Double Reception

By Chandra Orr

April 16, 2010 5 min read

Two wedding receptions means twice the planning -- and twice the cost -- but it's a popular option for couples with faraway friends and family who can't make it to the wedding.

In fact, more and more couples are hosting a party after the party.

"Couples choose to host double receptions because they recognize that their entire guest list will not be able to attend their wedding, typically because of geographic reasons," says Joyce Scardina Becker, owner of Events of Distinction and author of "Countdown to Your Perfect Wedding."

"When I got married, we had a very formal San Francisco wedding and reception for 120 guests," Becker says. "Six weeks later, we traveled to upstate New York for a casual picnic reception for another 100 guests. Our guests didn't need to spend money and time traveling to the receptions; we came to them."

Double receptions are the perfect solution for couples planning destination weddings and those with family who just can't make it to the ceremony, but planning two lavish parties can quickly eat away at the wedding budget.

"You can be dreaming up fabulous celebrations in your mind and sailing along on a collision course with the reality of how much things will actually cost," Becker says.

To cut costs, couples are scaling back on the second reception. From finger foods and limited cocktails to a more casual venue, the key is creating a fun, less formal event.

"There is less formality at a second reception. The couple can sit back, visit and have a fun party," says wedding consultant Robyn Bruns, president of Red Letter Event Planning. "One of my clients did a double reception all in one day. They got married in the early daytime on a Saturday and had a very formal luncheon. Later that evening, they had a cocktail party at the bride and groom's home, which definitely had a more fun atmosphere."

"The second reception is an opportunity for the couple to have fun," Bruns says. "The reception can still include the formal toasts, cake cutting, etc., but it should also have a sense that this is not the first time these things are being done."

To help keep it casual and encourage guests to have fun without breaking the bank, think beyond tradition.

--Take it outdoors. For a relaxed reception, look to public parks, beachside venues or even your own backyard. Guests will be more inclined to let loose if they can start an impromptu game of horseshoes or chat around a blazing bonfire.

--Serve more casual cuisine. From a backyard barbecue or picnic-style finger foods to international fare, with a casual reception anything goes.

--Skip the slow dance. For your first dance, get the whole wedding party involved in a choreographed line dance, or move everyone to the dance floor for the electric slide.

--Instead of cutting a wedding cake, serve up crowd-pleasing cream pies, or dish out ice cream from a make-your-own sundae bar.

--Forget the fussy dress code. Have the groom wear his favorite T-shirt under a classy linen suit, while the bride dons a fun white frock with a pair of her wildest heels.

--Display pictures from the ceremony, especially if you had a destination wedding. Friends and family will want to see your seaside nuptials and catch a glimpse of the exotic honeymoon.

--Skip the open bar and unlimited alcohol. For an afternoon reception, serve signature mixed drinks from a punch bowl, or offer a local microbrew on tap. Or go alcohol-free with soda pop and smoothies.

--Look to technology. Instead of hiring a traditional wedding band, load an MP3 player with your favorite tunes, and crank up the speakers.

--Forget the florist. Instead, hit the discount retailers for a few dozen roses or mixed bouquets, and use your own vases to create simple yet elegant table toppers.

--Make your own invites. When asking guests to attend a casual reception, invitations created on your home computer, fill-in-the-blank postcards and online invites are perfectly acceptable.

Above all, don't stress the small stuff. This is your chance to really kick back and have fun, so take advantage. If the couple enjoy themselves, their guests will, too.

"If you enjoy entertaining with family and friends, nothing beats the joys and lasting memories of a great party," Becker says.

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