Ideas for "non-lame" activities for a wedding reception?
July 6, 2009 2:02 PM   Subscribe

Me and the fiancée are getting married on August 1st. The plans for the ceremony are set in stone at this point, but we're still partially in the planning stages for the reception. From the beginning, we've worked hard to avoid the usual wedding clichés. Right now, though, we've got a bit of a planner's block going on. That's why we turn to you for ideas and insights.

Googling "wedding reception activities ideas" etc. produces umpteen jillion results, many of which I intend to read and some of which are no doubt useful, but I've got a hunch that AskMeFi has some real pearls to share.

What unusual, unique, inventive or particularly memorable wedding reception activities have you seen, taken part in or arranged yourself that you and (your/other) guests really liked? The one thing that we're looking for is "non-lameness". This is subjective, but I won't define it further. Take a crack at it :-). The activities may be performances by a small number of people or something that everyone present can participate in, or anything in between - as long as you found it cool or clever or funny or engaging etc.

Some details that might be useful: about 100 people will attend, almost adults-only, just a few kids present. Significant age groups: 24-30 (our friends), around 40 (my cousins), 50-70 (biased towards 50-55; family, relatives, family friends). Live instrumental music by a professional duo. Several friends with musical abilities as guests. Current focus on appealing to young and "young-minded" audiences, although trying not to offend or (unnecessarily) confuse the older folks.
posted by lifeless to Human Relations (21 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
Something we did that was really fun is instead of numbering all our reception tables, we gave them cryptic names related to our courtship (i.e. "The Hearty Handshake"--what Mr. Go Banana got after our first date). Everyone at the table was supposed to decided what the name referred to, and then nominate one table member to come up and tell the story. Best story won prizes for the table. This was great because:

-it got table members chatting
-there were impromptu speeches that were really amusing
-we got to share interesting bits of our life together with the guests

Congrats and good luck!
posted by Go Banana at 2:13 PM on July 6, 2009 [12 favorites]

Friend of a friend of mine had jesters mocking the ceremony from the sidelines.

Than again, it was a "Fantasy" wedding so the parents wouldn't know it was a "Pagan" wedding so YMMV
posted by The Whelk at 2:18 PM on July 6, 2009

One thing that we did that seemed to be a hit was a unique guest book - I believe we got ours here. Instead of just signing names, people got to fill in fun questions like "How did you meet the couple?", "What is your best memory of the bride/groom?", and my personal favorite, "Draw a sketch of the wedding couple". We had loose sheets available so that everyone could take a page back to their table for completion. People sat in groups and laughed about their sketches, their favorite memories, etc.

In the end, we got a way cool guest book filled with touching sentiments and funny stories.
posted by tryniti at 2:20 PM on July 6, 2009 [6 favorites]

There was a certain bit of spontenaety involved with this, but one of the high points of my brother's wedding was when our cousin Mike -- who is a VERY good musician -- took the band aside and asked if he could sit in with them for a special number. Then when he took the mike, he first told a story about how he and my brother used to ride around on dirt bikes when they were kids, pretending they were Bo and Luke Duke. And with that, he and the band launced into a performance of the theme to The Dukes of Hazzard, complete with a new custom verse he'd written:

"Just two good ol' boys,
Ridin' on their dirt bikes,
When we shot off bottle rockets,
Our dads didn't get TOO mad..."

Maybe just leaving a mike hot and a chair open with the rest of the band and leaving anyone the opportunity for getting up and jamming. Maybe make the rule that they have to play WITH the band that you've already got (so you avoid any instances of one of the guests who does NOT have musical ability getting up and insisting that they actually DO, and then serenading you with an out-of-tune version of "Love Shack" or something).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:21 PM on July 6, 2009

Think of this as a celebration that joins you two (and your families and friends), instead of a wedding. People tend to get caught up in the pomp and proper wedding ideas, ignoring what's unique, fun, and memorable about the couple.

We didn't have any significant reception activities, but we put cameras single-use cameras on all the tables, and we got some good pictures (though many were too dark, as the reception hall was not as vivid as necessary for the cameras we got). We had a volcano cake (complete with edible lava-like stuff and dry ice smoke) and a graveyard cake (topped by zombie-like versions of myself and my wife). Our first dance was The Monster Mash. But all that was amongst the lovely flowers and other general wedding-type decorations, so it wasn't a halloween party (though we had thought about that).

If the musical duo would take requests, you can do live karaoke, making sure someone takes the lead on a song or two to prime the group. If you do choose to do karaoke, perhaps you could request one song per table, perhaps as a group rendition of the song? Maybe post a song-book with lyrics at the tables?
posted by filthy light thief at 2:26 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

My sis had a photobooth present and tons of props. Boas, groucho glasses, devil horns, giant sunglasses, moustaches, bow ties, sombrero, etc. The booth printed out two copies of each 4-pack of photos -- one copy was pasted into a big album, and guests could take their own copy too. The album had black pages - B&W photos on black pages with those neon gel markers made for a really really memorable photo album. It wasn't cheap but it was a great source of entertainment for people of all ages and some of the funniest photos are of the most buttoned-up old crotchety folks wearing boas and glitter hats.
posted by barnone at 2:30 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

checking out some of the weddings on these sites might give you original, non-lame ideas:

a practical wedding
You could check out her posts tagged "real weddings"

off-beat bride

It might require a little browsing, but looking through their posts as well as the blogs they link to might help you separate the cool and sane wheat from the overblown wedding industry chaff.

also, do you have outdoor daytime space? i suggest croquet
posted by dahliachewswell at 2:43 PM on July 6, 2009

One word... Pinata!

Was a hit (pun intended) at my wedding!
posted by akabobo at 2:51 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Probably the most fun activity I've seen at a wedding takes a little bit of set up but can be great.
Set up some kind of "photobooth"- with or without props, whatever you prefer, but it's best to have everyone in the same spot with the same furniture/backdrop whatever.
As people start taking photos, project them where everyone can see them. When I saw this done, the projector was at one end of the dancefloor. Everyone loved the immediacy of seeing themselves in the slideshow while still enjoying the party.

This should be simple to set up. You would need a digital camera (and someone to operate it), with a couple of memory cards to rotate through, plus a laptop, card reader and projector.
posted by cushie at 2:58 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

At my cousin's wedding, I was drawn into a treasure hunt/musical chairs combo game:

-13 people, 12 chairs
-the players were given an item to find within the reception hall (strawberry from the buffet, a woman's shoe, pair of men's pants, a napkin, etc) - you'll need hilarious "running music" through all of this
-everyone runs back to the front with their item and grabs a chair
-last one back gets no chair, but DOES gets a responsibility during one month of the next year (bake a cake for the bride during her birthday month, wash the groom's car sometime in July, shovel their driveway once in January, etc) They took Polaroids of the losers and stapled them right into a calendar.

The winner was given some kind of small prize, but I can't remember what it was. It was a lot more fun than I've made it sound, and the result was that their wedding celebration continued on in little ways throughout the next year. (though, I still owe a birthday cake)
posted by Eumachia L F at 2:59 PM on July 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

two words - bouncy castle.
posted by micklaw at 3:36 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

I went to a wedding recently where thay had no speeches, just an open mic for participants and guests to get up and say something if they felt like it. It was really very lovely, a few tears, a few comedy anecdotes, one hilarious sing-a-long and general good vibes and love for all.

Tip: If wine is flowing have an MC to log requests, allocate spots and limit the time to a couple of minutes.
posted by freya_lamb at 3:52 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

on preview: bouncy castle!!

And the tip stands for this one too...
posted by freya_lamb at 3:54 PM on July 6, 2009

My best friend got married two weeks ago and instead of guests clinking the glasses to make the couple kiss (which, OMG, please don't let them do that), she put envelopes on every table which detailed what the table had to do to get them to kiss. She customized them for every table, so that the table with elderly aunts had "give the happy couple marriage advice," and another table of younger people (many who were dancers) had to Riverdance, for example. The hit of the evening, though, were the table of her crazy friends whose task was "exchange clothes with someone at the table, preferably of the opposite sex." Seeing the whole table enter in drag led to some really fantastic pictures and a really memorable moment.
posted by pised at 4:24 PM on July 6, 2009 [7 favorites]

Mariachi bands are good for these occasions.

Seriously. It's a party. So do what you'd do at a party. Have fun. Mingle. Talk. Dance.

Don't over-think it!
posted by FergieBelle at 4:24 PM on July 6, 2009

We had a kid do balloon animals and card tricks. Apparently, that was pretty awesome, though we missed it all.
posted by santojulieta at 4:30 PM on July 6, 2009

Not to be a party pooper, but if I were at a wedding that had "audience" participation games and whatnot I'd be pretty turned off. Isn't dancing, eating, drinking, socializing, celebrating enough reception activity?
posted by Pineapplicious at 4:40 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Thanks to dahliachewswell for mentioning my site, Offbeat Bride. I actually have a whole tag category of posts dedicated to reception activities other than dancing. (it's /tag/no-dancing if you want to go manually enter the URL -- NO SELF LINKING FROM ME!) Some recent examples include bowling, photobooths, Rock Band, hula hooping, puzzles, lawn games, etc.

Also, this Ask.Mefi thread has some great alternative reception ideas.
posted by arielmeadow at 4:59 PM on July 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

A fun wedding I attended a few years ago had swing dancing as a reception activity. Not just an open dance floor with swing dance-able music - they had someone there to give short lessons to us novices, and generally help things along. Even with my two left feet, it was a blast!
posted by dorey_oh at 5:41 PM on July 6, 2009

I love the photobooth idea. I regret not renting one for our reception.

I bind books, so instead of a guestbook, we put out a basket of pages along with pens, markers, etc. We put up a little card saying what the pages were for, and that I would bind them into a book later. Everyone took stacks of pages to their tables to pass around and fill out and draw on - we got some amazing stuff back.
posted by ersatzkat at 7:44 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, people! Some great ideas, insights and external resources so far. More are welcome, if this thread doesn't disappear from view already :-)
posted by lifeless at 11:20 PM on July 6, 2009

« Older Short-term apartment rental near Belmont, MA...   |   I need advice on vitamins and supplements. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.