Depending on what part of the country you are from, your religious, cultural, or ethnic background, as well as your own family's traditions, there are a lot of activities that you may or may not want to take place at your reception. We have listed below some of the most common activities and traditions our clients ask about, or request us to facilitate at their receptions. In the client portal you will be asked if you want these activities to take place or not. Please do not feel that you have to do any of these at your reception. If there is an activity or tradition that you would like to do that is not on this list, please let us know. We have provided a little history and information on the origins and evolution of these traditions and activities to help give you an idea of where some of these traditions came from.
THE RECEIVING LINE
In the days of formality, a receiving line was the official welcome for an event. For a receiving line, the bridal couple, and wedding party, parents, grandparents, etc stand in in order of importance and welcome each guest. Guests move through the line greeting each person in the receiving line and necessary introductions are made. While moving through the line each guest is introduced to the next person in the line. Each guest offers congratulations to each person in line, and the line progresses steadily without delays (ideally). According to etiquette, the bridal couple must greet the guests, but no one else is necessary for the receiving line, although parents are usually included. Nowadays it is common for only the wedding couple to be in the line, as more and more modern couples foot the bill for their own events. After the receiving line, the bridal couple will typically leave briefly with the photographer for some photos. The receiving line has fallen out of style for the most part, mainly because it can be very time consuming. At most modern weddings the bridal couple will move through the reception during dinner and "touch tables." This is like an adapted receiving line. It gives the bridal couple a minute or two of personal time with each guest. This can also be very time consuming so we recommend setting a time limit for each table and stick to it!
THE GRAND ENTRANCE
More common than receiving lines is a grand entrance. Usually this includes some of the wedding party, the couple's parents, and the bride and groom. The wedding party is introduced by the DJ, and flows in a similar manner as when they walked down the aisle during the wedding ceremony. This takes up a lot less time than a receiving line, and guests may be seated before the arrival of the wedding couple. In addition, it can be an event in itself and be as entertaining as wished. Introductions may be accompanied by music and information about each person to introduce them to the guests. Since this is less formal than a receiving line, the bride and groom will usually move through the reception during dinner "touching tables" so that they can greet and speak with each guest, and shake hands.
Usually after the grand entrance comes a welcome of some sort. This is usually done by the host of the wedding, which is traditionally the Father of the Bride. The welcome is usually brief and involves thanking guests for their attendance, and often includes introductions of other important guests. Nowadays brides and grooms are paying for their own weddings, and so they are considered the hosts of the event. It is not uncommon in this situation to have the bride and groom give the welcome.
Usually there is a meal blessing after the welcome. This is usually preformed by the officiant from the ceremony or by a grand parent or parent. This can be offered up by the host as well. Once the blessing is finished dinner is usually served.
At most receptions, toasts are made by the wedding party or guests. Most often the toasts are given by the bride's father, the best man, and/or the maid of honor, with others such as other family members participating as well. The toasts can take place before dinner (traditionally), during dinner, or after the meal is served. A new trend involves the addition of a slideshow or video, showing pictures of the couple growing up, falling in love, etc. We recommend selecting at most 5 toast makers to help keep things from dragging. We do not recommend doing an open call for toasts, but instead having pre-selected toast makers and keeping it to the selected group. It is also becoming common for the toasts to all be made at the rehearsal dinner and not at the reception. If this route is opted for sometimes there will just be one toast at the reception from the Father of the Bride for ceremonial purposes.
THE CAKE CUTTING
Origin: The wedding cake can be found in many cultures and also reflect other traditions from around the world. From bread breaking in ancient Rome, to a tradition of kissing over stacked up cakes in Medieval England, this tradition has various meanings in many different cultures. As far as the confectionery bridal evolution, first their was the bride's pie, which often had a trinket inside. This is similar to the King Cake of Mardi Gras traditions. Whomever found the trinket was considered to be the next to marry. Eventually the pie turned into cake, and the cutting of the cake became full of symbolism. The bride and groom would traditionally serve the cake to guests as a sign of fertility and would also have to work together to cut and serve the cake, a symbol of their new lives working together. Nowadays, the couple will cut the cake and eat a piece, and then the caterer will cut the rest and distribute it to guests.
Typically the bride and groom will "open" the dance floor with the first dance of the evening. When waltzing was in fashion, it was called a bridal waltz. Traditionally, shortly after the dance begins, guests would promptly join in the dancing, in order of importance, exactly like at any other ball. The wedding waltz would begin with the bride and groom. The bride and groom would take the dance floor alone. Eventually, as the music continued to play, the bride's father would cut in on the pair and begin dancing with his daughter. Then the groom would ask the bride's mother to dance, and the two pairs would share the dance floor. After this, the groom's father would then cut in on the bride and her father and begin dancing with the new bride. As if that's not enough cutting in, the bride's father would then cut in on his wife and the groom, and would dance with his wife. So then the groom would ask his mother to dance, and then the parents would exchange partners. Then the best man would dance with the bride, the groom would dance with the maid of honor, and slowly the entire wedding party would make their way out onto the floor. Can you imagine trying to coordinate all that?!! Nowadays there are usually three separate special dances, the first dance, the father daughter, and the mother son. After these formal dances, everyone is invited to hit the dance floor. Keep in mind you do not have to do any of these dances, and that 20 years ago the Mother Son Dance was really a thing. Traditions are always evolving and we suggest that you select the activities that feel right. Whichever dances you decide to do is perfectly acceptable. We usually recommend doing a kick off dance after the formal dances to get the party started as quickly as possible.
THE BOUQUET TOSS
The Origin: In many cultures in history, receiving or taking a fragment of the bride's clothing was considered lucky. Guests would simply tear off pieces of her wedding dress. Over the years alternatives came about such as throwing the garter to the guests. How it works: We will ask the bride and groom to come to the center of the dance floor. We will ask the single women in attendance to line up at the other end of the dance floor. The groom will spin the bride around and then she will have to toss the bouquet over her head to the women behind her. Traditionally it is believed that the woman that catches the bouquet would be the next to marry. Things happen the same way for the garter toss with the groom doing the throwing, and the single men catching the garter. Often there is a little ceremony for the groom removing the garter from the bride's leg. We will help facilitate the traditional bouquet and garter toss if you want to do it. You can pick a specific song for both tosses if you like.
***A word of advice on the garter toss and bouquet toss. With younger bride's and grooms there is usually a plethora of single or unwed people to catch the garter or bouquet. For older bride's and grooms there tends to be less single people present to take part, (as with older brides and grooms most of their friends are already hitched) so you may want to skip the tosses all together. There are other options for the bouquet & garter as well. If you are doing an Anniversary dance at your wedding, giving the bouquet and garter to the longest married couple as a prize can be a nice alternative. Feel free to contact your DJ for more options.
THE DOLLAR DANCE
The origin: This is tradition is common in Polish and Italian communities, but has spread to other cultures. Traditionally money was pinned to the bride's dress.
How it works: Your DJ will ask your guests to come up to dance with the bride or the groom -- it will cost them $1 per dance. The DJ will play slow songs, usually about 3 of them, and each person will dance with the bride or groom for about a half-minute or less. The best man and maid of honor will be in charge of taking the money and keeping the line moving by telling the next person when it is their turn to dance. Be aware that though popular in some cultures, some guests who don't know the origin of the dollar dance may consider it tacky, feeling like they are being nickel and dimed for more gifts/money.
THE ANNIVERSARY/GENERATIONS DANCE
This dance is a great way to create a sweet moment during your reception, and get people involved. We will ask all married couples to come to the dance floor to share a dance with the bride and groom. After a minute of dancing we will ask all couples who have been married for less than a day to leave the dance floor. That means the bride and groom will leave the dance. We will then ask couples married less than a year to bow out of the dance. We will continue on going up in years until finally, the last couple that remains dancing will be the longest married couple at the reception. We will then ask this couple to offer a word of advice to the bride and groom. You can also have a gift ready for the couple such as a bottle of champagne or the bouquet and garter. Most often the longest married couple is the grandparents of the bride or groom.
THE LAST DANCE
The sign the night has come to an end. This is generally the last song played for the night, unless there is a song chosen for the send off (see below). This is an announced last dance of the evening so that guests have one last chance to dance with their sweetheart and/or the bride and groom. Traditionally the last dance song is a slow romantic ballad, however more recently, brides and grooms typically choose something lighthearted like a sing-a-long or some sort of "power ballad" to leave guests on a high note.
THE SEND OFF
At the end of the night it is time for the Bride and Groom to leave. Usually this is done in a very choreographed way. Birdseed used to be thrown, again to signify abundance, but now most often bubbles or sparklers are used, as they are easier to clean up. Usually their will be some sort of special transportation arranged to whisk the bride and groom from the reception. This can include a limousine, vintage car, or horse drawn carriage. How it works: After the last dance, your DJ will ask all of your guests to move toward the venue exit, and line up in two lines so that you may proceed down the middle of the two lines on your way to the awaiting transportation. Your photographer will take pictures as you move through the tunnel of people.