Romantic Ideas for Your Wedding Reception

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7In the Mood

1. “The first thing guests see when they walk into the reception venue is the escort-card table, so that’s the place to set the romance for the party ahead,” says New York-based wedding planner Preston Bailey. Pin a creamy gardenia onto each card, or scatter rose petals among them.

2. Make the entrance leading into your ballroom unforgettable. Ask your florist to create arrangements in the shape of a heart or your monogram, then hang them from grosgrain ribbons on the open doors.

3. Having a garden ceremony? Evoke the courtly feeling of the early 1900s by passing out parasols in delicate pastel colors to your guests. Los Angeles-based wedding planner Alyse Sobel suggests tying a ribbon to each one with a card that reads, “May you always be sheltered by love.” You can find inexpensive paper parasols at your local party goods store or at pearlriver.com, which sells Asian-inspired crafts.

4. Request that guests jot down their favorite date idea in your guest book, instead of the standard signature. You’ll remind them of a romantic occasion of their own, and also have great suggestions for married life.

5. Share your wedding meal at a small “sweetheart table,” reserved just for the bride and groom. Sobel recommends dressing the backs of your chairs with lush greens and flowers (a lovely idea, even if you choose to sit at a larger table), or bringing in upholstered armchairs for a throne-like feel.

6. Have romance delivered to your new spouse! Michael Meuer, senior wedding consultant for Blue Plate Weddings in Chicago, suggests surprising your guy or gal by writing up little love notes in advance of the big day (you could even have the notes professionally printed), and then asking a white-gloved waiter to deliver them on a silver tray to your beloved throughout the evening.

7. Carve out a little alone-time in the midst of your party: Sneak away to a private room in your reception venue—you can ask your caterer in advance to have champagne and strawberries waiting for you. Kiss, toast to your future, and relish the fact that this is your wedding day!

8. The easiest way to create a romantic mood is to light your reception room in a flattering hue, says New York City-based lighting designer to the stars Bentley Meeker. “The best are pink, amber, magenta, honey and fuchsia,” he adds. Ask your site manager to replace the white light bulbs in the fixtures with colored ones for your event: It will create a golden glow.

9. Another simple, yet evocative, idea from Meeker: Use softly glowing candles to illuminate your reception room. Turn off all the overhead lights, and place hurricane lanterns on all of the tables. Look for ledges or fireplace mantels where you can place pillars and votives. Just remember to be moderate in your use, he advises: Masses of candles generate more light than you might expect, and you don’t want your space to be as bright as if the electric lights were on.

10. Changing your name? Celebrate it by projecting your new monogram onto the dance floor. Your lighting designer or wedding planner can create a custom gobo (a special type of stencil) of your initials, and attach it to a spotlight on the ceiling so the design is projected onto the floor. If monograms aren’t your style, Meeker suggests creating the feeling of an enchanted forest by projecting a pattern of leaves or branches with a slowly rotating spotlight fitted with a gobo cut to resemble foliage.

11. “When you walk into a room and see the floral centerpieces softly glowing, it takes your breath away,” says Meeker. To get this romantic garden look, highlight each of your arrangements with “pin spots,” tiny spotlights your wedding planner can arrange to have rigged to the ceiling.

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