How To Have A Fun Wedding


And remember, you can't please everyone

How To Have A Fun Wedding | A Practical WeddingHow To Have A Fun Wedding | A Practical Wedding

The wedding industry, that beast of a machine, is built around selling you lots of PRETTY. Pick up any wedding magazine, and you’ll see page after page of dresses, centerpieces, favors, personalized everything (did you know that wedding toilet paper is an actual product you can buy?), and other things designed to “wow” your guests, but, oddly, very little information about how to make sure your guests have fun at your wedding. Which is odd, because when planning any other party, the main question on most people’s minds is, “Hey, how can I make this fun? (And what are we going to feed these people?)” But that doesn’t mean that people don’t want their weddings to be fun. One of the questions on my intake form for new clients is, “What are your top priorities for your wedding?” The most common answers (because my clients are rad) are:

1. That our guests are comfortable

2. That the wedding is a ton of fun (for everyone, including us)

So how exactly does one have a fun wedding? That, my friends, is the million-dollar question. If the wedding industry at large were to offer an answer, it would end up looking like some kind of fancy version of Burning Man, with a cigar roller! And a belly dancer! And a brass band! And a gospel choir! And a face-painting station! And a fortune-teller! And a photo booth! And while a wedding with all those things would probably be really fun (if a little manic), it’s very possible to create fun without a three-ring circus.

Make sure people know what to expect

Making sure your guests know what to expect is the key element in having a wedding that people enjoy. Are both the ceremony and reception on grass or rocky ground? Let people know so that they can choose their footwear appropriately. This is also true when it comes to temperature. For example, in coastal Northern California it gets cold almost every night, even if it’s ninety-degrees during the day. So if you have a lot of guests coming from out of state, they’ll need to be informed ahead of time to bring a jacket (because unlike the more touristy parts of San Francisco, I doubt there will be overpriced Golden Gate Bridge-branded fleece jackets for sale at your wedding). Formality level comes into play here too. While you shouldn’t dictate exactly what your guests wear, very few people like showing up either extremely over- or under-dressed for an event, so giving a heads up on the general dress code is appreciated, whether that’s black tie or county-park casual (and maybe especially important if you’re doing black tie in a county park).

Beyond weather and what to wear, it’s nice for guests to know what you’re going to want them to do. Need help breaking down tables at the end of the night? My experience is that if you tell people ahead of time, they will be there with bells (or stocking feet) on. But spring this on them right before they grab their bags to get on the shuttle home? They’ll probably still help, because they love you, but some grumbling is also pretty guaranteed. I mean, I can break down chairs until the cows come home, but if I find out I have to do it after I’ve already started preparing myself to go home to take a bubble bath? The enthusiasm level is going to be on the waning side. This goes doubly for your family and your wedding party—the more you let them know in advance what your expectations are, whether that’s, “We really want you to just be guests and enjoy yourselves,” or “We’re going to have a ton of things we’ll need help with and would appreciate all hands on deck,” the more people are going to be in the right mood and mindset to both act and enjoy themselves accordingly.

Feed people. Feed them on time.

One of my first rules for any party is this: do not let your guests be hungry. Because hungry quickly turns into hangry, and well, it’s pretty hard to enjoy yourself when you’re hangry. Does this mean you have to serve a full meal? Nope! You just need to serve one if you’ve set guests up to expect one. So, if your reception is, say, from 2–5 p.m., most people will infer that there won’t be a meal served and will eat before and/or plan on eating after. The same would go with a 9 p.m.–midnight reception. You can also hold a reception at another time and advertise that it’s not going to involve a full meal. “Please join us for appetizers and drinks from 5 p.m.–8 p.m.,” or “Dessert reception to follow,” or “Cake and punch after the ceremony,” or any other wording describing the fact that people should not expect to eat a meal. The opposite side of this is, of course, that if you’re having a 4 p.m. ceremony “with reception to follow” and are planning on the reception going until 10 p.m., you very, very definitely need to feed people dinner. It doesn’t have to be fancy (who doesn’t love tacos or burgers? Not anyone I want at a party) but it does have to be filling. See: hangry.

Okay, got it, but what do we do to make sure it’s fun?

The problem with this question is that everyone has a different definition of what fun is. Because while a booze-and-drug-fueled, dance-till-the-sun-comes-up party defines it for some people, for others that’s some kind of nightmare and an intimate dinner party with board games sounds way more fun, thankyouverymuch. If forced to name the ten most fun weddings I’ve encountered, you’d see both of those, and a bunch of weddings that were somewhere in the great space in between. But what all of them had in common were that they were incredibly authentic to the couple, and to the largest part of their social circle, and hence, largest chunk of their guests. Not the giant dance party types? It’s highly unlikely that you’ve ended up with a group of friends who are, so please feel free to go ahead and skip the loud music. Totally the giant dance party types? Bring. It. On. (And leave the board games at home.) As with most things in life—knowing your crowd is key.

But what if you don’t have a particular group of friends, and your family runs the gamut, and you can barely think of two people coming to the wedding who like the same kinds of parties? Then…

Get people emotionally invested

This is one of the big secrets of weddings: people enjoy them the most when they’re emotionally invested in the reason they’re there—that two people they love are publicly joining their lives together. Often this means a meaningful ceremony that puts the guests into an emotional group high of holy shit, I am so happy for them. But I’ve also seen it happen at receptions after a private ceremony; the key is that a wedding reception isn’t just another party. It’s a party celebrating a very, very specific thing—your marriage. This doesn’t mean you need a tiered cake, or a white dress, or a sit down dinner—it just means that the focus should be on your marriage. If you skip the public ceremony, toasts can help a lot with this—I’ve seen many toasts that were equally, if not more, emotionally touching as any ceremony. It also has to do a lot with the attitude and emotions of the couple. It’s hard not to be on an emotional high when the people you’re there to see are on one.

At the end of the day, the people who aren’t going to have fun at your wedding aren’t going to have fun no matter what you do. You could have three live bands, a quiet board game room, and a lounge area for chatting, and there would probably still be one person who went home early. That’s okay, because this is the truth: you cannot please everyone. Once you have a group of more than about six people, someone is going to think that any given idea is probably not the best one. Your painfully shy cousin? Socially forward college roommate? High-energy sister? Easily overwhelmed and kind of awkward best friend? Party animal high school friends? Let’s just be real, there’s probably not a single party in the world that all of these people are going to love equally. What they do love, however, is you, and so even if they don’t go home saying, “That was, no question, one of the best parties I’ve ever been to,” hopefully they’ll go home saying, “I am so, so happy to have been able to be there to celebrate when this couple I love was married.”

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Photo by APW Sponsor Emily Takes Photos, Thumbnail image by APW Sponsor Lisa Wiseman

Elizabeth Clayton

Elizabeth has been planning weddings since 2006, and has done so full time under the Lowe House Events banner since 2011. She considers herself incredibly lucky to get to work on events full time—it just doesn’t get much better than going to a party most weekends because it’s your job.

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  • Jen

    Thanks for this post.

    I’m having a TEENY wedding- and would love some advice/ reassurance on that…

    There’ll be me, groom, and our parents- marrying abroad (in Iceland). While I’m not to worried about the day (ceremony, photos etc), I do have some slight reservations about how to make the evening special. We’re having a dinner together, but I’m dreading that the end of the day will feel like an anti-climax (i.e no dancing, drinking…or even conversation…), and everyone will slope off to bed feeling a bit despondent. Any tips??

    • Leila

      Could you plan that you and your husband do a night cap together after dinner? Or I guess depending on the wedding setting, you could go on a stroll. Also, when is the wedding? Iceland I hear is a fairly dramatic place so the setting alone may provide that X factor you are looking for.

      • Sam A

        Iceland is AMAZING… what a fab place to get married! If you’re there at the right time of year – and have the energy – you could go looking for the Northern Lights / stargazing? Or, if it’s summer time – the sun will set suuuper late – so maybe just a stroll around the area you’re staying in? The whole island is beautiful, so am sure either option would be spectacular.

    • Ana

      My wife and I did a champagne toast at midnight to mark the end of our wedding day. It was just the two of us, in our hotel room. If you want to make it special for everyone (and your parents drink) you can arrange to have bottles sent to everyone’s room. That way when they get back they’ll have a little “awe, special day!” feeling.

    • ZoeEllen

      Sometimes even big weddings can feel a bit flat at the end of the night!

      A friend of mine went to a super-small wedding, and after the meal everyone was going to go home, but the bride and groom invited their 4 guests up to their honeymoon suite (which I understand was quite fancy and had a nice seating area) for another bottle of champagne. My friend said it was one of the most lovely weddings she’d been to! Maybe it was having a little surprise?

      I think it depends what sort of thing would you and your parents would do on a birthday or on a holiday (I mean like Christmas or other festival)? Some special artisan after-dinner chocolates would be lovely as a surprise. Or some little presents for your guests maybe?

      My wedding is going to be much larger, so I know there are things I can’t afford etc – little gifts or lavish food or drink for all my guests isn’t do-able, but is surely one of the best things of having a tiny wedding!

    • Caroline

      What about looking up a couple of options in the town you are looking at for post-dinner options. Have a list of a good dance club, a good late night wine bar, late night desserts place, etc. Then you can play it by eat. If after dinner, you are feeling like “Holy crap, we got MARRIED and are wired!”, you can go dancing and if you are feeling sappy and emotional and not ready to let go of the moment and conversations, you can go get coffee or a glass of wine or an ice cream sundae.

    • Blair

      YOU HAD ME AT ICELAND. Amazing, enjoy!

      • Jen

        Thanks for your comments all. I think champagne post dinner, and some games will do nicely! We’re going to be totally in the middle of nowhere, so going for a midnight sun walk will very much be an option too.

        J xx

  • Kate

    I am feeling a little nervous that my wedding will not be fun…and that seeing my guests bored or just not having a great time is going to make me feel sad and lame. We’re having a smallish wedding, and about 50% of the guests are big dancers/drinkers/partiers, while the other 50% are more of the conversation and board games type. I’ve been planning our wedding to fall somewhere between the two extremes, but I’m worried it’s going to come off as awkward.

    Does anyone have any suggestions for fun games or something for guests to do at the tables in case people don’t end up dancing?

    • Leila

      We had 60 people and I think what we did best was the emotional involvement. It started with a very personal ceremony, but continued into dinner. We had lots of toasts that included songs and poems hat were spaced out by our toast masters (European emcees). We also played the “shoe game”, and this gave the non drinkers/partiers something to talk about. We then led into loud crazy dance music. I think the reality is that some people will leave once dancing starts up but that doesn’t mean they didn’t enjoy the other x hours of your wedding, Also, I think you could definitely bring out the board games while dancing is going on.

      • meg

        Emotional involvement is the KEY, if you ask me. At all weddings, big and small. Well, that and feeding me on time.

      • Amber

        Can I just say ‘thank you” for this: “I think the reality is that some people will leave once dancing starts up but that doesn’t mean they didn’t enjoy the other x hours of your wedding…” We had a smallish wedding reception (65 guests) that followed a private ceremony, and two full tables of people (16 assorted aunts/uncles) left all at once right after dinner. We were hurt that they barely even stuck around long enough to see our first dance, and many of them didn’t say goodbye (which is a bigger deal than it should be in an incredibly close family that always insists on kisses and hugs for both hello and goodbye). But in reality, most of them aren’t people who would have been dancing anyways, and I’m sure they probably did enjoy the dinner and cocktail hour. I’m being long-winded, but I wanted to say thanks for getting me to put it in a different perspective!

    • Kris

      At our wedding, we had two “areas” (it was easy for us, since the venue kinda lent itself to that, but it could be created); one dance floor space, one “space to the side” with a candy bar, photo booth and chairs to lounge in. People loved it because they could move around, and take breaks from the noise, then go have fun dancing for a while.

    • LILY

      You could put actual games/activities at some (or all) of the reception tables. Games like Uno, Boggle, Apples to Apples (or Cards Against Humanity, depending on the crowd) don’t take up much space, but are always fun and easy to play a quick hand. Or you could throw a few Mad-Libs notebooks on tables.

    • http://andshelovesyou.com Lucy

      Lady, you can totally have board games for the board game folks, or decks of cards, or both!

      Since our wedding was outdoor we opted for lawn games instead, but bringing some of our board games was my backup plan if we couldn’t get our cornhole boards made in time.

      Some suggestions for games that are various combinations of easy/quick/highly social: Dixit, The Game of Things, Wits and Wagers, Sorry Revenge, Zombie Dice, Unexploded Cow, Forbidden Island (or Forbidden Desert), and Quao.

      • Ann

        We bought tons of board games for our game reception. The *only* thing that was played was Cards Against Humanity. The family friendly ones? Were totally left on the table. We had the expansion packs, so there were 2 tables of 12 people playing. So know your audience.

        On the plus side, I now have an EPIC party game collection.

    • Seshat

      Are there any sort of games that your crowd typically plays? If I was going to have any games out for our wedding I’d have cards (Sheepshead), dominoes, and Apples to Apples because I know they have a pretty broad appeal among the people we know. If you’re thinking of having themed (instead of numbered) tables you could use board games for that and it might flow a little more.

      • Ashleyn

        OH MY GOD, YOU KNOW WHAT SHEEPHEAD IS!!!!!!!

        Sorry, I just had a moment. I have never heard of anyone outside of my family/childhood rural area who knows this game. I have tried to teach it to friends to no avail and I haven’t played in so long, I’d probably have to relearn it at this point, but I love this card game SO MUCH.

        I so wish we could have a sheephead/card game night!

    • Kate

      Awesome, thanks for all the great board/card game suggestions!

    • http://www.meanestlook.com Sara

      I also just discovered one of the coolest (IMO) card-ish games for a wedding!

      Pinhole Press makes a personalized memory card game!

      https://pinholepress.com/products/memory-game-27-1-0-01/

      Currently 50% off with code GMA. I just ordered one for our party. Soooo cute! And it will be a great souvenir for our family.

      • meg

        AHdorable. That is all.

    • Copper

      couple of ideas: First, lawn games! My and Mr Copperbeard’s families are both great board game people, but we discovered that lawn games provide a lot of the same fun (strategy, competition, something to organize your attention around) but are more physically interactive, which makes them the perfect medium between board games and dancing. Cannot say enough good about weddings with lawn games.

      Alternatively, maybe paper table cloths/runners with game stuff drawn on?

      • https://twitter.com/SnippetsofSarah Sarah E

        Ooh, crayons and kraft paper table runners capture everyone’s attention, young and old alike.

  • http://www.katemuehe.com/blog Kate

    This could not have come at a better time for me. I was so panicked about making things “fun” I was having no more fun planning, which found me in a very serious hour of contemplating scrapping our ENTIRE very big wedding and just driving to the courthouse, bada bing bada boom. With only 50 days to go, no less.

    But I think the part about guests really feeding off the mood and vibe of the couple is spot on and I am trying to remember that for my own day. Weddings where the couple seems nervous and frantic about every detail made me- as a guest- feel anxious too.

  • Amy March

    This is one of the ways I am forced to admit Four Weddings gets it right. Consistently the top issues that make a wedding unfun are physical discomfort (too hot, too cold, no chairs, can’t hear) and food (late, bad, cold).

    • CII

      Ahh, another person with a love/hate sickfascination relationship with Four Weddings. Yippee!

  • Jennifer

    I totally agree with all of this advice! I have been to all different types of fun weddings, from super expensive to inexpensive small backyard BBQ and two things they all had in common was lots of yummy food and clear instructions on what to expect as a guest.
    I have only been to one wedding where I didn’t have fun. It was for a couple that I met right after college, when they moved to a different area (where I live). They decided to get married in their college town, with a 5pm ceremony at the chapel on campus, and “dinner and dancing to follow” at a restaurant in town. The majority of their guests were from that university, so they knew what to expect. There was a small group of us from where they currently live that didn’t attend that university that had no idea what to expect. The only place to park on campus was a cash only garage, which we didn’t know before we got there. Fortunately I happened to have cash on me. We all got lost on the campus trying to find the ceremony and were late. The reception venue was actually a coffee shop/bar, so there were a couple of tables, but it was clearly a standing only venue. It was a cool location, but we had all been expecting dinner. They had sushi. And they ran out. If we had known that it was really an appetizer reception, we would have all eaten beforehand. A guy in our group ended up going across the street to a burger joint and buying a bunch of hamburgers for us all that we ate in a corner in the back so we wouldn’t starve. I’m not sure if the food choice was because of a limited budget or not; sushi in our area is generally a pretty expensive option, but not everyone likes sushi. They definitely splurged on an open bar. It had the most choice I’ve ever seen at a wedding, but we would have all been happier with less alcohol and more food.
    It’s a shame that’s what I remember most about the wedding, because I love the couple dearly and the ceremony was beautiful. If we had known about the parking, been provided with a map/directions, and been informed that it was appetizers only, I think I would have had a completely different experience.

  • Alison O

    “Feed people. Feed them on time.”

    Yes…during the pre-dinner family dances at one wedding, my partner remarked (playfully, quietly, but approaching hangry), “The only song I want to hear right now is ‘Vegetable Medley’.”

    The point about it being filling is also important. I’m vegetarian, and in my experience with fancier sit-down dinners, the volume of the various options is often about the same…but a 2″x3″ chunk of meat is going to be a lot more satisfying than a 2″x3″ lovely sculpted block of rice pilaf. I actually don’t expect or want people to bend over backwards to cater to my dietary preferences, but if the veg entree is small and/or doesn’t involve some kind of protein or fat, it’s nice to have bread on the table or salad served family style, or hors d’oeuvres that you don’t have to strategically intercept/chase after. (I died and went to heaven with the artisanal cheese & crudites appetizer table at a cousin’s wedding.)

    I know some people love the formality of passed hors d’oeuvres and seated dinners; more power to them. I tend to prefer family style or buffets/stations because they allow guests more flexibility to eat when and how much (or little, with less waste) they want.

    • Jen

      “…or hors d’oeuvres that you don’t have to strategically intercept/chase after”

      I second this! Passed hors d’oeuvres are all kinds of fancy, but the last wedding I went to was in a pretty big space, with these passed-around AMAZING eggrolls. I only had one because the server never came back around, and we didn’t want to embarass ourselves chasing him around the venue for more deliciousness. One more vote for appetizer tables!

      • Ann

        I have been that person who chased the waiter to get the tastiest pass hors d’oeuvres. No regrets.

        • Caroline

          Me too. In fact, I’m usually that person.

        • https://twitter.com/SnippetsofSarah Sarah E

          Oh, totally. You have to strategize with your chosen conversation group to locate the servers’ entrance point for maximum selection and availability.

          Although, I’m just generally a competitive person, so I want to be the BEST food-getter, not the passive “Oh, whatever tray passes this way” person.

        • Ann

          I have also been the person who chases around the one vegetarian hor d’oeuvre. That experience made me set the “ALL hor d’oeuvres are vegetarian” rule for my wedding.

          My wedding was also small enough that multiple people told me that the waiters found *them* after they had said a particular item was their favorite. The waiters did this for me, but I thought that maybe they were just taking special care of the bride. Nope, they did it for everyone. Rarely do you hear about how having excellent servers can make a wedding way better. I paid out the nose to have my reception at a particular restaurant and I almost feel like those waiters were worth every penny (we did add on to the base 20% tip in our contract).

  • http://www.piercedwonderings.com Lynn

    One thing my husband’s family knows how to do is throw a party, and I think we did a really good job of it with our wedding (which happened to be at his parent’s home). Even though it was *freezing*, which never happens in April in south Mississippi, everyone had a great time. We had good food (lots of it) and good drinks (lots of them), and a ceremony that was really personal and had elements that some folks had never seen before. It also didn’t hurt that we had his dad’s rock n’ roll band play the reception. They did a great mix of songs that everyone knew and could either sing along to or dance to.

    • Cheryl

      Hey, I am planning (maybe) to get married in April in South Mississippi! And “freezing” is not something I had even thought of as a risk. My intended thinks even April will be too hot and is pushing for winter.

      • http://www.piercedwonderings.com Lynn

        April in south MS is not bad. Perfect month for outdoor weddings. It hasn’t gotten grossly hot yet — which is usually the last two weeks of July and the month of August, but this year was the month of June, July, and the first two weeks of August.

        Freezing, for me, was better than the predicted alternative. The entire week leading up to our outdoor wedding, the weather was calling for 4-6″ of rain and threats of thunderstorms ratcheting up just as we were supposed to have our ceremony. We wound up using visqueen to create wind breaks for a couple of sides of the tent because the wind was brutal. (perhaps it wasn’t freezing in terms of the actual temperature, but when you figured in that wind and the general dampness…it was freezing. I almost wish we’d had a bonfire in the middle of the field. As it was, I was in my mother-in-law’s red cape, which did not go at all with our colors)

  • Amy

    ‘Fun’ was one of the top priorities for my husband and I when we were planning our wedding (along with meaningful and personal). And I was so excited when several guests told us how they had had such a great time. In fact, several people who had told me previously that they normally didn’t enjoy weddings went out of their way to tell me that it had been one of the most fun weddings they had ever attended. I wasn’t quite expecting that level of enthusiasm, but I was so glad that we managed to make it fun!

    I think this is what helped:

    1) Our ceremony was very personal. We came up with a ceremony pretty much from scratch. We wanted lots of meaningful moments, and wanted to incorporate our guests into the ceremony. Our officiant was a friend of ours and we gave him permission to use a bit of humor here and there, which ended up being perfect.
    2) HUMOR. Frankly, a sense of humor is important in every situation, especially the most sacred ones. I think the bits of humor we had in our ceremony were perfect and actually helped make the ceremony even more meaningful since it was so uniquely ours. And the humor we used and incorporated in other aspects of the night didn’t hurt either.
    3) Taking a lot of care with the seating chart. A bunch of our guests who didn’t know many people at the wedding absolutely raved about how much fun they had, because we sat them with like-minded people who they became instant friends with.
    4) Photobooth! We DIY’d a photobooth and it was, frankly, a pain to coordinate, but I don’t regret it for a second, because people had an absolute blast with it.
    5) Taking great care with the music. We tried to pick a variety of songs from a variety of decades – stuff that the older folks would recognize and the younger generation could dance to. Tip: the 80′s is one of the best decades for dance music that does this!
    6) Great vendors! Our photographers were especially awesome – they had such a blast shooting our wedding and really added to the fun at the same time. (Not to say they were slacking on the job at all – the pictures turned out AMAZING.)
    7) Having fun ourselves! My husband and I both had a great time at our wedding, and I think fun begets fun :)

    • http://www.xwebseries.com Cali

      I just want to second your 80′s music suggestion. I think about 50% of our dance playlist was from the 80′s.

      Another music strategy that worked well for us: We organized our playlist into a “time warp.” In other words, we started with classics like “Twist and Shout” and worked our way progressively through the decades, ending with more modern stuff like Lady Gaga. It was a big hit!

  • Emily

    This is a big source of anxiety for me as I’m developing my plan! We have chosen a lakeside state park for our reception where it’s beautiful, and there is a beach. Since we don’t dance (!) we aren’t doing it at our wedding. I thought (maybe mistakenly?) people might enjoy a swim, and just spending time together at the beach. When I told my Dad about this, he made a face, said “Well that’s different (euphemism for weird, general negative connotation in his tone). What are you going to do for ENTERTAINMENT? ”
    Would it be weird to have a few cribbage boards out on the picnic tables? Thinking we could probably set up a lawn game or 2 as well. Are there beach games?
    Aren’t we there to enjoy each other?

    • Ann

      If you’re okay with more set up, I’d encourage things like a volleyball net and ball. Some things like bocce are easy, but can get a bit pricey. I had kites (cheap), frisbees (even more cheap) and Giant Jenga (cheap, but sanding all the blocks *just so* took FOREVER) at my reception, too. Everything was used.

      My experience is that people like to spend time together *doing* something–it can help strike up conversations among people who might not know each other super well.

      I would also totally swim at your wedding *if* there was a place for me to change out of a wet suit. If you’re going this route, I think you have to be okay with guests dressing very causally (such as light clothes over swim suits).

    • Sarah

      Emily,

      Your wedding sounds like a dream! As long as I was forewarned about all the joys ahead, I would be a very happy guest at your wedding.

      Ann’s suggestions look good. Have an awesome time x

  • Samantha

    I’m a little concerned about my wedding. It will be right about 50 people for a brunch ceremony and reception. We aren’t planning on dancing. Too small of a group and too early in the day for us. I don’t love dancing in public that much (we prefer dancing in the livingroom). But I’ve been banking on everyone just filling the reception with conversation and chatting. Fiance hates board games and I could take or leave them, so having them at the reception wouldn’t seem very authentic to us- but it seems like every time someone mentions a small, dance-less wedding they talk about board games. Should I have board and card games just in case? All of our guests are coming from different parts of the country so I was thinking talking/catching up (along with good food, mimosas, cake, background music, etc) would be enough to keep them having ‘fun’. What do you all think?

    • Emmers

      Your guests are adults– they don’t need to be entertained. Brunch and chatting with tasty food sounds lovely!

    • Ms. Cardigan

      My wedding is in two weeks and our situation is similar, though with about 120 people. I am nervous too, but am really trying to think of it as simply a lunch after the wedding. It makes it less intimidating than trying to compare it to the WIC-Wedding Reception.

      We have four courses being served, and several toasts throughout, so I hope that will help keep things dynamic. We also are passing around an advice book for people to write in, and considering having some trivia cards about us at the tables where people may not know each other as well (though with just two weeks left, that is falling further down the list…). For our cousins and such, I feel like chatting and catching up will be enough for them. The great thing about a daytime reception with no dancing is that there is no pressure for people to stay for hours and hours.

  • http://www.koruwedding.com Koru Kate {Koru Wedding}

    Great advice! Two & a half years after my wedding, I could care less about the bouquets, centerpieces, etc. What warms my heart is the FUN we had at our wedding!!!

  • http://truckista.com Nicole

    I think emotional involvement was a big one for us. We had about 70 people at our wedding and a very personal (though short and sweet) ceremony. We also had NINE toasts! While I was a little nervous about how this would go down, it turns out our friends and family are awesome public speakers.

    Our second big fun factor (or maybe the first) was a local gourmet ice cream truck that also has karaoke. My husband and I love both food trucks and ice cream, so this was not only fun, but also a personal touch. The karaoke was an added bonus and was a big hit. We didn’t even know if people would use it, but our guests really got into it.

  • http://www.xwebseries.com Cali

    In my experience, I’d say the keys are emotional involvement and feeling like you’re really celebrating *with* the bride and groom. I’ve been to weddings where the bride and groom were gone half the night getting photos taken, or were just stressing about things all night and not enjoying themselves, and that really puts a damper on the festivities. But the weddings I’ve been to where the bride and groom were having a blast alongside us are the ones I remember as the most fun.

    At our wedding, we did a super personal ceremony that we wrote ourselves, with my father officiating, and pretty much everyone commented on it afterwards. Our reception was definitely a wild dance party (and some people will always prefer to just sit at tables and chat; don’t take it personally, that’s just how it goes), but we were on the dance floor and chatting/laughing with everyone the whole night. I have so many fun from that night.

    Set up the basic things (meaningful ceremony, satisfying food, and a celebration of some sort), then try to cut yourself some slack, be present, and enjoy yourself. It really makes all the difference.

  • Edelweiss

    I think Elizabeth nails it on the head by acknowledging that there are different kinds of fun for different types of people. I had a small wedding (35), and the fact that my family’s version of fun is very different than my friends’ version could certainly stand out. We solved it by having a space that allowed people to congregate in different areas at very different volume levels (a rental house where we decorated the living room, basement and outside- we probably didn’t need to do the basement, but had it rained we would have been glad to have it). We also let people choose their own fun and comfort – I was shocked when a couple of people put on their PJs and hung out in sweats right after dinner but before the cake, but let it roll off my shoulders. Same when my sister-in-law moved tables halfway through dinner declaring the people I sat her with (which I did intentionally because I think they’re a blast) were boring. People want to have fun at your wedding and tend to make choices to increase their pleasure- they might not be the choices you would make, but giving them that freedom will increase everyone’s sense of fun.

  • http://www.hiveandhoneyphotography.com Sarah

    I’ve been to far too many boring weddings in my time to have one myself.
    Because of this I chose the most fun day of the year (to me anyways) the 4th of July. It’s going to be a big family reunion with a wedding thrown in. Lawn games, three legged race, blowing stuff up, dance party, and tug of war. Honestly if people leave I won’t mind because as long as I’m having fun and I have a few people hanging out having fun with me it’s worth it.

  • Beth

    I am generally a terrible party planner and end up spending the entire time worrying if people are having fun, but magically this did not happen at our wedding!

    We had a ton of people tell us they had a great time and that it was one of the best weddings they’d been to. I’m not sure how much of that is just people being nice, and it’s hard to be objective about it, but I’d like to think they weren’t lying! We had a pretty emotional, non-traditional ceremony (with a traditional structure), which I think helped people feel involved and invested and also made it a bit different from your standard wedding, so that helped set the scene for the night.

    We got a lot of help from our family and wedding party getting everything set up at the venue and keeping things running on the day-of, and one of the guests commented that what made it so great was that it really felt like it was a group effort getting us down the aisle.

    We didn’t exactly plan things for people to do, per se, except to make sure they had appetizers available while we were taking pictures and food shortly thereafter. We aren’t big into dancing but knew some people would be into it, so we put together a playlist that spanned a lot of generations (starting with the older stuff first so that the older couples could enjoy it before heading out). We figured we could have the music playing at a reasonable level and people could dance if they wanted, but if nobody did and people just wanted to talk, it wouldn’t be weird (number 1 reason we didn’t have a DJ). It totally worked out for us! Way more people danced than I expected and the rest of the people walked around and talked and visited with friends and family. We got to do both.

    We also made an effort to seat people at tables with folks we knew they would want to talk to. One of my very favorite moments of the night was when I made myself stop during dinner and just turn around and look at all our guests. Everyone was talking and laughing and it was amazing.

    I think our venue also helped in that it was in a greenhouse and there were a ton of nooks and crannies and amazing plants to explore. It also happened that while we were taking all our portraits right outside after the ceremony, a lot of our guests came over to watch and visit with us between shots. I loved that part of it! They didn’t interrupt or slow things down, but we were able to exchange a few words or a hug and it was a bit more inclusive than us disappearing for an hour.

    It’s been several months and I still get glow-y thinking about it all. Considering how much I hated most of the planning process, I had no idea it would effect me this way.

  • Kamile Ko

    My wedding was unforgettable, not just because of the party, but because it was unusual. After the ceremony we went to theatre, to this performance- Renginiai
    Klaipedoje
    and all of the guests were satisfied :) after that we went to restaurant and had dinner, I believe that there is no possibility for better wedding :)

  • Dawn

    I am so grateful I found this site. We are planning a backyard wedding with great food and beverages and we want to include traditions and people who mean a lot to us, and we are not looking to necessarily impress anyone – just have a great time and celebrate our marriage. I look forward to reading more.