I read in a wedding magazine that the reception venue, catering, cake, rentals, flowers, lighting, decor, and reception entertainment account for 65% of a typical wedding budget! So it’s safe to say that the reception is where the majority of the guests’ time will be spent.
As much emphasis as we put on our wedding ceremony, the truth of it was that the ceremony only accounted for roughly 30 minutes of the five-and-a-half hours of our wedding evening.
While we were taking post-ceremony photos, guests were already at cocktail hour with time to enjoy the venue and music.
Whether your reception if 32 people like our Maui reception or 175 people like our Nashville reception, these small (and mostly inexpensive) personal touches can really take your reception to the next level.
Here’s how we added a little #shabraun flair to our receptions without blowing our budget.
Note: More interested in added personal touches to the ceremony? Check out Making Our Wedding Ceremony A Meaningful & Memorable Reflection of Us.
Photography by Teale Photography
Having “his” and “hers” signature drinks is a fun and easy way to add personality to your wedding without having to go out the way. They add variety to a bar without jacking the overall price way up. Most couples stick to wine, beer, and a couple signature drinks for the cost effectiveness. The drinks can be served just during cocktail hour or throughout the evening. Plus signature drinks are a great way to capture the vibe of the night or the couple’s personalities or preferences. AND you can even give them fun names!
When we’re out and about waiters always confuse which drink is whose. LeBraun’s is always pink one with a colorful fruit skewer sticking out of it while mine is something simple like a whiskey ginger so it was pretty simple selecting our signature drinks. And the names we chose gave guests an easy icebreaker, “So why do you think LeBraun’s drink is named ‘the Samantha?’”
Well here are our signature drinks, names, and the stories behind them. Enjoy!
Groom’s Drink: “The Samantha” - We constantly quote movies and this subtle reference from Forgetting Sarah Marshall is something we always quote whenever LeBraun orders a cosmo, accent and everything. It happens when Peter Bretter is getting drunk at the hotel’s bar. He briefly pretends to be Samantha Jones from Sex and The City. The movie is also set in Hawaii and was our little ode to our wedding location.
Bride’s Drink: “The Half-Ass” - Despite being my signature drink it’s named for my at-the-time fiancé and his frustrating trait of procrastinating then never finishing tasks. :)
Note: Signature drinks don’t have to be alcoholic. A fruity lemonade or if you’re from the South, sweet tea would be a nice addition to an evening.
Just for fun I’ve included the recipes for both our signature drinks. Happy mixing!
LeBraun’s Drink: The Samantha (White Cosmo)
- 4 oz vodka
- 1 cup white cranberry juice
- 2 oz Cointreau
Shalan’s Drink: The Half-Ass (Tennessee Mule)
- 3 oz whiskey
- 4-6 oz ginger beer
- 1/2 oz lime juice
- Mint leaves
For our intimate wedding in Maui we had guests sign a Hawaiian-made ukulele for us to display in our home.
Ukuleles, or simple ukes, are the Hawaiian adaptation of the small guitar-like Portuguese instrument called a Machete. Portuguese laborers began arriving in the late 1800s to work on sugarcane plantations and introduced the instrument to the islands.
Ukes are now the official state musical instrument of Hawaii. The name translates to “jumping flea” referring to the way a player’s fingers jump around the strings.
For our Nashville reception we purchased vintage postcards from around the world on Etsy as a unique way for guests to “send” us a note and reflect our love of traveling.
When we visit new locations LeBraun and I like to send ourselves a postcard with some memories from the trip on it. Now we have a small stack of postcards with memories, big and small.
We’ve compiled our guestbook postcards in clear photo album sleeves so we can see and read both sides.
Anniversary Wine Bottles
For our wedding my father had three bottles of wine designed with our wedding invitation as the label. During our special day on Maui, guests signed each of the bottles which post-ceremony were distributed to LeBraun and I, my parents, and his parents to be enjoyed on three milestone anniversaries in the future. Cute, right?
Embrace Local Flair In Your Menu
An especially fun way to add more personality to your wedding is to embrace local flair in your menu.
Luckily we had Hawaii’s amazing fusion cuisine to pull from. We included some traditional dishes as appetizers like musubi, kalua chicken, and poke bowls. Our plated meal was a gorgeous mix of colorful, local produce, island spices, and fresh-caught fish. Mmm!!!
Those tying in knot in Nashville like to incorporate Southern staples with modern twists like Nashville hot chicken biscuit sliders, mac n’ cheese, and sweet tea into their menus.
A destination wedding (or wedding where lots of guests are out-of-towners) is a perfect opportunity to showcase the local cuisine and create a unique dining experience. It will be something your guests will love + remember.
If you don’t want flair to be pulled through the whole menu, add it as an ode to the location or theme with the desserts.
For both of our receptions we served pineapple-upside down cakes which have a great connection to the history of Hawaii. One of James Dole’s (as in the Dole Food Company, “Pineapple King of Hawaii”) engineers invented a machine to cut pineapples into rings which were canned and made pineapple readily available on the mainland. The first mention of this cake was in 1930 and used the canned pineapple rings with the addition of a maraschino cherry for a color pop. The cakes were moist, delicious, and a perfect way to keep the Hawaiian vibe alive.
Get Creative With Your Cake Topper
Note: I can't find a picture of our flamingoes right now :(
Most newlyweds today top their cakes with flowers, but alternative cake toppers are another quick and simple way to personalize your day. Plus the topper can become a wedding day keepsake.
With tropical destination chosen + my one of favorite animals being flamingoes, we couldn’t pass up the chance to incorporate the beautiful pink birds in our day.
We found felt flamingoes (which were actually wine bottle toppers) took the bottoms off and replaced them with golf tees. Then added a felt bowtie to the groom flamingo and a floral crown and veil to the bride one. We are obsessed!
You Don’t Have To Have A Cake.
Cake just may not be your thing. It’s definitely not LeBraun’s so we decided to use dessert as a chance to share some of our favorite sweet treats with our guests.
For our Maui wedding night, we rented a fire pit then roasted marshmallows and make s’mores with our friends. S’mores are our favorite!
I didn’t want to miss out on “cutting the cake,” so we opted to have an eight-inch round pineapple-upside down cake for the moment in Hawaii, which was sliced and served right after.
For our Nashville reception, we had an assortments of sweet and savory delicious treats—pistachio meringues, cocoa meringues, three seasonal sorbets, fruit platter, cheese + charcuterie board, and mini pineapple upside-down cakes.
Many alternatives are more cost effective than a classic cake, and can be displayed longer since they don't have to be formally served.
Some other creative alternatives I’ve seen include:
- Cookies and Milk
- Rice Krispy Treats
- Las Paletas (Mexican Popsicles)
- Candy buffet
Whatever you choose to serve, remember it can be something unexpected that makes the night memorable. Just make sure it’s something that you’ll look forward to at the end of the evening.
Wedding favors are a great way to say thank you to your wedding guests and another easy way to add a small personal touch to the evening.
However we did struggle to figure out something personal yet useful to send our wedding guests away with, but I think we ended up with the perfect favor—infused olive oils.
Have you ever been to one those olive oil stores? If not, seriously go tomorrow! You can sample oils and vinegars infused with everything from mushrooms, coffee, chili, Persian lime, and truffles.
Don't Forget About Adding "You" Into The Ceremony
The belief that the wedding ceremony should be a reflection of you and your fiancé as a couple was something LeBraun and I took very seriously.
Check out how we weaved little bits and pieces of our favorite things. personalities, and love story into the design of our special day—Making Our Wedding Ceremony A Meaningful & Memorable Reflection of Us.