For most couples, the reception is the party of a lifetime. It celebrates their marriage and marks the culmination of many months of planning. They want the reception to be unforgettable, to bring them together with their loved ones, and to unite two sets of friends. When it comes to floral decoration, the possibilities are endless, and, whatever the budget you are working to, it’s possible to create a memorable and imaginative reception.
Step 1 – Consider Planning Your Reception
Your Reception can be as unique as you want to make it—from an early wedding and superb simple brunch to a late afternoon wedding or a lavish and elegant dinner dance. Most people go for the middle of the day and have an afternoon reception. Certainly limiting the length of your reception will help to curtail the expense. One option is to have an afternoon tea reception. Instead of large round tables, you can hire smaller ones and use fewer table decorations and simple flowers for the table or even choose one striking plant such as an exotic orchid.
Traditionally the wedding reception was held in the bride’s family home. Over time this tradition has prevailed and it is still lovely to have a home wedding, if practical. You do need to have adequate space, though, and a home reception is a lot more effort and work for all members of the family. Providing services such as adequate toilets and parking can become a logistical nightmare and cause tempers to be frayed. Over the years, it became more common to hold the reception in a local hotel or hall, but more recently there has been a trend away from the traditional sites towards informal and varied locations—museums, mansions, even zoos! But whatever your choice of site the three basic elements that contribute towards a successful and enjoyable reception are the decorations, catering, and the entertainment.
Step 2 – Consider the Florist’s Role
For the decorations, most florists today offer more than just flowers. Many can also advise you on the look of the tables, including details such as renting tablecloths, chairs, and seat covers to help you create the ambiance you have in mind. Florists work so frequently with caterers and other related industries that they can often be a great source of recommendation as to whom to call for an estimate and whom they enjoy working with. Florists will often work closely with the caterers in particular to confer on the canapé decorations, and to design the floral decorations for the buffet. Often they will meet you at your tasting to discuss the food and table decorations in more detail. They also liaise with cake decorators to ensure that the cake table perfectly complements the room.
A creative florist will meet you at your chosen site and will give you the best advice on where to place flowers and how many you should ideally have. Most often, florists advise their clients to have fewer, rather than more, flowers but go for the grander displays which will be more striking when the party begins and the room begins to fill with guests. You also need to consider the installation and setting up of the room and timings for this. Hotels may have more than one reception in a day, so you will be allocated a particular time slot that must be rigidly adhered to, or rented spaces may limit access times for your deliveries and services.
A florist’s mission is to take your chosen reception site
and change it into a room that is special and has correct ambience for your wedding day. The blander the room, the more you will need to spend on decorations, so think seriously about this when you are looking at your budget. Often a more expensive site needs a lot less decoration and this can, in the long run, work out cheaper. Really formal sites do, however, necessitate huge and costly arrangements. Unusual sites may be more complicated for your contractors to work in. Stately homes and museums often limit the hours of parking and may be open to the public for part of the day, making the lead time for the caterer and florist very limited! If this is the case, it may mean that your florist does not have much time for complicated on-site arrangements, and everything may have to be completed off site and positioned quickly.
Fragrance is very important to the reception, I think that it is essential to have some scented flowers, incense, or scented candles at the entrance for your greeting line at cocktail hour. This is so evocative and the scents will always remind you of your special day. Don’t forget to check out the restrooms, and add some lovely touches such as flowers and scented votives to make your guests feel pampered.
Step 3 – Consider Creating Your Theme
Some of the best sites to decorate are marquees or tented receptions because they offer the florist a blank canvas to work on, but any room can be transformed to fit any theme with a little imagination and a lot of money!
If your room is very decorative to start with, lavish floral decorations may compete too much. Often the best schemes are monochromatic colors of cream and white flowers. This may seem like an obvious route to take, but it does work very well and that is the reason for its endurance as a theme. It is classic and very beautiful. It can be made to look striking and minimal or romantic and blowsy. Fruit can also make a monochromic display more striking and add interest.
Step 4 – Consider Lighting
Your florist will also advise you on lighting—whether it is the addition of candelabras or votives to the table or getting an estimate for a party lighting expert for making the best of your decorations. This cannot be emphasized too strongly how important this is—the whole ambience of the wedding is determined by how comfortable and attractive the lighting is. Most ballrooms or spaces of a similar size have lighting that can be dimmed, and each centerpiece can be spot lit from the ceiling, which greatly enhances floral arrangements. Candlelight is flattering, and the right lighting level makes everyone feel more confident and relaxed. If you decide to appoint a lighting company, there are no limits as to what can be achieved, from uplifting floral arrangements to huge flambeaux for the entrance and a dramatic firework display for the finale. You will have an engineer on site all night to highlight your special moments, such as the cutting of the cake and the first dance. You may even choose to project images on stars and moons or decide to change the color of the room through the use of light gels. Often these companies can also provide amplification systems if you are planning a large event.
Step 5 – Considering Chairbacks
In a previous article we describe this, but it is important to know that chairs are an important consideration too because there are so many of them in the room, and generally there are very few designs—rental chairs are the same all over the world! It is a good idea to personalize at least the top table using Chairback arrangements, tiny garlands of flowers, or even a simple bow.
Step 6 – Considering Centerpieces
The practice of adorning tables with fresh cut flowers, herbs and pose petals dates back as far as ancient Greece and Rome and has endured to the present day. The newlyweds’ table, whether it formal or round, should be different and more opulent to differentiate the bride and groom from their guests, you may consider having some tall table arrangements to make the most of your space. It is currently very popular to have a mixture of half the tables set with tall arrangements, and the other half of low ones. If you are planning 300 guests you may even have three heights of arrangements. Tall arrangements are usually candelabras, topiary trees, or tall glass vases so the flowers are raised above the table. Usually a florist tries to raise these above the heads of the diners, and a thin stem of the candelabra, tree, or vase allows guests to see each other across the table. It is very difficult to hold a conversation with guests sitting directly opposite you on a round table, because such tables are normally 5 to 6 feet (1.5 to 2 meters) across and the ambient noise precludes this activity, but it is always more comfortable to be able to at least see across the table, so bear in mind when discussing the table flowers with your florist.
Step 7 – Consider Decorating the Table
Table linen is very important. Most hotels offer white as a standard, but all caterers can hire in linen of many colors and shades. Standard colors and sizes are less expensive than cloths that fall to the floor in deep or rich colors. Your florist can help you choose a color that complements your flowers and may even rent the linen for you. Napkins are a similar consideration. You can have them trimmed with taffeta ribbon, make them into a folded bed for an orchid, or even use a sprig of herbs to decorate them and to scent your tables. Place cards are normally coordinated with the linen and flowers, as are the menu cards. Your florist and caterer will be able to recommend a calligrapher to help with these if necessary.
Step 8 – Consider the Wedding Cake
The cake is the centerpiece of the reception and another area where you can let your imagination run wild, commissioning any design. Sometimes it is common to have two cakes: the traditional white wedding cake and the groom’s cake, usually chocolate but sometimes a fruit cake. Often the choice is left to the groom, and this is a lovely way of including him in the arrangements. It is also a clever way of offering two cake options. The cutting of the cake normally happens towards the end of the reception; the bride takes the knife and the groom puts his hand on hers. A wish accompanies this and then traditionally they feed one another.
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