Five Wedding Reception Mistakes – And How To Avoid Them
by: Michael Kabel

Nobody, not once in the history of marriage, has deliberately wanted to have their wedding reception turn into a social trainwreck. Yet it happens to even the most well-intentioned brides with terrifying frequency.

The truth is, wedding mistakes are like landmines sunk beneath the surface of the ocean. They're harmless until you accidentally steer yourself right into their path. So, here are five of the biggest ways to sink your wedding ship, and how to plot a happier course.

Leave your own party early

The wedding reception is basically a huge party thrown in your honor – for many women, it's the biggest party ever thrown in their honor. Yet some confused brides still depart the festivities long before their scheduled conclusion. Why?

Remember your guests have, in some cases, traveled from far and wide to see you get married. The reception is basically a big "thank you" for their trouble. You need to spend the whole time there, talking and thanking as many guests as you can. You're the celebrity of the party and a few words will mean a lot to them.

Surprise your guests with a cash bar

Here's a message no bride should want to send at her reception: "Thank you for joining us on our special day. Please have a cocktail or glass of wine for only X dollars and Y cents."

Just as you don't want guests coming to your wedding dressed for a night at the clubs, don't charge them for their drinks – at least, not right away. Provide complimentary wine and beverages to your guests as they arrive and during the meal. Then, when the partying starts, the bar can switch to a cash-only basis. Alternately, provide wine and soft drinks but charge for the hard stuff.

A cash bar should definitely, without fail, be mentioned on the wedding reception invitations.

Play the same old wedding music

Some songs (that shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) have become so overplayed at wedding receptions they're referred to, with more than a little derision, as "wedding songs" by music scholars and enthusiasts. To put it bluntly, everybody's already had the Electric Slide performed at their reception. (okay, so we can't protect everyone.) "I Hope You Dance" is similarly played out, as is "Unforgettable" and "At Last My Man Has Come Along."

Talk with your DJ or live band and get them to play a variety of music, playing songs that will appeal to a varied group of people with different ages and backgrounds. Your goal is to entertain everyone. Music goes a long, long way in doing that.

Cut the cake too early – or too late

Guests want to enjoy their meal and relax after the ceremony. Cutting the cake a few minutes after the ceremony begins makes the whole reception seem rushed. Likewise, you don't want to wait until the last half hour of the reception to serve your guests their share of the reception centerpiece.

The best time to cut the cake is a natural: after the meal, before the dessert course.

Case the wedding gifts

Maybe looks nothing cheesier at a reception than a bride ogling her own wedding presents. If they're set up on a table outside the reception hall, leave them there until it's time to go. You've waited this long to see what you've got - and if you've registered, you probably know already anyway.

Keep yourself in suspense a little while longer. It won't hurt you, and you won't seem greedy to whatever guest sees you hanging around the gifts, at the expense of hosting your own party.