Reception Choices

Your wedding reception is usually the largest part of your wedding costs and as such it can be a great place to make savings, it can also easily become a way to blow your budget.

Since many costs are charged per head and many other decisions are based on the number of guests, the first step for all of your reception planning is to draft your guest list. At $100 per head finding your guest list has grown by thirty guests can put a big hole in your budget, but deciding that you don’t need to invite all of your work mates can be a useful saving.

Your venue needs to be able to cater for your guests comfortably with some leeway if your guest numbers vary from your estimate. If the venue has a minimum number requirement, don’t plan too close to the minimum or you could end up paying for empty spaces. On the other hand don’t plan too close to the maximum limit of the venue or you may find the reception rather cramped.

Other points to consider are:-

  • Location – you and your guests need to travel from the ceremony to the reception. Is there suitable parking, access to taxi’s or other transport?
  • Space and facilities  – is the dance floor suitable for the number of people likely to be dancing? Can the venue accommodate other reception activities (such as a photo booth or an area for children)?
  • Access – Do any of your guests require specialised access?

While many people choose to have their reception at a specialised reception venue, other venues can be considered.

  • A small reception can often be well handled by a local restaurant
  • A local hall and a catering company can be a good option, particularly for a large number of guests
  • Setting up a Marquee on someone’s property can make the reception much more personal

All of these will give you different options, but usually they also mean different arrangements for a variety of things, a restaurant is unlikely to have provision for dancing and hiring a hall will probably mean more work in decorating. Having a reception on someone’s property will add a range of issues from food preparation and drink serving to having sufficient bathroom facilities for your guests.

Wedding Reception table setting

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Sorting out the Guest List

Working out who to invite and who not to invite to your wedding can be a difficult process, family politics and relationships can complicate your decision making. You can find yourself thinking:-

  • If we invite this person do we have to invite these people?
  • Should we invite so and so’s new partner?
  • There are more from this family than that family, is that fair?
  • What about the kids?

and the list goes on.

Ultimately these are questions that you have to answer yourself, but it can help to remember the two important points that we made in the planning your perfect wedding post (its your wedding and the most important thing is that you get married). Some ideas that may help you work through the potential dilemmas

  1. You don’t have to include a plus one. While your invitations should probably include long time partners of your guests, you don’t need to include a partner if it is a new relationship and you definitely don’t need to say plus one in case they may have someone to bring.
  2. You don’t need to invite every relation. If you are trying to limit numbers, draw a line, for example invite Uncles and Aunties but cut your cousins. You don’t need to invite relations that you rarely see and with whom you have little connection.
  3. Especially if your guest list is difficult to control, you can invite everybody to the ceremony but only invite the most important people to the reception.
  4. If you have a number of guests with young children and you are concerned about children at the reception, find a space and arrange a baby sitter for the children.
  5. If you have guests who have to travel, send them an invitation and a note saying that while you would love to have them attend but understand that it may not be practical for them to make the trip.
  6. If you have a number of guests travelling see if a group travel or hotel bookings can be arranged to reduce costs.

Your wedding should be an event to be witnessed and celebrated by those who are important to you, not a free for all for hangers on. Careful planning of the guest list should help you achieve this.

photo of outdoor wedding ceremony

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Choosing Your Wedding Photographer

Choosing your wedding photographer is an important decision in your wedding planning. Your wedding photos are your lasting record the day. They are your memories captured for the future.

Finding the right photographer isn’t easy, there are many to choose from and they can offer a huge range of different options. If you find the right person, you will have photos that you will want to show to everyone and will evoke happy memories of your wedding day, but choose the wrong photographer and your memories will always be tainted by the bad experience.

You have to find someone who you trust to be able to capture your day, the way you want. The important points you need to look for in choosing your photographer can be summerised as looking at the 5P’s – Photographs, Personality, Professionalism,  Products and Price.


Photographers will naturally show you their best work, they would be crazy to do otherwise. If their best work does not appeal to you, then you don’t need to go any further.

If their photographs are good, you need to look at the style of the photos. Try to imagine yourself in the photos – do you fit in?  If you are wanting relaxed casual photos, you need to see photos that have a relaxed casual feeling. If you want edgy, artistic shots or something more traditional, that is what you need to see. If the photographs don’t match your style, describe what you would like and ask if they can show you something that is right for you.


One of the most important factors in deciding on your photographer, and a factor that will effect how your photos will look, is personality. A good photographer will help you relax. The more you relax, the more relaxed and natural you will look in your photos. Spending your wedding day with someone who is irritating or rude to you or your guest is a recipe for disaster. Meet your photographer and talk to them, do they make you feel comfortable and relaxed?


Paying for a professional photographer entitles you to expect that they will behave in a professional manner. You should be provided with a contract that sets out exactly what you have to pay, when to pay it and full details of what you will receive and when you will receive it. You should also have all of your questions answered confidently and be offered suggestions about ways of covering the different parts of your day.

Most importantly, you should be confident that they are prepared and have back up equipment, back up plans to cover bad weather and the ability to react quickly to changing circumstances.


You should have your photos displayed the way you want, whether it be a beautiful, custom designed album filled with all your favourite wedding photos or canvas prints for your wall, you should choose a photographer who can provide what you want. There are so many wonderful ways to present your photos that it is almost impossible to cover all of the possibilities. If the photographer doesn’t show you something that you want, ask them whether they can provide the product. Most are happy to supply you with what you want.


Money plays a part in all of your wedding decision making and, obviously, you need to make your choices based on what you can afford. However, your photos are one of the few items in your wedding budget that are an investment rather than an expense. Their value to you will grow into the future.

It can be a good idea to look at photographers who are above and below your price range to see if they offer better value for your money. Look at exactly what is included in the package, what quality are the products and what extras are you likely to want and what will they cost? The most economical package is not always the cheapest. If you find the right photographer, you can always examine your budget to see if you can shift your priorities to fit in extra investment.

When you find the photographer who meets all of your requirements, you know that you will have found a person that you can trust with capturing the perfect wedding photos for you.

Bride and groom walking through ferns

The 5P’s concept based on a post about the 5P’s on PhotoLoveCat by Jillian Cocklin of Jillian Kay Photography

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Ceremony Choices

Where to have your ceremony is a major decision. So many choices how do you decide? A good first step is to think about the style of wedding your are wanting – a church is the obvious choice if you are after a traditional feel, but it is not the only choice.

You can have your ceremony just about anywhere you like but you do need to take your guests into consideration! What do I mean by this – for example if you have a lot of elderly relatives attending your wedding it is probably best to avoid long walks to the location and ensure you have enough chairs for them to be comfortable, do any of your guests require wheelchair access, or are there a lot of small children to consider? If all your guests are young they may be happy to stand for the entire ceremony but remember your guests will be there for longer than just the ceremony and standing can be tiring even for relatively young people. Have you taken the weather and time of year into consideration – standing in the sun in summer can be very unpleasant, is there some shelter from the elements, is there a wet weather plan and a quick and effective way to contact all your guests if plans need to change suddenly? Beach weddings are lovely but remember not all your guests will be happy about sand in their shoes and the sound of crashing waves can drown out the vows.

That little chapel may be very cute and romantic, it has the charm of the church without the religion, it means you don’t need a wet weather plan and there is seating, but is it big enough for all your guests? If you have a large bridal party is there room up the front for them all?

If you have your heart set on a particular location it is a good idea to book it as soon as possible once you choose your date. This is especially true for the more popular churches some can be booked 18 months in advance. but remember there are lots of advantages to the traditional church wedding including not needing a wet weather plan.

When you consider your location remember to factor in all the costs associated your church wedding is usually all inclusive with the possible exeptions of flowers and music. If you choose to have civil ceremony you will need to hire a celebrant, possibly a location, chairs, carpets  and any other decoration required as well as arranging flowers and music and a possible wet weather venue. Civil ceremony or Religious ceremony it is entirely up to you but remember that this  is the important part of the day, this is where you get married.

wedding chapel

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Family and friends helping at your wedding

Using your family and friends to supply products or services for your wedding day can be a great way to save money and can add a personal touch that may add meaning to your wedding day, but you need to carefully consider the full extent of what you are asking or they are offering before you proceed.

  • Are they really capable of doing the job to the standard that you want? There can be a big difference between a professional product and a home made one, for example there is a big difference between a birthday cake and a wedding cake. If there is any question about whether someone can do the job or not, a trial run (if possible) is a great idea to reassure both you and the person helping you.
  • Will this affect their enjoyment of your wedding day? Having someone help you can change their experience of your wedding day.  Does using a friend’s cool car for your wedding mean they can’t celebrate as they normally would at the reception?
  • What are the costs involved and who pays for it? Helping you can involve a cost, for example if someone offers to make your dress, the material needs to be purchased. Who pays? People may be happy to provide this as a gift, but you should discuss this first to ensure you are both on the same page. They may be thinking a simple satin gown while you are dreaming of imported silk and French lace.
  • If the something went wrong, would this change your relationship with the people involved? Things can go wrong, whether you are using a professional or a friend. If you have used a professional you can demand a refund or compensation, and then never have to deal with them again. Family or friends can’t be dealt with in the same way. Will your relationship with this person be effected by a mishap?
  • How important is it? It is much easier to take a risk on something that isn’t high on your list of priorities that something that you really value.  If you don’t care about dancing the night away at your reception, you may be happy to have an ipod with a good playlist, but if you want a real party atmosphere, a good DJ may be a better investment.
  • Is it worth it? When you think through the benefits of savings and emotional connections that you may gain against the possible downsides, how does it all stack up?

In the end it is a decision that only you can make, but if you have thought it through you can make a good choice that will make your wedding perfect.

photo of bride in classic wedding car

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Choosing the right wedding suppliers

As you start planning your wedding you will quickly discover that there is often a huge choice of suppliers, but how do you find the right one for you? The right people can make your whole day run smoothly and be much more enjoyable, the wrong people can give you memories that you would prefer to forget.

Wedding suppliers can be divided into two basic groups, Service suppliers and Product suppliers, and what you need to look for varies with each group.

Service Suppliers are people such as your celebrant, photographer, function coordinator, hairdresser and make up artist, people who are with you on your wedding day. When trying to decide which service provider to choose you need to look at their personality as well as how well they can do their job. To use the photographer as an example – on your wedding day, your photographer will be with you for a large part of the day, usually from when you are getting ready through to the reception. Imagine the difference between having a photographer you are comfortable with and who can help you relax, compared to someone who makes you nervous and increase your stress levels. Your wedding day is very emotional, the smallest things can trigger an emotional response. You don’t need to add unnecessary irritation.

Product suppliers are suppliers whose product is more important than the people you deal with, such as your florist, dress shop and cake maker. While you should expect good service from these people, it is the quality and/or price of the product that should be the determining factor. For example, if the dress looks fabulous you can put up with an annoying shop assistant.

wedding cupcakes

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    Planning your big day

    You have to start somewhere, but where? A good idea is to sit down with your partner (and anyone else who is important to the decision making process) and work out what sort of wedding you want to have – big and OTT or small and intimate. If your parents are paying for the wedding it may be a good idea to include them but you may prefer to make some of the decisions first and include them at a later stage! A good idea is to make some lists of what is important to each of you – things you must have, things you would like and things that may be nice but are not important. You can even have a list of what you do not want.

    Your “must have” list is where you put anything you have to have in your wedding, for example if you have always dreamed of having your wedding in a particular church this goes on the list, if there is a particular reception venue you have always dreamed of, or the flowers for your bouquet. These are the things that will determine where, when and who.

    The “would like” list are things that don’t matter quite so much, for example you might think that you would like to arrive in a horse and carriage or a stretch hummer, but if it is too expensive or impractical for you ceremony location then you won’t be devastated if you don’t.

    The “things that would be nice” list is for things like a butterfly release during the ceremony etc. the extras that you may like but don’t have to have.

    It is important at this stage to be realistic in your wants – if you know you only have a small budget then don’t expect to have the most expensive reception centre for your wedding, you can still have a beautiful wedding.

    It is also very important for both partners to be involved in the planning process. Yes it is the bride’s big day but it is also the groom’s big day and they should not be overlooked. Some grooms have been dreaming about their wedding day just as much as the bride so remember to consider both sides and sometimes a compromise is needed.

    Remember, the wedding is just one day – the marriage is for life.

    St Andrew's Anglican Church, South Brisbane

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