Wedding Reception Planning

Privacy, Please!

Privacy varies widely from place to place, as does the importance couples place on it. If you’re having a daytime event in a public spot, such as a park or botanical garden, be prepared for strangers to trek past your party. They may even smile, wave, and come by to offer their good wishes. If this is okay with you (the more the merrier!), go for the park. If not, opt for a lovely lawn on a private estate. Or hold the reception at a restaurant or gallery that will post a CLOSED FOR PRIVATE PARTY sign. Be sure to inquire about available security at your site to keep gate-crashers at bay.

In addition, don’t think that just because you’re indoors, you’re safe from uninvited guests. Banquet halls and hotels often hold more than one affair at a time. If there’ll be other events going on simultaneously in rooms close to yours, you may hear karaoke-loving guests singing their hearts out to the sounds of Madonna through the walls or meet them over the hot-air dryers in the bathroom. If this bothers you, try to schedule your wedding when there won’t be another one next door. If this is impossible, visit the site on a dual-party night and see how the sound carries and whether there really are any major people problems — before you make a decision.

The site doesn’t have to be done in the exact colors formal dresses as your planned decorations, but it shouldn’t clash or conflict with your party’s mood or theme.

Seeing the Light

Light can make — or break — the mood. If you’re marrying during the day, make sure your hall has plenty of windows. Who wants to spend six hours in a dark room when the sun is shining? If it’s an evening affair, make sure the room’s not too dim — or that the lighting can be controlled for the big entrance, dinner, and dancing. If you’re marrying outdoors, say, at dusk, will you be able to set up candles if necessary?

Try to visit the site at the same time of day that you’ve chosen for your wedding. Even if the space looks swell by candlelight, you may be surprised by the sight of that 20-year-old carpet during the day. You’ll also miss a chance to see how sunlight streaming through floor-to-ceiling windows completely transforms the room, if you bridal boutiques check it out only in the evening.

A Great View

What will your guests look at (when they’re not gazing at you or smiling for the videographer)? Whether it’s your city skyline, a stunning vista of rolling mountains beyond the windows, or the crashing sea on the sand behind you, exceptional locations are always a feast for the eyes. If there’s no view per se, look to a place’s decor or architectural details: Picasso prints on the walls, fine Persian rugs on the floors, period furniture in the corners, or an amazing crystal chandelier as the room’s centerpiece all give your reception site that something extra.

The Right Color

If you’re considering a certain theme and color palette for your party — say, a Victorian tea done in pink, green, and gold — that brown shag carpet is really going to wreck the effect. The site doesn’t have to be done in the exact colors as your planned decorations, but the walls, carpets, chairs, and curtains shouldn’t clash or conflict with your party’s mood or theme. If you want a spring wedding brunch, look for a space that’s done in light (perhaps pastel) colors or florals; black walls and red leather booths just don’t say “spring.” But they’ll look great if you’re going medieval (or 1980s, for that matter). For classic elegance, consider a room done in neutrals or black and white. Get advice for choosing wedding colors.

Ample Outlets

Be sure to take a thorough cruise around the room to see if it has lots of bridal shop places to plug things in — especially if you’re partying in a place that’s not a regular spot for hosting weddings. Your main user of outlets will be the entertainment crew. Take note of where the outlets are; if their location will force your DJ to spin records in the bathroom, make sure she or he has plenty of extension cords.

Good Vibrations

If the place is too echoey, it could give some weird reverb to the band, not to mention make it difficult for guests to hear one another talking. A tile or wood floor, for example, will amplify sounds, while a thick carpet will tend to muffle them. Check out the room’s sound quality during an event. And tailor your music to the acoustic conditions. A jazz combo will sound better at an intimate art gallery than a 14-piece orchestra would (not to mention the fact that it takes up less floor space).

A Place to Park

Make sure the site is near a good parking lot, garage, or big, empty (safe) street where it’s legal to park. If parking is a problem, look for other ways to get everyone to the party. Can a shuttle bus or vans take guests from the ceremony to the reception? Inadequate parking isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, but it may mean spending more time and money to figure out a viable vehicular alternative.

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Cake Ideas

Clean and Classic

Outlandishly frosted confections are a thing of the past. These days, many couples are opting for clean, classic designs, many of which mimic bridal gown fabrics or detailing. Understated yet whimsical designs, such as cakes covered in blush-colored frosting and punctuated with tiny silver-dusted polka dots or pale blue-fondant frosted cakes studded with chocolate-brown sugar flowers, are all the rage.

Shapely Cakes 

Though round tiers are still the favorite for today’s couples, square, octagon, and hexagon confections are gaining popularity especially for more modern and laid-back weddings. Atypical shapes give the tower of tiers a sophisticated feel without frilliness. For a multidimensional appeal, pair differently-shaped cakes together, such as round tiers on square tiers.

Stacked and Sturdy

Cake tiers stacked upon tall Roman columns have all but disappeared, as most couples opt for layers placed directly on top of one another. If the cake is too heavy, designers may sometimes use pillars for support, though they’re usually hidden behind fresh flowers. Fresh berries, sugared fruits, and thick bands of sugarpaste flowers are also appearing between the layers, which bridal shop creates a lush and voluptuous appearance.

Subdued Hues

Today’s confections are taking a spin on the color wheel. We’re seeing hues of light blush, ice blue, pale pistachio, rum pink, and lavender splash across the scene, along with shades of butterscotch and cafe au lait — colors that reflect the bridesmaids’ dresses rather than the bride’s gown. Many designers are also addressing demand for cakes that incorporate two tones of the same color: We’re seeing snow white fondant tiers wrapped with textured white ribbon or topped with white calla lilies, or candlelight buttercream adorned with eggshell-colored roses or champagne-hued scrollwork.

Fresh and Flirty

Fresh flowers continue to be a popular adornment for wedding cakes, though sugarpaste flowers are still holding their own. Unfussy, simple blooms are replacing the more frivolous flowers; today’s most fashionable fleurs include orchids, calla lilies, formal dresses tulips, and gardenias. Daisies are also becoming popular, due to their light and cheerful appeal. Simple embellishments such as Swiss dots, single rose petals, curving scrollwork, and family monograms are also setting the standard, as personalization continues to be very popular at weddings.

All in Good Taste

In the world of flavors, we’re seeing rich chocolate-covered confections bridal boutiques in all their cocoa-colored glory shirk their “grooms cake” beginnings and take center stage. Pistachio-enhanced cakes, which can be a rich or subtle sage-green hue, are also big now, as is delicate pistachio-flavored filling. Other fabulous fruit flavors setting the scene: pineapple, exotic marion berries, wild cherries, passion fruit, mango, and blood orange mousses. Couples are also pairing cake courses with other sweets — classics such as tiramisu and apple pie are making their way to the dessert table too.

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A Glossary of Wedding Cake Terms


A smooth, creamy icing that stays soft so it’s easy to cut through. It can be colored and/or flavored. Also used to create piping, swags, and other borders, as well as decorative rosettes. It can be used as filling too.
Knot Note: Buttercream is made from butter (as its name implies), so it may melt in extreme heat or humidity.


An elaborate piping technique that yields a lace-like pattern.

Dotted swiss

A piping technique that forms tiny dots in random patterns that resemble a fine dot swiss fabric.


Round, edible sugar balls coated with silver or gold and used for decorative purposes.


A sweet, elastic icing made of sugar, corn syrup, and bridal boutiques gelatin that’s literally rolled out with a rolling pin and draped over a cake. It’s a smooth, firm base for gum paste flowers, decorative details, and architectural designs, and has a porcelain finish.


A sweet, rich chocolate, denser than mousse but less dense than fudge, which can be used as icing or filling.
Knot Note: Because ganache is made of chocolate and heavy cream, and will soften in very humid weather.

Gum paste

This paste of sugar, cornstarch, and gelatin is used to mold realistic-looking fruits and flowers to garnish a cake. Gum paste decorations are edible and will last for years as keepsakes, but, say some, they don’t taste as yummy as marzipan.


A piping detail that criss-crosses with an open pattern.


A paste made of ground almonds, sugar, and egg whites, used to bridal shop mold edible flowers or fruit to decorate the cake. Marzipan can also be rolled in sheets, like fondant, and used as icing.


Separators used in a tiered cake. They can be made of plastic or wood in several lengths to achieve the desired look.


Decorative technique created using a pastry bag and various metal tips. Piping details include leaves, borders, basket-weave patterns, and flowers.

Pulled sugar

A technique in which boiled sugar is manipulated and pulled to produce flowers and bows.

Royal icing

Made of egg whites and confectionary sugar, this icing starts life as a soft paste piped from a pastry bag to create latticework, beading, bows, and flowers.
Knot Note: When dry, its texture is hard and brittle — do not formal dresses refrigerate.


A dense cake that does not use leavening agents like baking powder or baking soda.

Whipped cream

Heavy cream beaten to achieve a thick consistency.
Knot Note: Whipped cream does not work well as an icing, and must be kept refrigerated — it is unstable and not recommended for outdoor weddings.

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The Top 10 Wedding Music Mishaps

Mistake 1: Forgetting to check sound ordinance laws.

“Brides need to check for sound ordinances in the town that their reception will be held or restrictions on noise levels at their venues. Some venues have a restricted sound level and end-time policies. You don’t want your reception to end early unexpectedly.”

-Johnna Dionne, Wavelength Band 

Mistake 2: Not meeting the DJ until the day of their wedding.

“A face-to-face meeting is the best way to determine if formal dresses the DJ is qualified and will give you what YOU want. Also, you can determine if you have a personality match with the DJ and if he or she is someone who will deliver a fun day.”

-Brian S. Graham, ADJA Knoxville Chapter

Mistake 3: Having too small of a dance floor.

“If there is nowhere to maneuver, then congestion on the dance floor can be a nightmare because people get bumped into, glasses break, and drinks can be spilled. Having more room will encourage your guests to get on the dance floor.”

-Jeremy Gerba, Lethal DJ Services

Mistake 4: Playing only one type of music.

“Too much of a good thing is a bad thing in music. Weddings will bridal boutiques always have a wide range of age groups, so you need to switch things up to keep the music fresh!”

-DJ Pat, Sound Prodigy

Mistake 5: Forgetting to make a do-not-play list.

“The last thing a bride wants to hear at her reception is a band she hates or maybe a song that reminds her of her husband’s ex! Recently I had a bride who vetoed any Michael Jackson for that specific reason, so throughout the reception, when I got a request for Michael, I had to pretend that I forgot to bring any. The DJ always has to remember that it’s the bride and groom’s wedding — not theirs — and our job is to make it the celebration that they really want!”

-Richard Blade,

Mistake 6: Requesting too many songs.

“Keep in mind that a DJ plays approximately 12 to 15 songs per hour, so for the average four-hour reception, that’s only around 60 songs. A good rule of thumb is to keep your request list to about 25 songs or so. That way you get to hear all of bridal shop your songs, plus you give your DJ freedom to take requests from your guests.”

– Russ Knight, Knight Flight Professional DJs

Mistake 7: Choosing long special dance songs.

“It can get boring for your guests. Of course this is your day, and these dances are special, however, when choosing those special songs, consider shortening the mother-son and father-daughter songs. These dances are great, and you should spend this special moment with your parent(s), but once the congratulations, I’ll miss you, and thank-yous are done, end the dance.”

-Jeremy Jones, Entertainment Solutions

Mistake 8: Not paying attention to the flow of the events.

“To create energy for an active dance floor, make sure the wedding flow of events moves along nicely,” says Tim Benter, DJs To Go Inc.. “If you have a 90-minute cocktail hour and two hours of dinner your guests will be looking for a nap, not a dance floor. Keep your cocktail hour to “an hour” and then move into a well served dinner service process.”
Another flow-of-events mistake has to do with the way you configure the room — “A very common mistake is having the bar in a different room than where the dancing is supposed to happen,” says DJ Nahchey, Dash Entertainment. “When couples do this, it splits the event into drinkers and dancers, and the party doesn’t really come together.”

Mistake 9: Picking too many obscure songs.

“As music professionals, we certainly appreciate all kinds of music, however, the guests may not. They go to a wedding expecting to hear music they know and can dance to,” says Gina Diegnan of In the Mix DJ Service. Daniel Blevins of CSC Special Events & Creative Services agrees with this tip: “A simple rule for music selection is 90% of the music played should be known by 90% of the guests.”

Mistake 10: Not verifying your DJ.

“Make sure the DJ you are talking with will be the actual DJ performing at your reception. Many DJ companies book multiple events on the same night and may subcontract to other companies using DJs with varying levels of skill. Be careful of ‘bait and switch tactics’ by making sure you evaluate the individual DJ and not just the DJ Company.”

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Thinking of Cutting Video? Read this first

It’s not what you think

Throw out the idea that a wedding videographer means lights-camera-action in your face all night. Today’s videographers embrace a more documentary style of filming, meaning you might not even notice them — until they’re handing you a stunning video of your day. Video can also be taken in a variety of styles, from vintage Super 8mm film to high-def.

Video captures the in-between moments 

Yes, your photographer will get both posed and candid shots, but for everything in between, you need a videographer. And since there’s no posing (you just keep enjoying the party!), you won’t have to worry about looking stiff or awkward on film.

Videography lets you experiment with style

You want your wedding photos to be timeless (they’re going to be displayed in your home for years to come), but your wedding video can formal dresses be a little trendier while still looking classic. Try out hip videography styles, like vintage Super 8mm film or high-def wedding trailers for a creative look.

Video means sound

It’s an obvious one, but video captures audible moments, such as bridal shop your mother’s tearful words of wisdom as she helps you with your veil, your father’s reaction to seeing you in your dress, or your grandmother’s laugh as she dances with your grandfather. These are the memories you’ll cherish long after your dearest relatives have passed, and a wedding video will preserve them forever. And whether you write your own or go traditional, there’s no other way to document your vow exchange. Video can also capture important reception moments, such as toasts and songs for you to share with your family in the future.

Wedding videos aren’t hour-long sagas

Banish the idea of a wedding video that plays out like a boring bridal boutiques slideshow. Same-day edits are one of the hottest trends in wedding videography. Your videographer can capture the highlights as the bride and groom get ready and even include footage from the ceremony to be played at the reception. Guests will love the behind-the-scenes look as you and your groom prepare for your big moment. Or you can incorporate video into your save-the-dates, engagement announcements, or even as a way to welcome your guests to the wedding destination.

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Top 9 Wedding Photography Mistakes

1. Not Finalizing the Wedding Day Schedule

“Talk to your photographer before finalizing the schedule for your wedding day. There is a lot to consider in terms of photographing and natural light. Certain times of day are more photogenic than others (midday sun casts harsh, unflattering shadows on the face while late day sun casts a beautifying warm glow on everyone).”

–Hillary Harvey, Hillary Harvey Photography 

2. Not Sticking to the Finalized Schedule

“Pay attention and respect the schedule you and your photographer discuss prior to your wedding. Being an hour late can make or break your images. Don’t just assume it only takes 10 minutes!”

–Alison Clinton, Horizon Photo

3. Letting Relatives Get in the Way

“We have a name in the industry for a guest who shows up with pro photo equipment and takes ‘unofficial wedding photos’ — we call him Uncle Bob. Uncle Bob may think he’s doing you a favor by taking more shots for the couple, but usually he just gets in the way and makes us miss our shots. Tell Bob to leave the camera at home and just enjoy his bridal shop time at the wedding without working.”

— Sandra O’Claire, Eau Claire Photographics

4. Not Explaining How You Like to Look in Photos

“Beauty is really very subjective. I ask my clients to send a photo of themselves before the wedding that they like and one that they don’t.”

— Dorie Hagler, Dorie Hagler Photography

5. Focusing Too Much on Taking Photos

“A good photojournalist can capture the story of their day and capture some artistic portraits while keeping the time away from loved ones to a minimum.”

–Alex Fagundo, Candidly Elegant Photography

6. Not Getting a Second Shooter

“Sometimes brides want to save a little money or feel that it is too formal dresses obtrusive for more than one photographer to be present on the wedding day. But consider this: The second photographer offers another unique point of view throughout the entire day that you would not have had photographed.”

–Chris Leary, Chris Leary Weddings

7. Not Getting Help Organizing Your Guests

“Designate someone that you trust and who knows your family and friends to be in charge of organizing people for portraits. That person can gather the people needed, direct them on what shots they will be in, and then release them when they are done. It keeps things moving quickly, smoothly, and enjoyably.”

–Erica Natali, Natali Photography

8. Trying to Make Things “Perfect”

“Just have fun — whether it’s getting a little cake on your face or some little detail that didn’t turn out 100 percent like you had hoped, go with it, have fun, and keep smiling. The photos will be so different if the bride is scowling at her new hubby, don’t you think?”

–Jennyfer Huff, Florida Weddings Photography

9. Skipping the “First Look”

“A ‘first look’ [aka taking your couple photos before the ceremony] is bridal boutiques so much better than trying to rush bride and groom portraits after the ceremony — especially if your ceremony ran a little late (which most do). You end up trying to hurry up and get to the party.”

–Ashley Nardello, Cleopatra Photography

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Wedding Transportation: 10 Great Wedding Transportation Tips

1. Don’t limit yourself.

Okay, let’s say you’re the traditional types who just can’t bear the thought of speeding off in anything that doesn’t come with a mini-bar — your local limousine service has the souped-up options to roll away in that you’re looking for. Test-drive everything from the classic white Rolls-Royce (seats 2) to the stretch SUV (seats 22) to the super-luxe limo-bus (seats dozens). And while we’re breaking the rules, who says your getaway vehicle has to be white? A shiny, black limo offers the high-society, I’m-with-the-President look.

2. Go all the way. 

Many transportation companies offer more than just the wheels and will pull out all the royal stops for you and your groom, what they call the “wedding package.” Often you can find the “red-carpet treatment” where the driver literally rolls out a red carpet (that’s right!) to the door. You can also request that your favorite romantic comedy or your make-out CD be cued up bridal boutiques in the car’s entertainment center. And many companies will stock the vehicle with chilled champagne and caviar. But just when you think you’ve hit the ceiling of ultimate luxury, you can ask for one more thing…the horn that toots “Here Comes the Bride.” Now that’s class.

3. Keep an open mind.

Where in the bridal rulebook does it say that you have to leave your reception in a limo? (How many times do we have to tell you to throw that old book away?) We can think of scads of other options that’ll zip you off in style. You can go for something with personality — a VW Microbus (think Haight-Ashbury and free love, baby!); a Harley-Davidson with sidecar (straddling anything in a gown is just plain tacky); or an old-school trolley (it’s not just a San Francisco treat). Or slip into something a little more Beverly Hills — a cherry-red Lamborghini, a jet-black Camaro SS, or a silver BMW Z3 roadster.

4. Save in sneaky ways.

The great thing about wedding-day transportation is that it’s the part of planning where you can save the most, and still ride in ultra-posh style. For example, think about a one-trip wonder. If you’re making a grand entrance, rent a vehicle for the arrival (and drive your own wheels home). On a similar note, if you’re going to take off with the whole party watching, best to get a fancy mobile for the bridal shop farewell. Pinch pennies by signing up for an hourly rate, rather than an entire evening. That way, you’ll pay for the car and driver combo only when it’s being used — and not when it’s sitting idly in the parking lot of the reception.

5. Know the owner.

Although it might not seem like a big deal, it’s a good idea to know who actually owns the vehicle you’re renting. If the transportation company you’re dealing with doesn’t have the car you’re looking for, they’ll often “borrow” a car from another vendor (and basically pay them a rental fee). Here’s where it gets sticky — since you’re one more middleman away from the wedding car of your dreams, you leave the door open for lateness or, even worse, a no-show. If you have your heart set on a particular car, you’ll be better off finding a vendor that actually owns the one you’ve got in mind.

6. Express yourself.

You needn’t feel limited to automobiles — period. For example, a horse-drawn carriage has become the option of those brides looking for an all-out Cinderella experience (a bit much, we think, but to each her own). We’re talking about a little self-propelled action: with one of you sporting “Just” and the other “Married” signs on your backs, hop into a pair of in-line skates or onto a scooter, or peddle away on a bicycle built for two.

7. Add variety.

Why be a one-car couple? In just one wedding day, you’ve got so many chances to get folks (and yourself) all revved up. If you can’t decide between the stretch Hummer and little green Beetle, choose one for the way to the wedding and one formal dresses for the way home. Don’t think that you have to get the same type of car for everyone in the wedding party — maybe indulge your attendants in some 4-wheel-drive action, but have Mom and Dad roll up in a sweet midnight-blue Porche. Show off more than just one set of hot wheels.

8. Spread the wealth.

While you’re maxing and relaxing in all-out style, let your guests in on some of the transportation fun. A luxury bus (seats 50-75) has become a popular — not to mention a super-safe — way to transport family and friends (no drinking-and-driving worries, no guests lost between the ceremony and reception). And what’s a wedding vehicle without a sign? Equip your party bus with an announcement along both sides: “We just watched Jen & Andy tie the knot!”

9. Get a contract.

We never tire of saying it: Don’t even think about hiring your transportation vendor without getting everything in writing. And we mean everything: arrival time (pad an extra 20 minutes for safety’s sake); reception departure time; addresses to and from where you’re going; the size, color, and model of the car (with the license-plate number if you’ve chosen something specific); the name of the driver you want; gratuity; plus any special requests that you have. You’ll have peace of mind — and a piece of paper — to ensure it all goes smoothly.

10. Stock the car.

When the party is over the real party will just begin, so make sure you’ve got the supplies. Enlist a bridesmaid to pack up a small after-the-festivities package for the two of you to indulge in as you make your getaway. Include something to eat because — trust us — you’ll be hungry (the more protein, the more energy you’ll have for after-hours activities); something to drink (water, soda); a comfy blanket (for snuggling); and something protective to slip on. Ahem…we were talking about slippers.

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