Inquire to the reception facility's layout. I’ve seen many wedding receptions. In most scenarios it seemed that the dance floor was the center of activity be it DJ or band. Consider your first dance. The dance floor should not be located so far from the food, drinks and main room that guests have to make a special trip down a flight of stairs and into another part of the facility. Consider the elderly family members in attendance that have difficulties walking. Many facilities seem to have that understanding; however, I have seen a few that had the dance floor off from the main room, down some stairs and outside. The bride was upset because guests were leaving early. The main activity was outside on the dance floor.
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Choose your reception site wisely. Ask for referrals. There is a conference center that holds multiple receptions every weekend outside near its gardens. That’s not a good idea to have multiple receptions outside. One Saturday evening we were at the facility and they had two wedding receptions running at the same time. We were videotaping one of them and all seemed to be running smoothly for about 30 minutes until they started playing the dance songs. We could hear the music from the adjacent reception. Our DJ would play a song, but you couldn’t hear it well for music being played from the adjacent reception. It was very distracting. Even when both DJs lowered the audio levels it still didn’t help. So the DJs took turns playing songs. Good attempt but they weren’t playing the same type of music so it really didn’t work out. Most don’t have concurrent outside receptions. Hotels will have many receptions running but they’re inside private ballrooms so there’s no interference from other receptions.
If the reception is at a renovated home there are a few things to consider. If most of the activities are inside, you’ll want plenty of walking room so consider the floor space. We shot a reception at a beautifully restored home; however, it was not setup to handle large crowds inside. Case in point, the facility had a nice buffet table setup. The food looked great. One problem though, they decided to squeeze the buffet table into a narrow hallway. Everyone rushed to get in line. People that had received their food were trying to make there way back to their table but were bumping into those still in line. It was chaotic. I would have been surprised if the fire codes weren’t broken that day. You don't want guests spending almost an hour waiting in line to get food. By the time the last person sits to eat, the bride and groom are ready to start dancing and get the party started. Meanwhile the guests are still trying to eat. You only have that reception facility for a short length of time, and you've already spent time having pictures made after the ceremony, then the drive to the reception, the wedding party announcement, the first dance and so on. It all goes pretty fast. So planning is essential and you want to make the most of your time. Your reception facility and caterers need to be experienced. In a recent shoot, the facility ran out of forks. Guests were waiting for them to gather utensils. Not good. Now was the day ruined, no. But you want your guests to enjoy themselves and you're paying for the service and the food so that's what you should get.
Rehearse with your DJ or band. If you are having your wedding party announced at the reception, make sure that the speaker knows how to correctly pronounce the names. I was witness to one reception where the majority of the wedding party had very unusual last names. While making valiant attempts to pronounce each member of the wedding party, I could see from their looks and remarks that the DJ botched it up pretty bad. They seemed a little irritated. It didn’t look terrible on video, but that’s one irritation and embarrassment you don’t need. It’s something to consider.
Bubbles, petals or sparklers for the exit. Sparklers might be pretty but some guests will light them before the bride and groom exit, and they burn out before the bride and groom make their way to the limo/vehicle. Afterwards the metal sticks are strewn about on the ground. It’s a mess. Careful with the bubbles. If kids are still around by then, they may get a little excited with the bubbles. One kid threw half the bottle in the groom’s face as he was walking out. The mixture burned his eyes, and they couldn’t leave until someone brought him a wet cloth to clean himself up. It’s something to consider when children are present. The same applies for birdseed. One of the kids looked like he was pitching baseball. The birdseed hit the bride in the face then fell into the front of her dress. Overall I would suggest flower petals. It's less mess and not painful.
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