Ask the Expert – Wedding Reception Organization

January 8, 2015 | Junebug Weddings

Colorful-Vintage-Australian-Wedding-37-600x400 image by Tim Williams

You’ve fallen in love with a venue and chosen the best photographer to capture your day, chosen a floral design style and even started writing your vows. The most daunting part of wedding planning for a lot of people is organizing the reception, which requires a good strategy and at least one spreadsheet. To help ease you into this process, we’ve asked brilliant Orange County wedding planner and designer Carmen Fuentes of Expressionary Events to share her expert advice on wedding reception organization. From seating charts to place cards to unexpected accidents, Carmen has an answer for everything. Take it away, Carmen!

Romantic-Nova-Scotia-Wedding-24-600x399 image by Applehead Studio

Where to Start

Organizing a reception can be especially overwhelming, but there are a variety of online resources and of course, your wedding planner, that can help with this daunting process. You first want to organize your guest list in a spreadsheet and sort the list from immediate family and bridal party at the top and work your way down.  Depending on the size and shape of your reception tables, most tables seat 8-12 guests. Typically the parents of the couple are seated at the tables closest to the couple and then other immediate family and bridal party thereafter. Of course, there are so many ways to arrange seating, but work with your fiancé and planner to organize the reception that makes the best sense for you.

f9fd98e5bfd83112c6c1d9f583a7e424 image by Moat Hill Photography

Creating Your Seating Chart

Formal seating charts are traditionally arranged in alphabetical order on a large sign, mirror, or chalkboard. In the last year, we have seen many modern adaptations that combine seating cards and favors into one. From personalized wine bottle seating cards to chocolate truffle seating cards, couples are discovering new ways to express their personalities in every detail.

26a8516f500dce4679d7e1276f671dee image by Sam Docker

Benefits of a Formal Seating Chart

Large wedding receptions typically benefit more from a formal seating chart. Logistically it will be more efficient and easier for your guests to find their table assignment. Especially when you need to move a lot of guests in a short amount of time. Be sure to have multiple charts to avoid all your guests crowding in one location to find their names.

Mirka-Brian-Megal-Saul-Photography-37-600x900 image by Megan Saul

Large vs. Small Receptions

Unlike large wedding receptions, smaller receptions require much more consideration in arranging your seating arrangements. For receptions less than 50, having assigned seating with place cards is typically the way to go. This is much more of an intimate event and careful thought must be made to where you seat each guest.

d224249983dbcd957d8b9e7ee27bfb1e image by Jonathan Connolly Photography

Creative Place Card Ideas

We have seen a lot of creative ideas in the past year with place cards and the creativity is continuing to trend in 2015. Creativity and functionality is quickly trending as couples are looking to incorporate their personality into every detail of the wedding.  From custom ceramic or wooden place cards to personalized mini wine bottles, there’s no end on how creative you can be in using something that you both love and creating a place card and wedding favor in one! Two of our personal favorites are signature drinks with mini place card flags and personalized handkerchief and pocket square place cards.

Woodsy-Vancouver-Island-Wedding-25-600x399 image by Jennifer Armstrong

Food Serving Styles & Process

Typically in most plated receptions, every table is served at the same time. If you decide to host a buffet dinner, work with your catering staff and planner to decide on the order that each table is released to the buffet. The best way that has worked for us is prior to wedding we arrange the order of each table and our coordination staff goes to each table to release them to the buffet. This is so that your immediate family and bridal party will be released first and to avoid large lines at the buffet stations.

Yanna-Peter-Kama-Catch-Me-Photography-24-600x400 image by Kama Catch Me Photography

Accidents Happen!

Most wedding venues and catering staff are experts at handling drops and spills, and rarely will a couple ever know if these accidents happen. But if it does happen at a critical time, no need to worry, the event staff is ready to step in right away!

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling ready to dive into spreadsheet making. Thanks Expressionary Events for letting Junebug readers in on your reception planning wisdom!

Not sure where to start in planning your ceremony? Be sure to check out Seattle officiant Annemarie Juhlian’s expert advice!


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  1. organization is all wedding

  2. I Loved the Collors!
    Simply beautifull

  3. Really nice tips!! Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Muito linda a matéria, parabéns a todos.

  5. O Blog de casamento de vocês é lindo, fico admirado com tanta matéria linda e cheia de informação. Fico muito feliz em encontrar sites que ainda façam com tanta qualidade blog para casamento e noivas. Estou acompanhando todas as matérias.

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