Hi there, my name is Chris Piercy and I’m a professional close-up magician and mindreader specialising in Wedding Entertainment.
In this guide I’ll be talking through each of the different parts of the drinks reception that need to be right in order for you to create the perfect one for your Wedding day.
Some of these are so obvious you’ll have done all the work already, some will have gone under your wedding radar entirely.
The importance of getting it right.
Your wedding drinks reception is the most important part of the wedding day to get right, controversial statement but I’ll explain why I think that.
You’ve gathered together on average 80-100 to celebrate in you marrying the love of your life.
They’ve sat and watched your beautiful ceremony, maybe shed a tear or two along the way.
Now the ceremony is over they all want to come and give you their warm and heartfelt congratulations.
Here’s the problem though.
You now want your photographer to take stunning and memorable shots of just the two of you at your dream venue.
This means you’re having to leave your guests for anywhere between 30 – 90 minutes.
Getting the wedding drinks reception wrong and guests are left engaging in small talk and shuffling around with just the few people they already know.
This can lead to a bit of a lack of atmosphere for when guests go through to the next part of the day.
It can all end up feeling like a lull and a little bit flat.
You will recognise this feeling if you’ve attended a wedding where the couple have got it wrong.
Getting the drinks reception right, or ideally perfect, means the exact opposite.
People will be engaging in interesting conversation outside of the usual “didn’t they get lucky with the weather”.
New friendships between opposite sides of the family as well as between your friends and your partner’s friends.
A buzz of excitement and an atmosphere will be beginning to form across the whole wedding party.
This means you’ll be able to enjoy your photos and return to a fun, light-hearted and warm wedding party.
Isn’t that exactly how you would want it to be?
But what is the difference between getting it wrong and getting it right?
Well that’s exactly what this guide is for – so let’s show you how to kick start your wedding day!
Because I understand all weddings and budgets are different I’ve broken certain areas down into 3 sections – Cheap, Professional and Lavish.
Let’s start you off with something really easy, the venue is one of the first things that you’ll book for your wedding.
The chances are that if you haven’t booked this already then you’re just about to.
Your venue is going to go a long way to defining the sort of the drinks reception you’re going to have.
Is it going to be light-hearted and casual? Fun and full of laughter? or more formal and sophisticated?
The wedding venue is also going to be a focal point for sourcing a whole array of your wedding suppliers for your day.
If you haven’t asked the venue for their recommended supplier list then do that today!
You don’t normally HAVE to use these suppliers but they’re recommended for a reason.
Your venue will only recommend suppliers they trust and whose service levels are at the required level.
This is a tricky one to condense down into a few words given the vast array of styles and wedding types available.
The chances are that if you’re having a theme then this is in your agenda way before you were even thinking about your wedding drinks reception.
Your theme visually sets the tone and style of your wedding to your guests.
Depending on your venue and where you’re getting married your drinks reception might be the first place they encounter your theme.
NOTE – Make sure that your decorations include your table plan for the wedding breakfast! Having this available throughout the drinks reception prevents a bottleneck when guests move through to the wedding breakfast!
The cheapest option
will be to do as much of it as you possibly can yourself, this is particularly popular if you’re going for a rustic vibe.
Sourcing the materials for hessian runners, candle-holders and table centre pieces can be done relatively cheaply.
You can write your own timetable for the day on a mirror bought at a charity shop for example, get thinking and get creative.
This has the advantages of saving money but it does mean that you’ll be spending a lot of evenings making up bits for your big day but can always make a night of it.
Invite some friends over and bribe them with pizza and alcohol in exchange for their help!
If you do spend money on bits for the wedding then there is always a market for selling these sorts of wedding items on to get a bit of money back in.
The professional option
is to speak directly to either the venue or a wedding decoration team to discuss ideas and they’ll normally have a portfolio from previous weddings.
From there you’ll either be able to buy/hire items from them and decorate the place yourself. Alternatively pay a company to dress the room/marquee/venue for you.
The lavish option
here would be to make use of a professional wedding planner/stylist.
Give them your ideas, show them your wedding scrapbook or Pinterest board.
Then let them create your big day exactly as you’d imagine it – this will remove all of the stress from the situation allowing you to concentrate on other parts of the day.
3) Drinks Reception Drinks
Drinks at a drinks reception – I know, surely not?
I’m guessing you’d not forgotten about this and it’s fairly self-explanatory.
I’ve got a few options listed here which might make you think twice.
Champagne/Prosecco – Pretty obvious however if I didn’t mention it I’d look rather silly!
Pimms – Either ready made in glasses by the venue for you or at a “make-your-own-pimms” stand at more informal weddings.
There’s nothing quite as British as Pimms on the lawn apparently!
Gin and Tonic with the unmissable rise in Gin’s popularity it’s no wonder a post-ceremony G&T is so popular.
Ice Cold Beer – Bucket + Ice + Water + Bottles of Beer = Simple and Effective.
Bar – There’s no better way to account for all tastes than with a bar – most venues will either be able to supply this for you or recommend a mobile bar company.
Feeling generous? Go for the lavish option and pick up the tab for your guests (Warning – might be thousands!)
Wedding Cocktails – An increasingly popular trend that’s emerging again something that either than venue or a mobile bar will be able to provide for you.
Don’t forget about the non-drinkers!
Soft Drinks – Not everyone has come to your big day to get drunk!
There will be teetotallers, designated drivers, pregnant woman, children to think of too.
Show them a courtesy by providing an array of options – fruit juices, fancy cordials and plain old iced water.
A nice cuppa! – Perhaps just one for those which are later in their years but it’s a nice idea to ask the venue if this is possible to keep everyone happy!
The chances are that with the travel, the getting ready and the timings of your ceremony by the time the drinks reception starts it’ll be at least 2:30, no-one will have had lunch and everyone will be starving!
The cheapest option
is to make people wait until their sit down meal but asking people to hang around without eating for 2 hours with the alcohol potentially flowing, risky situation.
I have performed at a couple of weddings where no food has been offered
Typically you’ll end up with people going to the venue’s bar asking for bags of nuts and crisps!
Hardly to experience you want for your guests.
The less cheap but not professional option
is to organise “snacky” food for yourself, this can be “posh crisps”, mixed nuts, fruit kebabs, chocolate covered strawberries, olives, cheese twists etc etc.
You will 100% definitely have to check with your venue before bringing any food to the venue as they simply might not allow it. Some venues make the majority of their profit from providing the catering themselves.
This is also one more thing that you’ll have to think about how you’re going to get to the venue on the day.
Also in terms of freshness it’ll have to be bought just before the day itself – is that really what you want to be doing the day before your wedding?
The professional/lavish option
is the simplest and but not the cheapest and that is Canapes from a professional caterer.
If you’re getting married at a venue which does its own catering they’ll typically have a few options or the caterer who is doing your Wedding Breakfast will be able to do this for you.
Normally you’ll be paying per head for this.
Your wedding is chance to give people new expeirences and exceptional culinary options is a great way of doing this.
Whether you have music at your drinks reception will depend on you as a couple as well as the type of wedding you have.
Drinks reception music typically acts as background or ambient music as opposed to something people that will be getting up and dancing.
Although music in its usual form is to provide entertainment the music at the drinks reception is designed to create atmosphere.
The free option
Just don’t have any – save money either because it’s simply not necessary or because you simply don’t want it!
The Cheap Option
This maybe be free from a money point of view but may take up some of your time.
If your venue has a PA system or you happen to have a portable amp then you and your partner can have fun creating a playlist of all your favourite songs on an ipod/MP3 player etc.
This is a really great way to stamp your personalities on your day whilst saving money for other things for the day.
NOTE – if you are booking a DJ/Disco for your evening reception they maybe able to do this for you as well, additional charges but occur though.
The Professional/Lavish Options
Acoustic Soloist/Duet/Band – You can book some acoustic music to perform songs throughout the drinks reception. They’ll normally they are willing to learn a few of your favourite songs too in order to add a bit more personalisation to their performance.
String Quartet – Getting married somewhere grand and luxurious, having a classy and sophisticated wedding, a string quartet is a beautiful way to create the perfect atmosphere that you are looking for.
Typically a string quartet will be able to play the entrance and exit music for wedding ceremony itself and then can continue performing in the drinks reception as well.
You will be looking to pay £500-£800 typically but again prices will vary.
That’s me performing at a Kingston Maurward Drinks Reception
6) Drinks Reception Entertainment
Drinks reception entertainment is one of the most overlooked parts of the wedding day which I think is incredibly ironic. That’s because it is actually the part of the day during which guests probably require the most entertainment.
If you’ve ever been to a wedding where there hasn’t been anything arranged for guests to do at this time you’ll know exactly what I am talking about.
As a professional magician couples are frequently asking me when the best time for me to perform is and my answer is always the same.
To get the best value and maximum impact couples should book me when there’s the least amount of other things going on. This is more often than not this is at the drinks reception (although directly after the wedding breakfast is a close second).
The much needed icebreaker
At the your drinks reception you have 6 groups of people that need to be integrated together in order to obtain the perfect atmosphere at the wedding.
Partner 1’s Family, Friends and Work Colleagues and Partner 2’s Family, Friends and Work Colleagues. Providing quality entertainment is the perfect ice breaker to these separate groups, creating cohesion, atmosphere and most important of all TALKING POINTS!
Great wedding entertainment turns the quieter times of a wedding day into memorable ones and keep the day flowing seamlessly from one part to the next.
The Free Option
Do nothing. As I’ve mentioned above this is really something that I wouldn’t advise doing.
If it comes down to a financial thing that honestly look at other areas in which you can save money.
The cheap option
If you’re getting married in the spring/summer and your venue has outside areas then garden games can be bought (or sometimes hired) relatively inexpensively.
Giant jenga, croquet and draughts are all great examples.
Depending on your venues rules you can either setup a game of rounders men versus women but this might not fit in with what you want for your day.
The professional options
Professional entertainment comes in many forms but in my opinion the professional option means having the right type and amount of entertainment.
At one wedding the happy couple had booked a balloon modeller, myself, a caricaturist, a string quartet, an operatic duet and a singer to introduce the couple into the wedding breakfast.
For a grand total of 60 guests
As an estimate I think they had spent around £3,000 on entertainment and it was literally WAY too much.
This would have been more suitable to 120-150 guests (or even more maybe!)
The professional option would have been to probably choose one musical entertainment option and one other option.
Great Wedding Drinks Reception Entertainment Options
Magician (specifically me, of course).
I can’t say this without being accused of massive bias but having magic performed at your wedding is the best type of entertainment there is.
A PROFESSIONAL magician will be able to wow absolutely all ages, can be performed at a moment’s notice, requires no set-up time, people are free to choose if they want to participate or not.
Most of all if done properly it will be amongst them most unforgettable things your guests will ever see.
If you specifically book me then I’m also able to offer specific extras such as mindreading, hypnosis, hosting the day itself and even doing a mindreading show in front of the whole wedding party.
Fun, cartoony, borderline insulting pictures of your guests hand drawn and coloured within miunutes.
A really great addition to a drinks reception that leaves your guests with a souvenir to take away from your day.
A caricaturist can normally work either in a strolling manner or can set up somewhere to draw, typically they can do between 10-15 drawings per hour.
Having a more informal wedding? Stilt-walkers, jugglers, unicyclists and acrobats either mixing and mingling style or putting on short shows for your guests!
Children’s Entertainers/Balloon Modellers
Having more than just a handful of kids at your wedding? Then book children’s entertainment. It will keep the kids happy and give their parents a chance to enjoy the wedding more too.
You’ve either heard of this or you haven’t it is literally humans dressed up as hedges and walking around.
Absolutely hilarious opportunity for guest selfies and general frolics!
Hire a lookalike of the bride/groom’s favourite celebrity to mix and mingle with the guests!
The Lavish Options
Got a huge budget and really want to blow your guests away then these options could be for you!
A fun fair
Yes, you can literally book an entire fun fair with rides, dodgems, fairground games and more – the ultimate lavish option for the marquee/outdoo style wedding!
I’ve attended wedding whereas part of the drinks reception the was an aerobatic display featuring 9 vintage bi-planes.
Truly unique idea and incredibly impressive.
Stunnned bride at Lulworth Castle – Photo by David Wheeler Photography
7) Drinks Reception Photography
The drinks reception used to be taken up with a vast amount of group photos and that would be it. Times change and photography has evolved in a lot of respects.
Group shots are normally restricted to less than half an hour but the you and your partner will still be going off for a couple shoot.
Couple shoot + Group Shots = Not much time for you to enjoy your drinks reception properly or even see it.
It’s your wedding so it’s down to your preference but I have three big bits of advice I’d like to share.
Firstly book a photographer who can bring a “second shooter” with them.
This will allow you to “miss” a lot less of the fun and goings on. There are some photographers who will only shoot with two photographers nowadays
Secondly, restrict your group shots to the absolute minimum.
Two shots of the whole wedding party (one serious and one funny) is probably enough – trust in the fact that your photographer is going to capture the day.
Finally, go for a documentary style of photography this means the photographer will not interrupt to take photos they will take them candidly.
This ensures that the proper essence and emotion of the day is captured. There’s nothing quite as unnatural as having a camera shoved in your face and being asked to act natural!
8) Be a part of the drinks reception!
This goes for the whole day but does apply to the Drinks reception.
Above absolutely everything else your wedding guests have come to see you and your partner.
Do try your hardest to get really involved with things.
I realise there are duties for you to attend to, photos to be taken and places to be.
I would however especially really try to enjoy the hard work you’ve put into organising this beautiful day!
If you have any questions, if you feel you’ve missed anything or in particular if you want a magician at your Wedding then do get in touch via the contact form below.