Choosing a venue that fits your style, your budget, and your guest list can seem overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be! Some of our favorite Central Florida wedding vendors share their advice for couples planning a perfect wedding reception, whether you’re looking for the ideal space for your guests, creating your timeline for the evening, or planning a special stand-out moment!
Choose a venue that fits your guest list.
Other than budget and setting, one of the most important things to consider when choosing a venue for your reception is to make sure it can accommodate your guests.
Jessica Castrejon with Mission Inn Resort & Club suggests couples request the floor plan of the venue, then make sure there is enough parking as well as enough restrooms to accommodate guests without long waits.
But what if your guest list is too big for the venue? Beth McIntyre with Your Favorite Day recommends creating three versions of a guest list: close friends and family, extended family, and a third with older, long-distance friends and co-workers.
“When you set upon your venue search, try to imagine the different groups in that space,” says McIntyre. “Likely one scenario will be the standout in your mind. Using the venue as your guide, choose the guest list version that matches your vision.”
Amanda Borrero with For the Love of Events advises against forcing a guest list of 300 into a venue that can accommodate just 200. Never assume people won’t be able to come, she says. Instead, reduce your list or find another dream venue to fit your needs.
“You only get married once, and you want it to be everything you have always imagined,” Borrero says.
Carefully plan the layout.
The way you set up your reception is key. You can completely transform a simple space and turn it into a dream setting with careful planning and creativity. When choosing your venue, be sure to ask each venue what different layout options they have and if there are any restrictions.
“I love when couples do a sweetheart table at one end of the dance floor with long tables on two sides of the dance floor for the bridal party and immediate family, with rounds through the rest of the room,” says Castrejon. “It allows those closest to you to feel like they are in the center of it all with you, without the traditional head table. It also forms somewhat of a barrier to the couple during dinner, to allow the time you can actually eat and enjoy your meal.”
Create a timeline for the evening.
If you have a wedding planner or a venue event coordinator, share your timeline with them. They will not only provide good insights, but they can also help you enforce it the night of. It’s important for the party to flow, with guests present for key moments like the first dance, cake cutting, special toasts, and send-off.
“Consider separating formalities like the first dance and parent dances to help with the flow of the reception,” says Jeff VerSchage with White Rose Entertainment. “If you save the parent dances for after dinner, the DJ can more easily move your crowd to join them on the dance floor afterward.”
Jeff also suggests doing half of the toasts before dinner, and half towards the end to keep everyone’s attention.
Castrejon advises that you rely on your professional vendor team to guide you on how the day should run. “Are sunset pictures a must? Is your Maid of Honor planning a lengthy toast? Let your vendors help! Share with them your biggest wants and desires.”
Be sure to plan for unexpected moments as well as downtime for the bride and groom.
“When finalizing your timeline, make sure the time to put up the dress bustle is considered, which can take 15-30 minutes, depending on the dress,” says Tali Gallo with The Bridal Finery. Gallo recommends a bride can do this during the informal cocktail hour before she makes her grand entrance into the reception.
Create memorable moments.
You’ll want to remember your big day for the rest of your life. Plus, you want everyone to have fun, so don’t forget to include your guests in all the special moments!
“Your reception is one of the best ways to express yourself,” says Borrero. “For example, one of my awesome brides, who’s a dancer for Disney, had a Lip Sync Battle that was crazy cool. Both the groomsmen and bridesmaids battled each other while the guests participated in the voting. At the end of the battle, the bride and groom performed a dance and duet.”
Jeff with White Rose says it’s all about the grand entrance.
“The emcee can grab everyone’s attention, then the newlyweds can burst into the room to one of their favorite songs,” Jeff says. “This is perfect for captivating everyone’s attention right before the first dance.”
Castrejon suggests incorporating things that the couple enjoys on a day-to-day basis as well as other entertaining elements. “We’ve seen stilt walkers, professional dancers, a champagne dress girl, and favorite team mascots. We’ve seen groomsmen in inflatable T-rex costumes head-banging, lightsaber dance floor battles, and choreographed wedding party flash mobs.”
Just as the grand entrance is important, so is the send-off.
“Guests will remember the things that happen towards the end of the night more than the beginning so dramatic exits are also great,” says Castrejon. “Sparkler exits are being traded out for confetti cannons, indoor fireworks, outdoor fireworks, and drone light shows.”
The sky’s the limit!