How to Have a Fun Wedding

7 tips for throwing a killer party

Several years ago I went to a wedding I was really excited about. I mean, I’m always excited about my friends getting married, but this wedding in particular sounded like it was going to be awesome. The location was super cool, everyone involved was laid back, and all their plans sounded amazing. In short, it felt like a recipe for an awesome party full of fun wedding ideas. But halfway through the reception, after we’d toasted our friends and gotten all the emotional goodness out of the way, I realized I was… sort of bored. While the couple getting married normally threw pretty fun parties, this party was actually not all that fun.

And then I had a realization: while about half of the weddings I’ve attended have been a blast, the other half have been not really fun at all. So I started racking my brain to figure out why that is.

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The first thing I realized is that the wedding industry is built on selling you a pretty wedding. The dress, the tux, the flowers, the invitations, the decor—all of it paints a pretty picture, but very little of it contributes to the actual experience of the day. Because, as my husband wisely pointed out to me a month before our wedding, pretty isn’t an emotion. And how your wedding looks and how your wedding feels are two very different (and nearly unrelated) things. Trust me, I don’t say this to talk you out of getting a kick-ass outfit, or investing time into decorations that make you happy, because I love all of those things. I say this so you can spend some time planning the kind of experience you want at your wedding—something that has nothing to do with pretty.A happy couple dancing and using many fun wedding ideas at their wedding

So if you do want a wedding that goes down as a super fun party, it’s worth being intentional about it from the get-go. Since that wedding, I’ve slowly compiled a list of fun wedding ideas, and things to plan for, if you want to make your wedding a blast.

  1. Think of your reception as a party. Chances are really good that you know how to throw a party that’s fun for you and your people. I can’t tell you what your perfect entertainment recipe is, since ideas of fun are not universal. (I, personally, want to dance to hip-hop till my feet fall off, but that might not be your vibe.) The trick is to figure out what makes you love a party, and then try to incorporate that into your wedding.
  2. The people. The single most important element of your wedding—no contest—is the people. But your guest list also happens to be the thing that the wedding industry tells you to cut first. After hearing the message that you should cut the guest list a thousand times, it’s hard to not get that into your head. But when you walk away from a wedding, you think about the conversations you had, the people you caught up with, and the vibe of all those awesome folks in one room. Chances are, it’s not the decorations that you’re talking about a week later. So no matter how big or how small your wedding, think of the people first, and make everything else secondary.
  3. Make your guests feel taken care of. There is something a little vulnerable about showing up at a wedding where you don’t know many people, and putting the next six hours of your life in the hosts’ hands. You hope they’ll feed you well and sit you next to nice people, but you never quite know. There are as many ways you can take care of your guests as there are weddings, such as providing welcome notes at the hotel, a way for guests to get to know each other (like name tags with a note about how you know the couple at a welcome dinner), and a seating chart. (The wedding mentioned above? There was no seating chart, and we didn’t know very many people. So we ended up sitting at a table talking only to each other… for hours on end.)
  4. Balance what you love with what your guests love. I talked above about knowing what makes a party fun for you (and probably your friends). When putting together your wedding, the goal is to balance your what you love, as well as what your multi-generational guest list will like. That may mean mixing some Motown into your indie rock playlist of wedding reception songs, or it may mean having board games and a cocktail hour.
  5. Let people know what to expect. Guests are surprisingly good at rolling with the (non-traditional wedding) punches, as long as they know what they’re getting into up front. If you’re having a reception where you’re only serving cake and punch, let people know on the invite. They’ll come with full stomachs, ready to have a good time. (Or they’ll decide they’re not into it, and won’t come at all. Guests are grownups like that.) Use your invitation, a wedding website if you have one, and word of mouth to let people know what kind of party they’re in for.
  6. Feed people on time. If I had to pick the number one rule for all weddings ever, it would be this: Feed people. At mealtimes. With enough food. If you’re not serving food, then don’t have a wedding at a mealtime. Hangry guests are not happy guests.

And finally, the most important rule. If you want other people to have fun at your wedding, you need to let loose and have a good time. Guests are paying careful attention to you and your partner, and they’ll take their cues from your vibes. However, even with all of these fun wedding ideas, the single best thing you can do to make your wedding fun for everyone is just to relax and enjoy it. If you’re relaxed, they’ll relax. If you’re dancing, they’ll dance. If you’re having the time of your life, they will too.

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  • Amy March

    I am all about Number 6- Feed People On Time, and I’d add generally to think about your timeline and stay on track. It’s a real drag when you arrive on time and then wait 45 minutes for the ceremony to start, and then have to mill around for a half hour before the cocktail hour opens, and then that hour drags into two, and then it’s another hour before dinner is served. It feels like the whole night (or morning or afternoon) is waiting around for the good part to get started!

    • la

      I agree! I think one of the biggest things that can set weddings apart is “flow” – yeah it sucks to have to be so detailed about your timeline, but it matters to your guests. The more time your guests are standing around saying hmm I wonder what is happening next or I wish we were moving onto the next thing.. the less fun they are having. If you are very thoughtful when planning (and getting the right people to help you execute day of) to keep things flowing smoothly, on time, and with just enough time between things but not too much — people leave wanting more!

      • Amy March

        And flow is often free!

      • Katie

        and that’s exactly why I’m seriously considering printing programs!

        • Lexipedia

          Do programs have more than the order of the ceremony? Like – would you say what time dinner is, etc.?

          • We’ve put that on ours. I think if it’s programmes for a church service, it’s a bit different (or if you’re part of a culture that has very different guests lists for ceremony, reception and evening do) but otherwise, it’s an easy place to put it where guests can find it.

          • Lexipedia

            That makes sense! We’re in the same place the whole time, and it isn’t a religious service, so I wasn’t considering printing programs. This is a reason to rethink that…

          • We’re doing programmes 90% because they’re preeeeetty (William Morris theme!) but also 10% because there’s nowhere handy at the venue to display the information otherwise. My sister’s wedding was in a marquee, so they put a sign outside with all the timings on so people could plan for breaks and taxis and baby feeding and so on without having to worry about missing something significant to them. Ours is in a two storey medieval hall, so the programme helps indicate which bit people need to be in for the various elements without having to run up and downstairs to check!

            In all honesty, it’s not a necessity and guests will cope just fine, especially if you’re sticking to something fairly traditional, but if you like fiddling around with layouts and justifying when you would a paper trimmer (it does wiggly lines!) then it’s an easy bit of DIY to do.

          • “I Don’t Knowww, Margo!”

            OMG, William Morris! I look at Bradbury & Bradbury wallpapers to relax quite often.

          • Amy CT

            As someone also getting married in a two-story medieval hall, which one are you getting married in? ;)

          • A little discus stalking tells me it’s the same as yours! :D

          • Amy CT

            Ha! I did wonder – can’t be too many of those in the world. :)

          • La

            At most weddings I’ve been to they don’t, but we put it on ours! We had a longer program that included a general schedule for the night and other information. This was all towards this flow idea and taking care of your guests as Meg mentioned. I personally do better when I know what to expect so thought it might help some people! I don’t know for sure how many noticed, but we had multiple guests comment that they felt so well taken care of at our wedding so I like to think it helped!

            (this is of course doesn’t take away from needing someone to lead guests from thing to thing, a lot of people don’t read – it’s just an extra!)

          • Katie

            we haven’t designed the ceremony yet, but it’s not religious, and I’d like to put the flow of things on the program: ceremony – cocktail hour – dinner – toasts – dancing – cake cutting, etc.

      • Annie Lord

        Yes, and designating someone to be in charge of moving from one activity/location to another that is not the bride/groom!! Large groups of people move slowly, and guests don’t want to be pushed into needing to get things moving if they seem to be lagging.

      • Leah

        These comments are interesting because I feel like I’ve more often had the opposite experience at weddings – that is, being rushed from thing to thing. Like I’ve barely gotten a drink at cocktail hour and found the friends I’m itching to catch up with…and then all of a sudden we are being told to go sit down for dinner…and then I just started some good convos with the folks at my table and then we are being told to hush up for toasts.

        One thing we carefully did with our flow was to give *enough* time for people at each stage – have a cocktail and some apps while mingling and chatting, then sit and enjoy conversation and dinner, then time to get another glass of wine for toasts, etc.

        • Anne

          Yeah I agree that this is a delicate balance! I personally lean towards your view that it’s more fun to not be rushed from thing to thing, but I think that’s less true if you know fewer people, because you appreciate having the structure more vs just hanging out with your friends.

          For our wedding, I asked to have a cocktail hour on the long side because it’s my favorite part of weddings – drinks, games, catching up, appreciating the beautiful venue, what more could you want? It was a beautiful day and a lot of fun, but I noticed that some of our relatives (esp with younger kids) started heading for the dinner area, sitting down at their tables and eating the bread a little while before we started dinner officially (and while the snacks and drinks and games were still available across the venue). So maybe it was not the perfect timeline for parents with antsy kids. But again, can’t please everyone.

        • Jan

          This is what we did— we had 45 min or an hour for passed apps and drinks, then dinner. It still felt rushed to me (but the whole day kinda did). We also did a buffet dinner with no assigned seating, so the timing was less of an issue for most people who weren’t us.

    • Eh

      I know I was grumpy at my own wedding because supper started 15 minutes late because a VIP (who was with a few other guests) arrived late. He was also the husband of our MC so she was concerned they had been in a car accident on their way to the reception, and wouldn’t announce our entrance until she knew where they were.

    • Rose

      My wisdom from our wedding about feeding people on time is that if you schedule the meals to be slightly on the early side, it doesn’t matter as much if they get slightly late. Our caterer was 45 minutes late to the reception (she got lost? I don’t even know, I wasn’t wearing a watch and I was blissfully unaware at the time), but since we were planning on serving dinner somewhat early anyway, it just extended cocktail hour a bit and nobody got cranky and hungry even if food was something like 20-30 minutes later than planned.

    • sofar

      Yeah, the “waiting for the ceremony to start” thing always gets to me. I understand that some families aren’t punctual and the couple has to build in a bunch of “padding” time, but man, I hate getting an invitation saying the wedding starts at 4:30, arriving at 4:15 and then the thing actually starts at 5:15.

      • Katie

        this subject almost turned into a fight with my husband! I was discussing a timeline with him and said “4 pm – official time on invites, 4.15 – ceremony starts”, and he was like “I know how people are… they may be late… ceremony might not end until 5.30”, and I just stared him dead in the eye and said “Ceremony WILL start by 4.15, rain or shine!”. Seriously, how rude can people be to be more than 15 min late to a WEDDING? I’m not making our punctual guests wait around forever!

        • sofar

          Agreed! And if you have important family that’s always late, devise a way to get them to the venue early. My husband’s relatives are notoriously late, so his sister told them all they were taking the family portrait at 3 p.m. Her ceremony started at 4:30. They showed up at 4 — so they were “early” for the ceremony. And they just took the family photo after (which she’d planned for anyway). The 3 p.m. family portrait was a ruse to get them there on time.

          • Katie

            Haha, that’s genius! Fortunately, family members who are usually late (they have lots of kiddos and just can’t be out of the door on time) are in our wedding party, so hopefully they’ll show up ahead of time!

          • Kyle Hutchinson

            A woman I know actually had different invitations printed with different
            times for her family (WASPy and real uptight) and her husband’s (S.
            American and very… relaxed in matters of punctuality).

        • Two of our guests arrived to our wedding after our ceremony – apparently they thought that since it was a “Black” wedding, it wouldn’t start on time? Fuck that, we said 6pm and we meant it!

  • Katie

    This is such a good article at such a good time! We’re 3 months out, and not even all the logistics are taken care of, but I am (rightfully so) freaking about how guests are going to have a good time. It will be a mixed group (relatives in their 60s, relatives and husband’s friends in their 30s, my international friends in their 20s, hopefully my Russian parents – hopefully, because they don’t have a visa yet), and I don’t know what kind of entertainment we should put together for them! I was hoping for it to be a “drink and mingle” kind of affair, but the further into the planning, the more I realize that it might not be enough. I’m really at my wits end.

    Also, should we put together a seating chart if we don’t have several round tables, but long narrow tables with benches instead?

    • Sonnie

      I think you especially need a seating chart for long tables. It can be awkward enough to join a partially filled table with people you don’t know, but to ask people to slide down so you can scoot onto the bench is a bigger ask of your guests.

      (To note: I am active advocate for seating charts for any event over 30 people)

      • La

        Yes, we had long tables and although it was a little difficult to plan – we assigned tables and I’m so glad we did. We didn’t assign a specific seat, but just a table like is often done with rounds. Our tables were so long, we split them into I think three tables so that it wasn’t like, 25 people assigned to table 5 and then you end up with a bunch of randos. Although ours weren’t benches so that might have helped?

        • Amy March

          For long long tables I’ve also seen just plunking a few numbers along the table and assigning people to sit in the vicinity of the number. Some margin of error but seems to work well!

          • La

            Yep – this is exactly what we did and people seemed to figure it out!

        • Lexipedia

          This is so good to hear! I was struggling with whether or not to split our 20ft tables (10 on each side) and how to clearly identify “parts” of the table.

          Because we’re doing pre-chosen meals I was just thinking of the chart saying “table 1” for the whole table, and then name cards on the individual spots. But it might be hard to get people to find their card at a table with 20 places.

      • Kyle Hutchinson

        We had long (12-person?) tables with chairs, and I was really glad I did a fully assigned seat chart – not all of our groups of people divided up cleanly into 12-person groups, and I would have felt bad if, like, a shy and single cousin ended up isolated at the end of the table, divided from my other cousins by a bunch of my college friends or something. I mean everyone would be nice, but it’s still less fun.

        It wasn’t much more work to assign actual seats than it was to assign tables, and I got to specifically sit people next to each other didn’t know each other but had something in common – e.g. two people from different groups who both live in the same non-local city, or who both have PhDs in organic chemistry, or who both own converted Sprinter camper vans, etc. etc.

        Also I had to redo the seats at the last minute because we decided to arrange the tables slightly differently, which was a hassle but not too bad (I just did them directly on the tables and then copied it down onto a chart that no one looked at).

    • Amy March

      I don’t think you necessarily need any particular entertainment- good drinks, good food, and mingling is actually fun! But definitely I think a seating chart is a good idea. Just practically, otherwise you’ll wind up with weird little gaps and people sitting haphazardly where they can find a spot instead of together with the people you think they’ll have fun with.

      • LuckyLoveBug

        Agree with the seating chart – even if you just list names under each table number (for example – Table 1: Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, Cousin 1, 2, and 3) and don’t specifically tell people which PLATE they’re at, at least it will give them some focus as to where to go, and ensure they are with people they can have fun with.

        What this looked like for us, was table numbers like usual, and a seating chart that was a list of names alphabetically, followed by a number next to each name designating what table they were at. Once they got to the table, seats were fair game, which worked for us. (Last Name, First Name…….1) for example.

        • penguin

          Yep we did assigned tables but not assigned seats, it worked well for us (we had round tables with 8-10 people each).

    • LucyPirates

      We did 3 long tables and seating chart – I think our people needed it otherwise they would have just stood awkwardly and politely tried to organise themselves for a long time. (Family meals in restaurants have proven this time and time again) People sit a lot faster when they just have to find their name.
      The negative is that we had 4 drop outs last minute (2 emergency) and the spaces were awkward for the person in the middle – however with benches, assuming it’s a lot easier if people want to shimmy up and fill the space.

      People care most about food and drink at weddings (also you, but mostly themselves and food/drink.) We served sharing platters and although were assured by the caterer that vegetarians would be served separate options, I found out after than one just ended up with potatoes and side veg… >insert mortified emoji<
      Make sure there is enough to drink whether tea / coffee / alcohol etc.
      I did like the long tables as people moved around more – and it was like Hogwarts.

      Another thing is echoing what Meg said – I was so anxious worrying about people having a good time, it stopped me having a good time. I only had one drink and I wish I had just demanded someone get me a big glass of wine so I could relax! (not applicable to everyone I know!)

    • Emily B

      I also love the idea of a drink and mingle party! I’m going to go against the grain here though and argue against a seating chart, especially at a mingling sort of event (my personal fave type of party). I’ve had way more fun at weddings with no seating chart (*especially* when I don’t know a lot of people)–I can go where I want, talk to who I want, and not feel chained to a group of people I don’t know and maybe don’t really want to sit with. But then again, here’s another important thing that’s good to keep reminding ourselves: there’s no way to make everyone happy…and that’s ok! I might have loved the wedding described here by Meg, maybe not. Like she says, do what feels right for your crowd (seating chart or no), and (try to) accept that that won’t necessarily work for every single individual.

      • Amy March

        If it’s actually just a cocktail party and at no point is every person sitting down together to eat a meal, then I can see it.

      • Katie

        I’m leaning towards making a seating chart, but it’s cocktail party AND family style dinner afterwards

      • savannnah

        I think this is also a know your crowd type. My sister and I both did not have seating charts for our weddings (130 pp and 170 pp) and her’s was very successful all around and mine was mostly good but my husband’s grandparents were extremely put off by not having a table designated for ‘their family’ and grandma brought it up the last 3 times she has seen me. One thing that helped both of us was extra tables as well!

        • Jan

          A little off topic, but my wedding convinced me that couples should designate both ceremony seats and reception tables for the important people. We didn’t think to specify where parents should sit and my dad (divorced from my mom, remarried, and with several children) somehow ended up in the second row behind my in laws. I didn’t realize it at the time but looking back I feel so bad!

    • Lexipedia

      I think that this is one of the few situations in which I wouldn’t vote “absolutely seating chart” – benches are helpful because more or fewer people can squish together to talk in one place, vs. being limited by number of chairs.

    • Jess

      Regarding seating, if you are having:

      1) Cocktail style w/ many small snacks and people getting up frequently to get new plates, no seating chart needed. Mingling will abound!

      2) Sit-down dinner or family style serving of snacks on the tables, some sort of direction makes people more comfortable. A number every 5 feet with a “sit near this number” or a full chart or… some other method. Once people have finished eating, they will meander around and greet each other.

      With entertainment, some sort of music helps to cut down on the silence when there are conversation lulls. Just a computer or an ipod hooked into speakers with a pre-made playlist is fine!

      You are not obligated to throw a dance party if you don’t want a dance party!

    • emilyg25

      Yes to a seating chart! People really like to know what to expect.

    • Katie

      THANK YOU EVERYBODY who replied to this comment! Unfortunately, I cannot reply to everybody individually, but I took notes: yes to the seating chart and yes to dividing my time between mingling and dancing. Oh boy, I hope all RSVPs will roll in on time for me to put together a chart…

  • LuckyLoveBug

    The individuals in this photo are freaking gorgeous, the photography is insane, and the redhead’s dress is EVERYTHING.

  • Lexipedia

    This is my fear. We’ve spent a lot of time on “pretty” and sort of pushed “fun” down the road. We did plan for a great DJ, and the food should be wonderful, but I’m the person who is terrified that guests won’t enjoy a simple group dinner at my house.

    • Amy March

      ? You have a great DJ and great food. You’ve planned great for fun!

    • Zoya

      You know your crowd best, but for ours, “great food + dancing” is basically the definition of an awesome party. So you sound just fine from where I sit!

  • Krate

    For me, a mood killer is waiting a super long time for food and the programming to start after the ceremony for the party to take hours of photos. If you aren’t doing a first look, take care of your guests by planning a cocktail hour with food and drinks to try and maybe an activity or two. Do you have to? No!!! Does it make things more fun? Yes!!! If you want hours of photos, maybe also schedule the ceremony and reception as separate events with separate start times and a suggestion to guests of where to hang out if they can’t go back to a hotel.

    • Amy March

      If you want hours of photographs, do them before the ceremony! Terrible reason to make your guests hang around in between

      • Jan

        Hard agree.

    • sofar

      Yes! I don’t mind the “Catholic gap,” because I grew up with it and know why it exists. But just tell me that the ceremony is at 1:30 p.m. at the church and the reception starts at 6 p.m. at the hall so that I can summon an Uber and do whatever in the interim.

      Don’t just put the ceremony start time on the invitation (if you’re having everything in one location) and then leave the reception start time open-ended, so that I have to wait around not knowing when “the rest” starts. Is it going to be an hour to transition/take last-minute family photos? Three hours? I don’t know, and I can’t leave because I don’t want to miss cocktails/dinner.

      We did all the bride/broom/wedding party/parent photos before the ceremony and then took the big family photos after, but we had the bar open and snacks being served (and plenty of seating) in the hour it took for the family photos.

    • Katie

      My biggest #1 fear is that the photos will take foreeveerrrr and I’ll miss all the appetizers and jazz! I;m putting together a firm (and short!) list of must-take photos with family, wedding party, etc, to avoid that from happening :D

      • Zoya

        We also just did our formal photos off to the side in the same area where the cocktail hour was. Folks got to watch (and heckle) instead of us just disappearing and missing the fun.

        • Katie

          that’s what we’re doing! It’s gonna be all in the same (big) room, in a spot designed for portraits. I hope I’ll catch some of the cocktail hour action :)

      • Krate

        We completely missed our cocktail hour, but that’s what it was designed for—as a courtesy to our guests while we took photos with extended family. Then we had people taking care of us who set aside a plate of the appetizers and had a glass of wine each ready to go. I would have loved to mingle and if you can swing it, that’s great, but we were able to move right into dinner which I think guests enjoy.

        • Kyle Hutchinson

          Yeah everyone told me the appetizers at my wedding were wonderful, but sadly I was not there to enjoy them except for a few olives one of my cousins grabbed for me.

          • penguin

            We had a yichud (short period of seclusion for just my husband and I) right after our ceremony and had them deliver a plate of the cocktail hour appetizers to our room. It was great! We got to be together and have some snacks and drinks for like 15 minutes, then we went out and did the family photos.

            Otherwise yeah we totally missed the cocktail hour – that’s pretty much what it’s for, just entertaining guests while other people do photos.

          • Zoya

            Yesssss yichud snacks! That was so clutch for us.

          • Anna

            We were supposed to have yichud snacks brought to us, but they never showed up (also the conference room they told us we could use was locked when we went in there, so we just snuck into some hotel employee’s office that was next door to the conference room and sat in there for a bit xD

            But also we were so excited to get to the cocktail hour and spend time with friends and family that our yichud ended up being maybe five or six minutes.

      • savannnah

        We took all our pictures before hand and I still missed 50% of the apps!

        • Same! We did a first look and did all our family photos before the ceremony, so we actually got to hang out with our guests during cocktail hour, and I still only got to have a couple of the apps! My bridesmaids did make sure to grab me a drink tho, which I greatly appreciated.

      • Annie Lord

        Yep yep yep. Just a casualty of being *the bride* / part of the wedding couple! We did a receiving line during our cocktail hour so I only got to try one appetizer. AND, had it not been for a quick-thinking aunt of mine, we wouldn’t have had drinks at all!!

        Key learning: find someone (they can be a vendor, perhaps a catering employee, or maybe just a competent friend or bridesmaid) to be your drink point person, and make sure they know your drink of choice! Ask them to keep an eye on you and make sure you’ve got a drink in your hand.

      • Ask the caterers! They saved appetizers for me because I knew I would be very sad if I didn’t get to try them! But also, I personally found that it was super easy to get appetizers and drinks at my own wedding because it was easy to get caterers attention (with apps on trays) and lines would magically vanish for me.

      • Anna

        We did our group photos more casually in the midst of cocktail hour, between eating/drinking/chatting with folks (like, “hey you two, come over and get a photo with us!” “Okay family, line up over in this corner for a quick sec!”) because we wanted to mingle more, plus cocktails are a major hobby of mine and we did not pick a venue known for its amazing cocktails and bar snacks just to miss them while taking boring (to us) photos elsewhere. The photos are great. People are either holding their drinks in the photos or put them down on a nearby table to take the photos, everyone is clearly in the midst of having a great time, it was sort of a midpoint between formal posed photos and just party candids (which we also got plenty of). The space for the cocktail hour was also super cute and nicely lit and made a great backdrop, which helped.

        Granted, this doesn’t help if you want your posed photos to be more formal or in a setting other than where your cocktail hour is taking place, and it would have been a lot more difficult if we’d had significantly more than our 60 guests. But something to consider if, like us, the food and drink and/or the mingling time is important to you.

      • Jan

        Don’t rush the photos; they’re the only ones you’ll get and you’re paying for them! Take as many as you possibly can before the ceremony, and save the couple photos and handful of all-family photos for post-ceremony (I’m assuming you’re not doing a first look). We did all our photos beforehand and even with all that time, my family is so enormous and complicated, it took FOREVER, and I was so over it we just kind of rushed through. And, I regret that. I wish we’d taken our time and lightened up a bit so our family pics didn’t come out so stiff-looking.

  • Annie Lord

    I think having a balance of 1) knowing what you as a couple enjoy/think is fun, and 2) knowing what your guests will think is fun, and planning for both of those things as much as possible, is the key!

    I’ve been to weddings where the couple just wasn’t super into dancing, yet there was dancing – and despite the best efforts of the portion of guests who REALLY wanted the dance floor to be hoppin’, it was NOT. Not really a surprise – the bride and groom, and a lot of the bridal party, weren’t out there! This gave the “middle of the road” guests permission to just kinda sit around or leave.

    If you aren’t going to be into a dance reception, and you get the feeling that a lot of your guests will feel the same way, do something else that you WILL find fun! I bet there are situations where “what the couple wants” and “what the friends/guests want” are pretty different, but in most situations, I’m betting the couple, their friends, the parents, and their friends have at least somewhat overlapping ideas of what fun is. And so if the couple and other “key players” are all in on having fun, most of the guests will follow suit.

    Also, I second the necessity of having a seating chart, especially for a larger wedding.

    • rg223

      You make such a good point about balancing what the couple wants and what the community wants. I’ve also been to a couple weddings where the bride and groom were not into dancing, or their community wasn’t into dancing, but dancing was supposed to be happening anyway… and it didn’t really work. It didn’t ruin the wedding or anything, but it was clear that it may have been better to considering dancing alternatives.

      • Katie

        I will take note of that! I could go either way with dancing, and my husband isn’t into it, but we do want guests to have fun (a lot of them like dancing), so I’ll make sure to do my best to be on the dancefloor as much as I can! :)

        • Annie Lord

          If you’re like “man I’d rather be catching up with people/eating cake/drinking champagne than dancing the whole time,” I can think of a few ways to encourage your guests to have fun/dance/be themselves without needing to constantly be on the dance floor:
          -if your bridesmaids/members of the bridal party are party hardy/dance floor types, talk to them about this! Especially if bridesmaids/groomsmen are dressed somewhat alike (but even if they’re not), their presence on the dance floor/participating in whatever game or group dance is happening makes it seem more “official” and encourages people to break out of their shells. A lot of times guests don’t want to be “that guy” who is the first one on the dance floor ; if there are a few bridesmaids or groomsmen already out there, they may feel more comfortable! Same goes with your siblings or parents :)
          -If you’re having a DJ, give him a few of your “must play” songs that you’ll REALLY want to dance to! If you’re planning your playlist, just mix a few of those in throughout the night. Then, even if for most of the night you’re socializing and doing your thing, you’ll have a cue to hit the dance floor if that’s something you want to do :)
          -Consider setting up an area or two for non-dancing socializing, like a coffee/cookie table or jenga game, so people who aren’t going to be on the dance floor the whole time can congregate and catch up without sitting at their tables the whole time

          Best of luck! I had a blast at my wedding… I hope you do too!

          • Annie Lord

            Also, ask people to dance with you! No one can turn down the bride ;) Especially not the groom!

          • rg223

            Agreed – at one of the weddings were people weren’t dancing, I grabbed the bride and said “Let’s start dancing and people will join!” So of course there is a picture of us dancing away, the only people on the dance floor, and it is my favorite picture of our almost 20-year friendship!

          • Katie

            thank you! I think I’ll do a mix of these :) I love catching up with a glass of wine in hand, but we’re also lovingly crafting our playlist and I’m making sure to insert my all time fave dance hits into it!

    • Zoya

      Also, if you’re having dancing but also want alternatives for folks who don’t dance, pick one thing and be done. Our venue has a giant lawn, so we spent months waffling over whether to rent lawn games. In the end, we decided to just bring a Frisbee and be done with it. At least one guest ended up with grass stains on his suit. :)

      • Jan

        Yeesss. We went back and forth on what to do besides dancing in our backyard wedding. Everyone kept suggesting all these lawn games and I just didn’t want people scattered doing a million different things. I think that’s fine if you want it, but it wasn’t the vibe I was looking for. We finally decided on doing a bonfire and that was that.

        Then my in-laws arrived day of our wedding and started setting up lawn games all over and I was like wtf? Take this down. (Eye roll.)

    • Yes, we had dancing but also had lots of room for not dancing, because I am into dancing for like 20 minutes and then I’m done but other people like to dance. So we just made sure that there were plenty of other places in the venues where people could sit and chat (AND HEAR EACH OTHER OVER THE MUSIC) . And then my sisters and cousins got into dancing and we got some great pictures from that too.

  • crock-pot-of-doom

    I think the best thing we did (and I know this isn’t possible for everyone it requires all/most your people being local to you) was host regularly (movie nights, halloween parties, dinners, 4th of July, birthdays, game nights…about one per month now that I look back on it) before the wedding. By the time the wedding rolled around everyone at our wedding knew at least 3-4 other people so no one was by their lonesome. We also did a seating chart so that everyone would for sure be with people they knew and got along with. For music we made sure to span the 60s-10s with songs everyone would at least know. And a hard yes to making sure there is enough food. We self catered so I was very aware of making sure that there was more than enough.

    • angela

      I was very “meh” on a bachlorette party but my sister and a couple of my friends sort of forced one on me. My four best friends are all from separate parts of life (middle school, high school, college, grad school) and didn’t really know each other going into it. By the end of the weekend, they were on a group text chain, planning to share rooms at the wedding, and asked to all be seated together! It made the actual wedding so much more fun – for me and all of them! I had never really thought about this when considering a bachlorette, but I’m so glad that some of my favorite people had a chance to get to know each other before the wedding!

  • Pingback: How to Have a Fun Wedding | Wedding Adviser()

  • Evanizzy

    ALSO, if you are having a cocktail hour between ceremony and reception, make sure it can start as soon as guests arrive. I’ve been to more than one wedding where the cocktail hour was scheduled for, say, an hour and half after the ceremony started, but the ceremony ended earlier, and guests had to wait around for the cocktail hour to start. And then, the meal didn’t happen until even later…it was messy.

  • Katharine Parker

    All of this is good advice. My wedding reception was a lot of fun, and all it took was six months of careful planning!

    But really, think through what kind of night you want and what that will look like. I really wanted people to be able to go outside during cocktail hour or dancing, so a venue that had multiple spaces was important to me. We had a distinct bar with the photobooth, dance floor and dining room, and outdoor patio with fire pits. Had I gotten married in January, the outdoor space would not have mattered. I also really wanted to dance dance dance, so our timeline was for four solid hours of dancing after dinner (god bless midwestern flexibility about venue rental time windows). The dance floor was packed all night because my family likes to throw down, but there were plenty of people enjoying chatting outside or at the bar or going to the photobooth throughout the night. I was also pleasantly surprised that the photobooth was really popular among all ages.

    • penguin

      My husband’s grandpa was the hit of the photobooth, and the fact that he used it really got other relatives interested in it. We have a picture of him in a big funny hat and sunglasses, it’s great.

      • angela

        One of my favorite things about having a photobooth that I totally hadn’t anticipated was how fun it would be to have those photos! It captured people that my wedding photographer (who was great! but of course not everywhere) didn’t really get in any photos. We had tons of kids at our wedding, who absolutely HAMMED IT UP and took some hilarious photos. And it was really fun to see some of my usually more reserved relatives get really into silly accessories and poses!

  • Kyle Hutchinson

    So, we got married just over two months ago and we had a ton of fun (in spite of being massively anxious during the lead-up) and many of our guests have also said it was one of the funnest weddings they’ve attended. We allotted almost no thought or money to “pretty” beyond picking a venue with good lighting and planning a simple backdrop for the ceremony. (And our clothes. Our clothes were very pretty.)

    As for people, we had the real privilege of not feeling obligated to invite anyone who we had any reason to think would be a party pooper (or worse). Our guest list was pretty small, and even so there were a few people we invited not because they’re our super-close friends but just because we thought they would have and be fun.

    I think the “balancing what you think is fun with what your guests think is fun” is really key. I think/hope we did a good job with that – we made our own playlist rather than hiring a DJ and we basically tried to make sure everyone attending had at least a couple of songs they would want to dance to (they were *all* songs *we* wanted to dance to). Plus we had our photobooth (also DIY, and hopefully making its professional debut at New England weddings for summer 2018), which was a big hit. And for people who found the dance party and the photobooth flash to be a little much, we had a outdoor firepit for them to tend (and an INSANE amount of wood provided by one of my uncles).

    I wish I’d done a better job of communicating the “what to expect” part, although people seemed to be pretty well able to roll with things. I got a lot of questions about what to wear in the week or two leading up to the wedding, and I think that may have been indicative of broader “what is this wedding going to be like???” anxiety. I sent out a mass “hype email” the week of the wedding that I hope set the expectation that we were really excited to have everyone come and we wanted them all to have a GD blast, but it may have still been short on particulars.

  • SS Express

    The theme of our wedding was literally “fun” – we didn’t care about having a “nice wedding”, we cared about everyone having fun. Specific things we did:

    -Joined cocktail hour instead of hanging out separately and making an entrance at the reception. This let us get all our greetings and mingling out of the way so we could spend the reception actually partying and lead by example.
    -Included a space on the RSVP cards for people to request a song, which led to a really fun and varied playlist that everyone wanted to dance to. I think it also made people feel more included, and everyone got excited when their song came on.
    -Did a choreographed first dance (including a lift) even though I felt like a massive dick doing it, so we could get the dancefloor started properly – we invited everyone to come join in half way through and once they were on the floor they were much less inclined to leave. We chose Love Is In The Air instead of a slow romantic song because again, The Theme Of The Wedding Is FUN!
    -Putting a lot of thought into the seating chart, so that even people who didn’t really know the other guests were with someone they’d met a couple times or someone they had things in common with or just someone super friendly. We didn’t do a singles table (vom), but we did have a “randoms table”, i.e. friends from random places who don’t know the rest of our friends, and everyone on that table said how much they loved the people they sat with!
    -Chose nearby bars to kick on to for both the after-party and the after-after-party (the first one was fancy, the second one was a dive but in a good way) so people who wanted to keep partying could do so easily, and dragged ourselves along even though we were tired.
    -This might sound weird but I’m so glad I made up bathroom baskets. Nobody says “I had an awesome time, the bride supplied painkillers and safety pins!!” but lots of people say “it was a nice wedding but I had a headache and the strap on my dress broke so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have”.
    -Limited speeches to the groom, best man and two dads (I didn’t want to speak, neither did either of the mums, and the maid of honour did a reading) and gave everyone a two minute time limit because even nice speeches are hella boring for guests after a while.

    • SS Express

      Oh, and our reception was in a ballroom but we also had a smaller room off it with a pool table and couches and stuff, so people who weren’t into dancing could go there to hang out. Not my scene but I know some of our guests enjoyed it!

  • Good job I’m from Spain. Best regards

  • Abs

    The first time that a version of this was posted it also included something like “get people emotionally invested”, and I think that’s so legit–the reason I like weddings better than parties is because everyone’s on a high of good feelings from two people they like getting married to each other. And the weddings that I’ve been to that have fallen flat, it’s been because the ceremony was impersonal and didn’t give people a chance to feel feelings.

    (I don’t mean impersonal like a traditional religious ceremony, I mean one where no one seems that invested in the content of the words they’re saying.)

  • Helen

    One of the brides in the picture here – my top tip to a fun wedding was to have it somewhere overseas. It strips away all the supposed must haves (we cared not one jot about place setting, flowers, or even dresses, really, did our own hair etc), and means there’s less pressure on the day to get around to everyone – they’re there all weekend to hang with. Added bonus it means all those obligatory invitees suddenly can’t make it! The result is a party made up of just your ride-or-dies. (We helped finance some of our crucial attendees who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to come).

  • Jan

    We wanted the whole evening to feel like a party (our ceremony was at 6:30pm). We had bars open before and immediately after the ceremony, food served mostly on time, very minimal “programming” (no cake cutting or first dance, just toasts), and then tons of dancing. We also had lots of kids there so wanted to make sure they could be occupied while their parents had fun (toy boxes, glow sticks, and snacks did the trick), though they also danced a lot.

    Yes to the multi-generational music tip. We are fans of 90s/early 2000s hip-hop and R&B, and we did *not* think to make our playlist with the edited versions. So, if I could change one thing I’d get some more, uh, family friendly music. But, everyone still danced their faces off, so, whatever.

  • Engaged Chicago

    In relation to part 2 – the best parties have good leadership. That means having a person or people who will do funny things on the dance floor, start lawn game competitions, get a line going in the photo booth – someone who takes some ownership. and its best when those people are not just the married couple. Having that “life of the party” friend or family member there can be a good investment in the keeping the party going – so is tasking a person to commit to whatever activity you wanted.

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