Making the Most of Your Pre-Reception
By: Karen Sullen

Often times, there is a long, arduous wait between the end of the wedding and the beginning of the reception while the bridal party is taking pictures and guests are en route. Traffic delays and other unexpected difficulties may contribute to the wait. But let's face it. No matter how long the actual wait time, it seems even longer when you're famished. To accommodate hungry guests without starting the reception before the bride and groom arrive, many couples have decided to prepare a "pre-party" for family and friends to enjoy.

With food, music and entertainment, the pre-reception has become an event! And it's an opportunity for couples to set the tone for the rest of the evening. Some pre-receptions might include simple hors d'oeuvres or assorted fruits and cheese, while others delight wedding guests with poetry, music, cocktails and a light buffet. It's not just for cocktails anymore! Here are some tips to help you maximize your pre-reception gathering:

It's All In The Theme
The pre-reception area is a great place to continue the theme of the wedding or to switch things up if you're going with a different theme for the actual reception. If you planned a military-theme wedding, incorporate flags. Or if it is a holiday wedding, have guests place their wedding gifts beneath a Christmas tree while enjoying eggnog and carolers. Fairy-tale weddings can have hors d’oeuvres served by waiters in Victorian costumes.

Remember, some things just don't go together
As guests are nibbling and drinking, offer food-and-drink combinations that go well together to avoid upsetting anyone's stomach, because crab cakes and Cosmopolitan's just don't mix. Plan the foods you'd like to serve in advance and consult with the bartender as to which drinks would work best with them. If you're a wine connoisseur, try serving Italian foods with a selection of your favorite wines. Providing some type of food also keeps guests from indulging in the alcohol on empty stomachs.

Your Décor Says It All!
Make a statement with dramatic décor in your pre-function area that gives your guests a glimpse of what they're about to experience at the actual reception. This can be done with your colors, table for wedding favors and floral arrangements. The use of netting is also an inexpensive way to bring the soft touch of your wedding to your reception. You can also reverse the dominance of the colors used at the wedding. If your wedding colors are mostly cream with a gold accent, for example, use gold as the dominant color in your pre-reception area.

All-In-One Affair
Sometimes, there is not a separate area for guests to gather before the reception begins. However, that doesn't mean you can't still have some pre-reception fun. Have waiters pass a few hors d'oeuvres before the wedding party arrives instead of having an open buffet table. Tapas and mini appetizers work great for this! Fruit or garden salads can also be placed at each seat for guests to enjoy during the wait, so you don't have to spend money on extra food. Music and poetry are a nice touch, as well, to help pass the time.

Create a Video Diary
As guests arrive, have them record their best wishes on video for you to enjoy after the honeymoon. Videographers can either circulate among the guests, or you can have video stations set up in advance. Either way, it's a great way to hear from all of your guests, especially those you may not have the chance to speak with personally.

Despite the best efforts to keep your wedding and reception moving on schedule, there might still be delays. Make that "down time" pass a lot quicker by incorporating these ideas that accommodate your guests and keep things moving.

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