate and clean? Is there a changing room for the wedding party?

Will the site manager be on hand during the event? If not, who will be in charge?

Does the site carry liability insurance in the event a guest is injured?

What is the cancellation or refund policy?

All these questions need to be answered before you sign any contracts or exchange any money. Make sure all requests are agreed to in writing and any uncertainties are answered and fully understood.

When you are ready to “Book” the site, make sure you receive any copies of agreements. Get a date and time confirmation on the reservation, and an outline of all the details and prices. Get in writing of any security deposits paid and when they will be returned.

Avoid reception rip-offs

Some caterers and reception sites have been know to take your booking fees and go out of business, or book another wedding for the same day then ask you to switch. Here are some tips to avoid being ripped-off.

Find out if your site will take responsibility for anyone they sub-contact.

Ask for references, then call them.

Check with the Better Business Bureau in your area about the business you are considering.

Pay with a credit card for everything. This gives you recourse with the credit card company if the service provider does not come through and is unwilling to work with you to solve the problem.

Out of Town Guests

Your guests – Letís give them a warm Welcome!

Let your out of town guests know how much you appreciate all their efforts to get to your wedding by making them feel especially welcome. Here are some tips for the red-carpet treatment.


Well in advance of your wedding day and before you mail out invitations, inquire with hotels and inns near your ceremony and reception sites about availability and rates. Reserve a block of rooms (You should be able to get a group rate). Send reservation forms, prices and the hotel or inn phone numbers or business cards with your invitations to out of town guests.

You may wish to create a welcome basket of fruit, chocolate, doughnuts, anything to say thanks for attending our wedding. You might include a list of area restaurants, map to ceremony and reception, and any special activities. You should also list phone numbers for you, your groom, and family in town for guests in case there is a problem.

Ask the hotel staff to place the baskets or other information in each of your guestís rooms, or have them given to your guests at check-in.


Make a master list of arrival times for guests coming by plane, bus, or train. Then ask friends, family and attendants to meet the guests and transport them to their lodging destination.

Transportation to the church and reception can also be a challenge. You might want to check with hotel or car rental for a van or shuttle service. In some areas bus rental may be available to carry a large amount of guests to and from the activities.


To make guests feel especially welcome, try to line up or notify them of activities. Guests with children will appreciate this, especially if they are arriving a day early and are not participating in the wedding or invited to the rehearsal dinner.

Make a note of local points of interest– shops, parks, beaches, historical sites, etc. Let the guests know if there is a pool at the hotel or Inn for their use.

If the reception is held at hotel or Inn, and you have guests traveling with children, you may want to consider hiring a baby sitter or two. An additional room at the hotel for child sitting may allow grown-up guests to enjoy the reception a little more, while the children have fun swimming, watching videos and playing games.

Hiring a caterer

Here is some “Food for Thought” when hiring a caterer.

Just like your reception site, you will want to acquire the services of a caterer early (minimum 8-12 months prior to the event if possible).

Depending on your reception site, you may work with an outside caterer or you may have to use their contract or in-house services. When working within the reception site, you may work with the banquet manager to plan out the entire reception from food and drink to decorations, tables and wait staff. The reception site may sub-contract these services or use their own staff and equipment.

If your site does not provide this type of service, suddenly you find yourself contracting and working with caterers, bartenders, waiters and rental companies to supply your reception. You may wish to look for a caterer that can provide all these services for you and act as sort of a “Contractor”, some provide this service for a fee. If you are using a wedding coordinator, they can also provide this service.

When checking out a caterer, you may wish to ask the following questions:

What is the estimated cost per person/plate for a seated meal? Buffet? What does the meal include? Do you provide drink? Added cost?

What is the wait staff-to-guest ratio? (this is very important for a seated dinner, usually one waiter for every 10-12 guests.)

Is there a set menu or can it be modified? Can they accommodate special dietary restrictions for you and your guests?

Has the caterer worked at the reception site before?

Can you arrange to check out a food display or catering at another reception or banquet? Can I sample the foods to be on the menu at my reception?

Does the caterer provide table linens, table service and clean up? If so, can you view the linens and tableware? (Make sure the patterns will work for you and that plates and silverware are in good condition)

How soon before the event does the caterer need a final head count?

What is the payment policy and is tipping included or additional? What types of additional charges might you expect besides those of food and beverage?

Does the caterer have proper license and is state certified? If they will be providing liquor, do they have a liquor license? Does the caterer carry liability insurance?

How much time does the caterer need to set-up at your reception? How long will they stay? Will food be available for late guests or throughout the reception? If food is left over, what happens to it? (you may want to keep a tray of sandwiches or salad if you are having a lunch the next day to open presents or for family)

How much is overtime and what is the cancellation policy?

If all these answers will work for you, check again to make sure the caterer is open for your wedding date, and secure the service. Make sure you read and understand their contract and any questions answered, and all special requests put in writing.

Reception food

One way to make sure your guests have a great time at your reception is to feed them, and feed them well. This does not mean you have to feed them New York strip steak or Lobster, just make sure there is a variety of food and everyone has plenty to eat.

Before shopping for a caterer you need to have an idea of what foods you will have at the reception. This will depend on several factors such as time of day, season, your tastes and your budget.

The time of day your reception will be held can vary the menu. If having an early morning wedding, a brunch or breakfast may be appropriate. An afternoon affair may include a seated lunch or buffet. Mid afternoon may consist of hors d’oeuvres, cake and beverages. Early to late evening may consist of a seated dinner or buffet.

What is the ‘norm’ for wedding receptions in your area? This may play in to the cost factor as many caterers tend to price for their area they work in.

The season you hold your wedding may also help you determine what foods to serve. Some foods may be more traditional or ‘in season’ during certain times of the year.

Your personal tastes and budget are what ultimately decide your reception menu. Your caterer should be able to put together a menu that reflects your personal tastes and stay within your budget. Foods should compliment each other while also providing what you want. Your caterer can make suggestions for your menu, ask him or her and they will be happy to help.

Wedding Cake

The serving of wedding cake began back in the Roman era when a bun or wheat bread would be broken over the bride’s head. The crumbs that landed were a symbol of good luck and fertility. In the seventeenth century, French bakers would stack the buns and coat them with icing, creating the first wedding cakes that were eaten by brides, grooms and guests.

Today, wedding cakes are as much an art as the tradition. Your cake can say a lot about your personality and style with the design of your cake. There are so many options that it can be hard to choose just the right one. Take a look at bridal magazines, cake decorator books, photos and displays your bakery may have.

Once you have in mind the design you want, it is time to find the right bakery. Check with friends, family, other brides, and your service providers (reception site, caterer, and photographer) for references. If you have a picture of the design you would like, call the bakery and make an appointment to talk with them. Have an idea of how many guests you will have, this will help determine the amount of cake you will need.

When you meet with the bakery, you will need to ask some questions such as:

What is the price per serving? Wedding cake? Sheet cake? (depending on your location and the bakery, serving per piece can run $1.00 per serving or more. Sheet cakes are considerably less, you may wish to consider this if your cake design will not allow for a large number of servings, or you are looking to cut costs.)

What flavors of cake and icing are available? Can you sample them?

Are their added costs for different or multiple flavors?

When and how will the cake be delivered and set-up at the reception?

Can you provide a groom’s cake? Cost? (The groom’s cake is traditionally cut and sent home with guests from the reception, it may also be served at the rehearsal dinner.)

Shopping tips for your wedding cake:

Contract your bakery about 6-8 months before the wedding date. Some bakeries only take a few cake orders for a weekend and you could find yourself looking for another bakery.

Talk with the bakery and ask them for recommendations on types of cake, flavors and designs. He/she may have suggestions that you may not have thought of or recommendations for cake if the reception is outside or you plan to have the cake set-up for a lengthy period of time.

Make sure you have provided the bakery with contact information on the reception site and information about set-up times. If the florist will be providing fresh flowers or greens for your cake, provide the bakery with contact information so they can coordinate this also.

Put it all in writing, make sure the contract spells out everything from the size and design of the cake, to the delivery time and date.

Preserving you cake:

It is considered good luck and an omen for long life together to preserve the tope tier of your wedding cake to eat on your first anniversary. You can easily carry on the tradition by following these steps.

1.Encase the cake tightly in plastic wrap and then double rap in aluminum foil or put in a specially designed cake freezer box.

2.If you have wrapped the cake in aluminum foil, also put the cake in an airtight container to help prevent freezer burn.

3.Put the cake in a deep freeze or in the back of you freezer until time to unfreeze.

4.To unfreeze, place cake in fridge for 48 hours to thaw, then place at room temperature for 2-3 hours and serve.

Reception Beverages

You caterer or reception site may provide beverages as part of the agreement or at an additional charge. They sometimes charge by the drink, bottle, keg, person or combination thereof. The charges may also depend on the types and brands of beverages served.

To save on costs, you may ask if you can provide your own liquor. Many times you can buy liquor at a discount store for much less. Some sites may allow you to bring in keg beer, but will not allow you to bring in hard liquors.

To conserve money, some liquor may be eliminated from the bar. Eliminating an open bar and have a cash bar only may also be an option. Consider your guests tastes also, keg beer may be a more inexpensive option for all with no bar all together.

If you will be buying your own liquor for your reception, this guide will help you decide how much to purchase.

Consider your guests, what are their tastes and drinking habits?

Remember, people tend to drink lighter drinks (beer, wine) in the summer and heavier drinks (mixed drinks) in the winter months.

As a general rule, calculate one mixed drink per adult per hour or two lighter drinks (beer and wine coolers).

The time of day your reception is to be held will also help determine, an evening wedding reception will consume more drinks than an afternoon reception.

Talk to your liquor store or supplier, can unopened liquor be returned? Untapped kegs? It is always better to have a little extra than to run out early.

Reception music

Your reception music will set the tone, classical for a very formal gala or rock and country for a more lively party. Consider the following when choosing your reception music:

The size and acoustics of the reception site can determine the size of the band or DJ. If you are having a small trio, will they be lost in a large hall? A loud band or DJ might overwhelm a small room.

Your tastes and style may lead you to consider a band that plays only a small variety of music, or a DJ that can satisfy the many requests and age groups of your guests.

Sound and light shows may add or detract from your reception. Consider a band or DJ that will accommodate your requests.

If you want a live band, ask for references from friends and relatives. When contacting the band, ask how many musicians and what instruments they play. Do they have a demo tape or can you arrange to see them perform at another wedding or event. Do they have a list of songs, and what type of music do they prefer to play. Does the band perform special requests or will they play pre-selected songs?

If the band is right for your event what will you need to ask before booking them?

How long will the group perform? How many breaks will they need and how long will the breaks be? Can they provide taped music or other entertainment between the breaks?

Ask if they will provide the service of M.C. for your reception.

What type of dress will the musicians wear? Is it in a manner suitable for your reception?

Ask if the band has worked at your reception site before. If not, they may request to visit the site prior to the reception and determine any special needs prior to the date.

Require a contract that is specific! Make sure the contract includes the names of the musicians and the hours they will be performing. The contract should also include any overtime charges in writing, alternatives and no-show clauses. A payment of fifty percent is standard to book a band, with the remainder of fees paid after the performance.

More reception entertainment ideas

Who says a reception can only have a DJ?

Other options can include comedians, magicians, clowns/mime, laser light shows, and fireworks. Just about anything else you love!

You can easily find entertainers by looking in your local yellow pages under “Entertainers”, you can also check with your local newspaper.

Talk to the booking agent to discuss your needs and preferences. Check to see that your date is open and find out the length of the performance, fees and overtime.

Check to see if you can review a tape or watch a performance at another event.

Find out, if any, what special equipment may be needed such as stage, spotlight, sound system, etc. Will the performer provide this or can your reception site provide these items?

Double check to make sure the performers dress is appropriate for your event.

Get in writing the name of the performer, the times the will perform, and any details such as skits, routines and stunts they will provide within your contract.

Typical deposit is 50 percent to book the performer with the balance being paid the day of or after the event.

Reception Don’ts

You have come this far and have a lot of planning and money invested. Here are some tips to keep your reception moving and guests entertained and happy to stay!

Make sure you do not have a long delay between the ceremony and reception. If you can, do not leave guests hanging between one event and another. If this is unavoidable, have someplace guests can go such as a hospitality suite or host a pre-reception gathering. For out-of-town guests, make sure they have directions to these sites.

Do not devote major reception time to the photographer. If you are totally against seeing each other before the ceremony, have the photographer take as many photographs as they can before. Formal photography after the wedding should be kept to a minimum and take no more than forty-five minutes or less.

Cake in the face at the reception may be hilarious, but in many instances is very messy. You have spent a lot of time and money on your attire and your look. Do you really want it ruined by cake frosting? Talk to your fiancé beforehand and let him/her know that you would like to be fed nicely.

Suggestive garter removal can be a little lewd, talk with your DJ about this beforehand.

Dollar dance, auctioning off the bride and groom dance, and other dances can sometimes get in the way of getting you guests on the dance floor. Talk to your DJ or bandleader about these dances or other entertainment they may have planned. Make sure you are informed and know what to expect.

How to make your reception unique

Many wedding receptions follow a similar path, here are a few ways to make your reception stand out for you and your guests!

Working with your photographer and videographer you can create very special features at your reception. One product that your photographer can easily offer is a signature portrait. This portrait is an image of the two of you from an engagement or other romantic photo session and enlarged to a 16” x 20” or larger, framed with a double matt around the photo of about 4” in width. The matt board should be a white or off white in color. Proving a lighted easel and permanent thin markers, ask guests to sign their names and a short message around the mat board, filling it completely with signatures and messages of love creates a long lasting keepsake.

With your videographer, talk to them about creating a “reflections” presentation. This is a video of still photographs put to music of you and your fiancé from your childhood up to your wedding. The images are then put to music in a photomontage, and shown at the wedding reception on a TV or via a video projector for your guests. Copies of the video can be given to your parents as gifts.

Ask guests to bring photographs of you and them together. Provide a large board and attach the photos to it as guests provide the pictures. This makes for a great conversation piece and creates a great keepsake for you!

Have you DJ announce or you can personally toast any milestone anniversaries, birthdays or special events such as graduation, new baby, etc. of family and guests at your reception.

If you are comfortable, introduce each of your wedding party personally to your guests with the aid of the DJ’s sound system. Tell your guests a little about each bridal party member, at the end, toast your bridal party and parents with a special thanks.

You can do a similar introduction with your bridal party by creating a “Cast Sheet” giving information, introductions and relationships about these special friends. These sheets are then printed up and placed on guest tables.

Working with your videographer, request he/she get video testimonials from your guests. These words of wisdom can be fun and creates a cherished memory captured on tape.

Party Punch Recipes

Use our punch recipes to make your get-togethers extra special.

These five punch recipes have been provided and rated by the Wedding Expressions staff as being our favorites for taste. You will want to take in to consideration the punch contents if your guests have certain food allergies.

Give these recipes a try, make smaller portions by cutting the amounts in half. Invite your friends over to help make them, and try them all to see which ones you like best.

Color the punch using different flavors or a few drops of food colorings.

* Please Note: some of these punch recipes will not work with “Fountain” punch bowls as they contain fruit and pulp that may clog and/or damage a pump motor.

Mix well, and have fun!

Kool-Aid Punch

Makes 4 Gallons:

24 oz. can of Kool-Aid Powder (tropical punch, cherry or grape, will determine color of punch)
2 cans 32 oz. pineapple juice
2 cans 12 oz. frozen lemonade concentrate
9 quarts of water
2 2-liter bottles of ginger ale (add just before serving)

Mix all contents except ginger ale in a 5 gallon pale with lid. Chill for 10-12 hours. Add ginger ale before serving and mix.

Cranberry Cocktail

Makes 2 gallons:

1/2 gallon cranberry cocktail
1 large package Jell-O (mixed fruit or raspberry) dissolved in 1 qt. hot water
1 32 oz. can pineapple juice
1 can 12 oz. frozen lemonade concentrate
2 quarts water
1 2-liter bottle ginger ale (add just before serving)

Mix all contents except ginger ale in a 5 gallon pale with lid. Chill for 10-12 hours. Add ginger ale before serving and mix.

Pineapple Jell-O Punch

Makes 3 gallons:

3 large packages of peach Jell-O dissolved in 2-qt. hot water
2 32 oz. cans pineapple juice
2 cans 12 oz. frozen lemonade concentrate
3 quarts of water
1 2-liter bottle ginger ale (add just before serving)

Mix all contents except ginger ale in a 5 gallon pale with lid. Chill for 10-12 hours. Add ginger ale before serving and mix.

Sparkling Punch with Fruit Ring

Yields 24 servings:

2 cups crushed ice
4 cups seedless green grapes
4-6 small orange slices
1 cup fresh or frozen whole cranberries
3 – 32oz. bottles cranberry juice cocktail, chilled
2 bottles non-alcoholic white sparkling grape juice, chilled

In a 6-cup ring mold place crushed ice, fruit and enough cranberry juice to cover. Freeze ring mold overnight.

To serve, place ring mold in warm water to loosen. Carefully un-mold and place ring in punch bowl. Add remaining cranberry juice and bottles of sparkling grape juice.

Fresh & Fruity Punch

Yields 36 1/2 cup servings:

2 (1 liter) bottles sparkling grape wine (non-alcoholic can be used)
2 (1-liter) bottles club soda
6-8 cups raspberries and/or strawberry slices
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries chilled and sliced
2 12oz. cans of frozen Orange/Peach fruit juice

In a large punch bowl, stir together frozen punch, fruit, club soda and sparkling grape juice. You can garnish by placing fruit also on top of the punch.

*Pineapple or any favorite juice combinations can be substituted for the orange/peach frozen juice.

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