The science behind your wedding Reception layout

There is a science to how to set up your wedding reception. You need to blend functionality with style, practicality with the ambiance you are trying to create. Whether you are having your wedding reception at a lush Country Club, Fancy Ball room, your local legion hall, or a tent in your back yard there are certain things that are common at all wedding receptions. There will be guests, tables for them to sit at, food, music, dancing and undoubtedly drinks. Now let’s examine ways to make the most of the layout.

First let’s talk about the flow. There are certain things that people need to get to and Bathrooms, Exits, Food and Drinks always draw traffic, not to mention the entertainment, such as the dance floor or a photo booth. If you want to make sure something is seen, such as a picture display, a guest book, gift table, wedding cake etc., make sure they are in a place where people will pass by them, but not in a place that will block the path that people will follow to those things.

The gift table needs to be as close to the main entrance as possible. As a DJ I am at the reception venue before all guests and the number one question I am asked when the guests start to arrive, “where do I put this?” (Referring to the gift they are carrying).

Your cake needs to be where people can see it. Take a look at the pictures your friend’s take of other people’s weddings and undoubtedly there will be a picture of the wedding cake in their collection. It doesn’t matter if Buddy from the TV show Cake Boss made your cake, or if Grandma Ellie did, the cake is a showcase part of the reception and needs to be placed besides tucked into a corner.

If you aren’t having a served dinner, you need to come up with a game plan for the buffet. Hiring a professional caterer will eliminate a lot of these concerns. The main objective should be to get your guests fed as quickly as possible and the position of where you put the buffet can help with expediting things. The buffet needs to be positioned so you can use both sides of the buffet bare minimum. Putting the table against the wall only allows for 1 line and it should go without saying that will take twice as long. Another thing to consider is to have a game plan for entrance and exit strategies. When tables are called to the buffet, there should be a clear plan for them to enter the buffet line, and just a clear way for them to exit it without having to go back through the line of people waiting to get their food.

And now for the most important part for me… where to put the dance floor and the DJ. Once the ceremony is done and people are fed, the most important part of the night is going to be focused on the dancefloor. The dance floor should be in the center of the room with the DJ’s table set up on the edge of it. The WORST thing you can do is put the DJ in a corner with tables between them and the dance floor. As an interactive DJ I know that it makes my job so much more difficult if I have to fight crowds just to get to the dance floor. Not to mention, a good DJ is able to read the crowd. It’s really hard to read something you can have a clear view of. Having the dance floor in the middle of the room causes the flow of traffic to cross it over and over. The best advice I can recommend in regards to the dancefloor, put the bar as close to the dance floor as you can. Every time somebody wants a drink, make them cross the dance floor to get it. Putting the dance floor in the center of attention and then putting the bar on the far side of the room… or in a separate room (it happens WAY too much), puts the DJ at a constant struggle to keep people engaged. If there isn’t enough space to accomplish this, something you might want to consider is making the dance floor smaller. In life perception is reality, a small dance floor that is full looks like a party that your guest will be wanting to join, whereas the exact same number of people on a larger dance floor looks like an empty dance floor.

Finally, let’s talk about a seating chart. Don’t make one. Reserve a couple tables near the head table for family, or family of the wedding party or grandparents etc. If you spend time planning out a seating chart past those things, you are wasting a lot of time. Guest come to the wedding and undoubtedly, despite your best planning, are going to end up sitting with the people they want to anyways. Sure, during dinner they will sit at the table you picked for them, but as soon as food is done hardly anybody sits anyways. Spend that time planning your colors, or what favors you want to hand out, or centerpieces. If it’s a sit down dinner where people order their food ahead of time…disregard.

Hopefully this helps with your planning. Enjoy your special day! Feel free to share with somebody planning their special day. Click the buttons below.

A sample set up for a wedding reception

A sample set up for a wedding reception