A wedding is a time to celebrate the commitment and love a couple has for one another. Many couples want their wedding to serve as a special memory for years to come, so they look for unique elements and party ideas to make their special day stand out amongst the rest. Some people add non-traditional elements to their wedding ceremony, and others rely on entertainment elements to spice it up. There is no wrong way to accomplish the goal to make your wedding stand out, but we’ve listed a few unique wedding reception party entertainment ideas that will surely do the trick:
Ask guests to give special toasts or speeches
Special toasts and speeches are pretty traditional for most weddings. Many couples invite their parents, closest friends, and members of the bridal party to share special memories about their past experiences with the couple. They may also use their toast or speech to offer advice and send their well-wishes to encourage the couple on their new journey in life as a unit. While the point of a wedding toast or speech is to be loving and positive, some presenters use this as an opportunity to tell a funny story or to make jokes, which in most cases, works well if the goal is to keep guests entertained.
If you have elders of the family, special friends or family members, or bridal party members who have a great personality and are comfortable speaking in public, you can ask them to give a speech during the wedding reception, which is a fun way to keep your guests entertained. If you have specific topics, experiences, or details you would like to keep private, give your speakers a heads up in advance, but give them the freedom to be creative and make their speeches their “own.”
Plan a Surprise Choreographed Dance
Another traditional wedding reception element many couples include in their special day is the special dances. Special dances usually include:
- The couples’ first dance.
- The Father / Daughter Dance.
- Mother / Son Dance.
- Religious or traditional dances like the Hora.
In past years, the wedding industry has seen an increase in the number of couples that choose to add a unique twist to their special dances. A few years ago, a bride who was a professional dancer did a full Beyoncé-themed number with her bridesmaids, and the choreographed dance went viral. Another viral moment was a father and daughter duo who started off with a traditional slow song but broke into a routine they had been practicing for months.
Should you have the interest and ability to pull off a choreographed dance, we recommend planning this early on in the process. Here’s a checklist from our friends at Brides.com:
Steps to Planning the Wedding Dances
- Choose your wedding dances.
Not every couple opts to stage every wedding dance at their reception. Decide which ones are important a few months in advance, so there is enough time to prepare.
- Book your choreographer.
Many couples want to perform a unique routine designed by a professional. “While it’s obvious that everybody has a different learning curve, we always recommend starting early since things can get crazy as the weddings get closer,” says Browne. “We also want people to feel confident and comfortable performing, which comes with practice. We recommend starting 2-3 months before the big day.”
- Reach out to involved participants.
If you want the parents’ dance or the anniversary dance at your wedding, give involved participants ample time to practice and choose their music.
Choose your music and prepare your band or DJ.
Choose the music you want for each different wedding dance, then make sure your band or DJ is equipped to play it for you.
“I hate to say it, but the most important thing is to practice,” said Browne. “The less you have to think about the steps and remembering the choreography, the more you’ll truly enjoy performing and adding in the extras like smiling.”
- Have fun.
“On the day of the wedding, everyone’s there because they love you and are celebrating your big day,” says Browne. “So at that point, don’t worry about the steps and just enjoy performing. No one else knows the choreography but you, so as long as you smile and have fun, you’ll be a hit.”
Book Live Entertainment
Hiring live entertainment for your wedding is a great way to make your wedding day unique. While it is quite normal for couples to hire entertainers, you can make your wedding reception memorable by hiring entertainers that align with your theme or personal taste.
Band or DJ?
A common question for event planners and clients is whether to hire a band or a DJ. The answer to this question always comes down to a few key factors – budget, venue space, and personal preferences. Regardless of your choice, we highly recommend only hiring professionals. Professionals are considered to be musicians and DJs that have a few years of experience performing at weddings and special events. You should expect to sign a contract, pay a deposit, and have a scheduled meeting to discuss details and expectations. Some couples have connections to talented musicians and artists, so it is customary to consider hiring them first; however, it may be best to hire them for other smaller wedding-related events like the engagement party or bachelor/bachelorette parties.
Here’s why: Just because you have a cousin who DJs or heard a great singer at the local bar doesn’t mean they are experienced when it comes to performing during a wedding reception. It may be tempting to hire them, especially if their price point is lower, but it is risky to cut corners on the main entertainment attraction for your wedding reception. The risks? Amateurs may not be familiar with planning to deliver regular wedding protocols like playing for the special dances or adjusting the timeline on the fly if changes need to be made to the schedule. An amateur may not have enough repertoire to fill the time (usually 3-4 hours), and they may not have the capacity or additional personnel to provide seamless and professional services.
Again if you still decide to go with an amateur group or someone you know that provides entertainment as a side gig, be clear on your expectations and overly communicate your needs early on in the planning process.
If You Hire a DJ
If you hire a professional DJ, most of them require details on how and when to load in, the wedding timeline and details, if you will provide a vendor meal (which you should), and a list of your favorite songs and genres of music. Seems pretty straightforward, and with a professional DJ, it will be if you decide to go this route. Just remember to communicate with the DJ and connect them with the event planner (if you have one) early on.
If You Hire a Band
If you decide to hire a band, consider your budget and venue size. Professional bands can range from $4,000 – $10,000, depending on their popularity and the number of band members. Bands can sometimes be a little more expensive than DJs, but if you can afford to book a fantastic band, that will surely make your wedding reception a night to remember for you and your guests. If you have the budget to hire a band, you should still consider your venue size to ensure that you actually have room for a 5-10 piece band. Outside of the space needed for the actual people in the band, bands also require space for equipment like amplifiers and speakers. Talk to the venue early on in the planning process to discuss their experience with live entertainment and bands in order to address these issues. Outside of assisting you with your plan to have a band, the venue may have specific protocols and restrictions on having entertainers, and you need to know these details and share them with your vendors.
Once you get past the logistics of booking a live band, you will need to connect with the bandleader to discuss the performance details. There are several ways to maximize the value of your live band so allow the booking agent or bandleader to ask the right questions and bring your planner into the fold early since both parties are professionals and can think of things you may not. Please note that many professional bands have a master song list that lists the songs the band is familiar with and comfortable performing. Most bands give you a chance to view the list so you can notate your favorite and least favorite songs and genres. Keep in mind that you are not responsible for creating a playlist. You must also consider that a professional band has an idea of songs that work well for any crowd, so don’t dig too deep into editing the playlist, just share your thoughts and let the professionals work from there.
Become the entertainer during your wedding
Outside of a choreographed dance routine, as we mentioned earlier, if you have an exceptional talent, you can bring it to the wedding reception festivities. You can take your entertainment to the next level by also becoming a part of the routine. For instance, if you are a talented painter or visual artist, you can do a live wedding painting while the band performs. Live paintings are very trendy but are still very unique since no one knows how the actual painting will unfold. If you or your spouse are in a musical mood, you can also ask the band or DJ to allow you to perform a selection with the band, which would stand out to your guests for years to come.
Host a DIY Dessert Station
In addition to the traditional wedding cake, a DIY dessert station is a great way to stand out and serve your guests beyond their expectations. There are several benefits to hosting a display of various dessert options. If you have guests that have allergies or don’t particularly love your beloved coconut-flavored wedding cake, they will now have several options to satisfy their sweet tooth. You can also pair the desserts with other snacks that are not sweet but can satisfy guests who do not particularly care for sweets. Think popcorn and chips alongside caramel treats and chocolate – guests will love the salty and sweet combination.
If you want to add a personal touch, you can poll guests in the invitations to see the types of treats and desserts they like and add those to the DIY dessert display.
End the Wedding with a Unique Display
If you want to leave your guests with an unforgettable ending to the night, consider hiring a vendor that can do one of the following displays for your exit:
Food Truck Vendor
Food trucks are all the rage, and guests will surely remember a cool taco truck waiting outside of your wedding venue as they make their way to their cars. Food is an integral part of any event, and after hours of dancing and drinking, guests will love the ability to grab a quick bite or sweet treat on their way out.
Host a Second Line Parade Exit
Ditch the traditional flower petals, birdseed, or sparklers and host a New Orleans-themed second line parade as guests leave the venue. In most cases, the bridal party and guests follow the newlyweds down the street as a brass band plays twangy New Orleans jazz and funk. You can have your planner pass out umbrellas and parasols to guests at the exit and end the night in a fun and unique way.
Companies like Zambelli Fireworks are experienced in ending a wedding or special event with a bang — literally! Watch this video of a fireworks display at a stunning wedding.
Hopefully, these suggestions help jumpstart your creative ideas on making your wedding reception unique and memorable for your guests and, more importantly, you and your spouse. Congratulations!
Do you have more ideas on how to make your wedding reception unique? Comment below: