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Personalize your Reception

Leila Kalmbach


Anyone can throw a wedding, but you want to throw a good wedding – a great wedding! – a wedding that really showcases who you and your partner are, and that is memorable for both you and your guests for years to come. The reception is your best opportunity to show off your personality, and when it comes to the reception, the possibilities are endless. But where do you start in planning such an undertaking? Right here.


As with other aspects of your wedding, a great way to personalize your reception is to come up with a wedding theme. Themes make narrowing down the myriad of choices you face easier – when in doubt about including a particular decoration, food or item, figure out whether it matches your wedding theme. If not, it’s gone. Themes also provide a great way to make your wedding more memorable. If guests remember that you had a winter-themed wedding, they’ll be more likely to remember the snowflake lanterns, the frosty blue and gray wedding colors, and the hearty stew you served than if they didn’t have the theme tying everything together and helping to trigger their memory. How you use your wedding theme to personalize your reception can vary quite a bit from couple to couple. Some couples choose to play on their wedding theme through little touches here and there, while others go all out in following their theme throughout the entire day’s events. The most unique themes make for the most interesting wedding receptions. For instance, a Candyland wedding theme could involve stringing candy in the trees, using gingerbread house centerpieces, serving brightly colored cocktails with fizzing candies of other colors inside, and even having a lollipop garden. A wedding with an animal theme – let’s say lizard – could take place in a venue decorated to look like a terrarium. Food could be arranged on the plates in the shape of a lizard, fake lizards could be attached to the walls, and the center of the room could include a real terrarium with a large lizard inside.

Monograms or names

There’s nothing more personal to you than your name, so one way that many couples choose to personalize their wedding receptions is through the addition of items printed with your names or initials. In this way, you can personalize almost anything you want, from buying a custom mat for the dance floor with your names and the wedding date on it to monogramming the vases of flowers you use for centerpieces. If you like the idea of making your mark this way, consider names or initials for napkins, tablecloths, wedding favors, candies, balloons and banners – but don’t go overboard and do them all!

Slideshow or video compilation

Your memories and experiences are certainly unique to you so many couples choose to show a slideshow or video compilation of their favorite shots. Show each of you as children with your families and friends, engaging in activities that you liked as a child and then progress chronologically to your first photos together, trips together, engagement shots and any other more current photos that you particularly like. Don’t be afraid to include some funny and embarrassing photos! It’s these photos that really put the personal touch on your slideshow.

Hire a performer

Many couples choose to hire a live band to perform at their wedding reception. This is a great way to make the day special, but it’s far from the only type of performance you could include. You might hire a fire dancer, other type of dancer(s), magician or acrobat, to name just a few. You could also hire an artist to paint or draw guests’ portraits.

Talking piece

One way to make your wedding unique to you while also encouraging conversation among guests is to include a large talking piece in the reception venue. You could rent a wishing well to put somewhere in the venue. For a beach or summer-themed wedding, you might rent a hot tub (make sure guests know to bring swimsuits!). You could choose a particularly majestic tree in an outdoor venue that includes many low-hanging branches and have guests write messages to you and your new spouse to hang with ribbons from the tree. You could buy a large, intricate ice sculpture that the bartender pours cocktails through to cool them before serving. Or talk to a paint-your-own-pottery shop about buying a large vase or other piece of pottery that guests can sign in glaze then have it fired after the wedding to display in your house. You might set up a makeshift photo studio and put out boxes of funny clothing and hats for guests to dress up in and take photos.


You have a great opportunity to showcase your personality when it comes to your wedding food. Serve food that’s as sophisticated and elegant as you’d like, or opt for fun, colorful and playful foods instead. These might include mini versions of your favorite foods, foods designed to look like other foods, multi-layer mousse or pudding colored with food coloring or food extracts, or foods topped in edible flowers. The wedding cake and groom’s cake can be as unusual as you’d like. Think about cupcakes versus a large cake, tiered versus flat and traditional shapes versus unusual ones (a shark-shaped cake? A cake designed to look like a tree? A football-shaped cake?). Be creative with flavors as well. There’s nothing wrong with having a huge cream cheese brownie rather than a wedding cake, nor with choosing carrot cake, zucchini cake, chocolate beet cake, lavender-orange cake or cinnamon-cayenne sponge cake.

Unusual touches

If you really want to break the mold, there are endless ways to do so. Often the best weddings are the ones that truly step outside the bounds of tradition. Here are a few ideas: • Wear a costume – or have a costume party for your reception. • Set up stations. Having activities at your wedding keeps guests entertained and happy, and adds a whimsical feel to the event. You might include palm reading, face painting, an arts and crafts table, and a beanbag toss. • Rent games, such as pool tables, foosball or arcade games. Or set up a lawn game of croquet or bocce ball. • Hold a murder mystery wedding. Murder mystery dinner game kits can be purchased, or you can find instructions online for making your own. • Hold your reception in the most amazing spot you know, whether it’s on a boat in the middle of the ocean, on top of a mountain in Argentina or inside a historic theater  

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