WEDDING PLANNING

22 Unique Wedding Reception Ideas On A Budget You’ll Love

Looking to save cash while still sprucing up your wedding reception? Look no further than these quirky & money-saving ideas!

Shannon Capri

March 12, 2017

What Is A Wedding Reception?

Next to the marriage ceremony itself, your wedding reception is going to be a huge part of the night (and, for your guests, it might be the most memorable portion).

While saying “I do” is definitely a big deal for you, your guests always look forward to the cutting of the cake and the fun games that await them at the reception.

But, thinking of unique wedding reception ideas that are both entertaining and memorable isn’t as easy as it sounds.

How Can I Make My Wedding Reception Interesting?

The two most important things to ensure guests will have a good time at a wedding reception are good food and good company.

Good food is an easy one to manage – even if you’re on a budget, any guest will appreciate a simple, honest meal or a buffet of small bites. But good company is a trickier one, since often it’s one of the few times you’re mixing all of your important friends with your families, and it can be hard to predict which guests will mesh well.

How Do You Entertain Wedding Guests?

You want your guests to have fun, too, which is why the reception should give them plenty of ways to get up and interacting with one another.

The reception, after all, is the night’s biggest party—and that means you need lots of great food and games to keep everyone occupied! The night should fly by and be packed full of memories, but that’s only possible if you have multiple activities for people to participate in.

Some people opt for a series of scheduled wedding activities in the reception, but it’s important to have a balance so it doesn’t start to feel too stuffy and over planned for guests that just want to relax and chat.

Below are a few ideas to help keep guests mingling and having a good time.

Setting Up Your Wedding Reception

Before we begin sharing some great ways to keep your guests busy and make the night memorable, let’s first get into a few ways you can setup your reception area to make the most of the space and everything you have going on.

#1 – The Food

Ideally, you will locate the food near the bar, and that should already be located somewhere near the bathrooms (that’s naturally where people will look). Your dining tables should be setup accordingly. Depending on how many guests you have and how large the area is, you’ll want to either keep the tables near the focal point (like the dance floor) or near the food.

#2 – The Space

You might also need the tables placed all around the reception area if you have a small venue or a lot of guests! Just make sure there’s plenty of walking space, with walkways intuitively setup between the dance floor and eating area so everyone can get around.

#3 – The Dancefloor

Typically, food and dance should be kept as separate as possible. Again, try to avoid mixing the stationary activities and the good talking spots with the dancing around and moving spots so that no one is bumping into anyone.

If you’re hiring a sketch artist or someone to entertain guests and they need to be in one area, they should usually be setup away from the dance floor to make sure that people standing around aren’t getting in the way of guests who are moving around.

Obviously, the band or DJ should be right at or on the dance floor.

Unique Wedding Reception Ideas

The perfect way to keep kids (and adults!) entertained for hours

Why they’re awesome

People who are shy on the dance floor might appreciate having an alternate activity like lawn bowling or croquet to help them let loose. Often weddings feel a little uptight, and lawn games are the perfect way to help guests relax and mingle!

Perfect for

If your reception is going to be held on a (hopefully) sunny lawn, why not have a few lawn games to break out for guests who don’t love dancing?

OOFIT Solid Wood Cornhole Game Set

Cornhole is the perfect wedding reception game. Opt for sturdy construction because you never know what is going to happen at a wedding.

Splinter Woodworking Co. Giant Tower Game

Jenga is a ton of fun for both kids and adults. This tower set will keep guests entertained, and will come in handy for future family events and parties.

GoSports Giant Wooden 4 in a Row Game

Who doesn’t love a good game of 4-in-a-row? Bring back childhood memories with this giant game set perfect for indoor or outdoor use. Perfect for a photo backdrop!

BucketBall Giant Beer Pong Set

If you know there are people coming to party at your wedding, they will absolutely love this giant beer pong set! Complete with carrying case, cups, holders, and giant balls, this set has everything you need for hours of fun.

Keep the party going all night to your favorite custom tunes

Why we love it

If you have a good friend who’s willing to check in on the equipment in the event of a technical glitch, then you have a way cheaper alternative to a band or a DJ! This is a great way to give your wedding reception a more personal touch.

What you’ll need

You’ll need some good speakers to hook up to your phone or laptop for the sound quality to be good enough, but it’s possible to find speakers that have great sound quality for the price if you know where to look!

Set up a board game station for guests to challenge each other

Why we love it

Love board games? Having some board game options like Scrabble, Catan, and Carcassonne is a fun, quirky option for encouraging guests who might not know each other well to mingle.

Added benefit

It’s hard to know what to say to your best friend’s sister’s mother-in-law at the best of times, but Yahtzee is a great ice breaker!

Let your guests capture and share the best moments of the night easily

Why we love it

Having a polaroid or instax camera that guests can pick up and use is a fun way to help make memories!

The great thing about this option is you can also be creative with what to do with the pictures once they’re developed – do you want guests to feel free to keep the pictures they take?

Or would you rather the pics be put in a basket, so you can collect them later?

More uses for this idea

This can also be a fun alternative to a wedding guest book – guests who snap pictures can write a message on the bottom of the picture for the bride and groom!

FujiFilm instax mini 9 Instant Film Camera

An eco-friendly option to honor a timeless tradition

Why we love it

If your outdoor wedding will go into the evening, it’s nice to have an extra late-reception event to bring everyone together again and make the evening extra special.

Releasing sky lanterns can be a romantic, quiet pause in a party that’s getting wild, or a way to spice up a night that’s dwindling.

How it’s done

Guests that want to participate each get a lantern to send their wishes floating up into the sky, and the lit lanterns floating up are a beautiful image in the night that will stick in their memories forever.

Keep the kids busy and out of guest’s hair by setting up a kid zone

Why we love it

If several of your guests will be bringing kids, a kid activity center is a great way to help entertain younger guests, so they don’t get tired out too easily.

A few coloring books and crayons, a small chalkboard, or a play mat with cars, blocks, and other toys are all easy things that can keep kids entertained for hours.

Helpful tip

It’s important to remember that the best toys for this type of thing are ones that encourage the kids to play quietly without being too disruptive.

LET THEM EAT CAKE!

Why we love it

We know that the bride and groom get the top tier, but if you’ve spent more than you wanted to on a giant cake and you’re worried that the lower tiers will get left half-eaten, put some take home boxes beside the cake at the end of the evening!

Don’t forget yourself

Make sure you’ve stowed away anything you want to take home before doing this though, so guests have a clear idea of what’s fair game!

Keep guests snacking away while waiting for the cake

Why we love it

Dinner and cake are classics, but why not mix it up with your favorite snack foods?

Candy tables are a big wedding trend right now and are a really fun way to entertain guests, but you can also rent popcorn machines, have an ice cream bar, or a selection of casual snacks.

Customize this idea

A fun extension of this idea might be a bar featuring the favorite snacks of the bride and groom, so two people hitting the snack bar at the same time have something to talk about!

Create your own custom wedding batch of beer to share with friends

Why we love it

Home brewing is fun, and if you’re at all interested in brewing your own wine or beer, make a batch for your wedding! It’s simple and easy to get customized labels, and guests who know that the bride or groom made their beer or wine will be much more interested in talking about it with their tablemates.

Make it match

You can also brew unique beer or wine with flavors that match your wedding theme, like pineapple wine for a tropical theme, or rosehip wine for a romantic touch.

Northern Brewer Brew. Share. Enjoy. HomeBrewing Starter Set

This kit has everything you need to make, bottle, and cap up to 5 gallons of your own beer. That should be more than enough for your guests to sample & share on the big day.

Feel like the bouquet toss is a bit outdated for your audience?

Why we love it

Try handing out individual flowers from the bouquet, or choosing alternative things to throw, like plush favors or small cards with inspirational quotes.

Pro tip

It is a great idea to have your wedding florist prepare two bouquets: one to keep and one to hand out flowers from.

Photos are a huge wedding keepsake, and everyone loves a great scavenger hunt

Why we love it

This idea combines the two and makes sure that you’ll have plenty of great photos to put into your album! Provide a list of photo ops for your scavengers to seek out. For instance, make one of the checklists to take a picture of someone laughing or to catch the best dancer of the night in action.

Share the love

Make sure to include a hashtag on the scavenger hunt card so everyone can share their photos and look them over later!

Photos are a huge wedding keepsake, and everyone loves a great scavenger hunt

Why we love it

Who said you can’t play with your food? Let the rules go out the window the night of your reception by adding an interactive food station. Chocolate fountains are a classic, but make sure you have plenty to dip.

Customize it

You can also do built-it-yourself tacos and burritos or other foods by changing out what you let flow in the fountain. Cheese sauce is a fun and unexpected way to kick it up a notch.

Let everyone have a voice on your big day without taking time from the festivities

Why we love it

Everyone loves giving their input, and since not everyone will have the chance to do a big toast to the happy couple, give them the chance to write a special note for you. Have a note card for each gift titled “Dear newlyweds…” so they can write something for you to admire.

Customize it

You can also put a more entertaining twist on this by asking them a specific question, like “What’s the first activity we should try as a couple?”.

Give back to those you love

Why we love it

Everyone is bringing the bride and groom excellent gifts for their new life together, so give your guests something in return. The raffle prize can be anything, like a giant gift basket or a gag present.

Go crazy with it

You could also let the raffle winner smash the ice sculpture you had made for the wedding—the possibilities are endless!

Let your guests get creative with this fun & artistic reception idea

Why we love it

This is another great way to get some good keepsakes from your wedding guest. Similar to the notecards addressed to the newlywed couple, you can ask your guests to doodle their favorite memory of the reception by providing a doodle card and markers.

Fun for all

This idea lets your guests get creative and show off their art skills. Collect the drawings at the end of the night to look through after the honeymoon, and frame your favorite ones!

Give your guests something to smile about & take home as a reminder of the big day

Why we love it

This is a fantastic way for everyone to have fun keepsakes from your wedding night! Hire a caricature artist to sketch guests (upon request) so they can save their memories of your happy union for years to come.

Why not re-invent your wedding theme by incorporating a tradition from a different culture?

Why we love it

This will leave a lasting impression on your guests as they get to experience something new in a familiar setting. There are also financial incentives for incorporating cultural decorations and themes into your wedding – the materials needed for decoration are often quite inexpensive. Ideas can range from unique jewelry, fabrics, hand painted pots, and more!

Make it yours

Think back to your favorite vacations or foods and think about how you can incorporate them into your own celebration.

Do you have old, empty bottles of wine lying around at home? We sure do!

Why we love it

Don’t just throw them away, use them as hanging decor using wires or colored string. Simply tie the thin wire around the bottle’s neck and suspend it from a tree or rail. You can paint your bottles or write messages on them with a sharpie, or even put fresh cut flowers in them! Refractions of light shining through each bottle will create a wonderful kaleidoscope on the walls.

Colored candles look stunning floating in glass or crystal bowls filled half-way with water

Why we love it

To take this idea to the next level, fill your bowl with colored pebbles, rocks, or even sand from the best beaches you’ve visited around the world. This is a great centerpiece for tables that have the potential to reflect almost any wedding theme. Intricately charming yet simple – and imagine the contrast against a white sheet!

Ditch the seats and treat your guests to a more intricate and comfortable experience.

Why we love it

If you’re close to an animal feed store, purchase stacks of hay and cover them with your favorite fabrics or warm and soft blankets. This is a beautiful choice for bohemian or natural themed weddings, especially those taking place outdoors or in the country. Out of all the unique wedding decoration ideas for your reception, this option serves the dual purpose of both seating AND offering a unique design that is truly special to you.

Make a day out of it to find some fun local flavors to incorporate into your wedding

Why we love it

Old mailboxes and containers serve as rustic wedding card collection boxes with this elegant and budget-friendly reception idea. The worn texture and look draws an earthy, rustic aura to your wedding. Take time to visit local art schools and scout projects of prospective artists. Sometimes you will be able to get original, un-seen decor items and art pieces for your wedding without the cost associated with established artists.

Need a unique wedding game to keep guests entertained?

Why we love it

Try this wine bottle ring toss idea. You can purchase an old milk-bottle holder and fill it with empty wine bottles. Pick up some cheap, fun, oversized rings at the mall or online and offer a small prize to your guests if they win their toss!

Wedding Reception FAQ

There are plenty of questions that come along with planning a wedding. When it comes to the reception, here are some of the most common.

Why Do We Have Wedding Receptions?

The wedding reception comes after the ceremony. It’s a time for guests to give their well-wishes to the newlyweds and usually when the cake is cut and dinner is served.

Dancing and other activities will be included, along with plenty of photos. Oftentimes, there will be additional guests at the reception, such as colleagues and other non-relatives who were not present to witness the personal ceremony itself.

How Long Is the average Wedding Ceremony & Reception?

Most ceremonies last around 30 minutes. A basic wedding reception is four hours long if you’re serving a full meal.

How Many Activities Should My Wedding Reception Have?

The number of games or activities a reception has depends on the couple and their guests.

Some couples might want the reception to stretch well into the night with multiple interactive games and dances.

Others might want a shorter reception with a few planned dance songs and 1-2 activities that guests can participate in.

Closing Thoughts

Much of wedding decor can be done at home, so get creative or find others that are willing to help you. Dive deep into creative, affordable ideas and spend the rest on your honeymoon or things that really matter.

We hope we’ve sparked your imagination with some unique and fun wedding reception ideas to add a spark to the evening’s festivities. Anything else you’ve seen in the past that has struck you as a great idea, or ideas you’ve had that you wish you would’ve thought of? Leave a comment below!

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Hannah Warren // Senior Writer & Editor We may earn a commission through carefully selected links on this site. However, this never influences our evaluations or writing - our opinions are 100% our own. You want to look your best for your daughter's wedding day &...

Best Wedding Flats: Comfortable Flat Wedding Shoes for the Bride

Best Wedding Flats: Comfortable Flat Wedding Shoes for the Bride

Best Wedding Flats for 2020 Comfortable Flat Wedding Shoes for the BrideYou want to look glamorous on your wedding day – but who says you can’t also be comfortable? By the end of the night, your heels will be begging for some wedding flats Looking like you stepped out...

Enso Rings Review: 3 Silicone Wedding Bands Reviewed for 2020

Enso Rings Review: 3 Silicone Wedding Bands Reviewed for 2020

Dustin Otterspoor // Senior Writer & Editor We may earn a commission through carefully selected links on this site. However, this never influences our evaluations or writing - our opinions are 100% our own. Enso ring review: a stylish silicone wedding band alternative...

The 14 Best Diamond Alternatives For Engagement Rings in 2020

The 14 Best Diamond Alternatives For Engagement Rings in 2020

The Best Diamond Alternatives For Engagement Rings in 2020Whether or not you support the diamond industry, these beautiful and unique diamond alternative engagement rings will dazzle without the high pricetag!Written by Shannon CapriDoes an engagement ring have to...

Cheap Wedding Dresses Under $100: Five Classic Styles For 2020

Cheap Wedding Dresses Under $100: Five Classic Styles For 2020

Cheap Beautiful Wedding Dresses: 5 Styles under $100There are thousands of cheap wedding dresses out there, and we scoured the web to find the best deals that don’t compromise on looks or quality.Written by Shannon Capri5 Beautiful Wedding Dress Styles Under...

The 20 Best Silicone Wedding Bands for Men & Women in 2020

The 20 Best Silicone Wedding Bands for Men & Women in 2020

Shannon Capri // Lead Columnist & Senior Editor We may earn a commission through carefully selected links on this site. However, this never influences our evaluations or writing - our opinions are 100% our own. Best Silicone Wedding Bands Give your fingers and bank...

The Best Men’s Wedding Shoe Ideas for 2020

The Best Men’s Wedding Shoe Ideas for 2020

Best Wedding Shoes for Men in 2020Finding the best wedding shoes for men can seem difficult - we break down the most iconic and new wedding shoe styles for 2020 to give you inspirationWritten by Dustin OtterspoorLooking for the best men's wedding shoes? The big day is...

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Trendy Mens Pocket Squares

Trendy Mens Pocket Squares

Find the perfect suit pocket squares for your wedding!Heather Kuplast // Writer & EditorWe may earn a commission through carefully selected links on this site. However, this never influences our evaluations or writing - our opinions are 100% our own.About Pocket...

Best Wedding Bow Ties

Best Wedding Bow Ties

Top styles, designers and where to find wedding bow tiesHeather Kuplast // Writer & EditorWe may earn a commission through carefully selected links on this site. However, this never influences our evaluations or writing - our opinions are 100% our own.Choosing the Bow...

The Ultimate Honeybook Review for 2020

The Ultimate Honeybook Review for 2020

We may earn a commission through carefully selected links on this site. However, this never influences our evaluations or writing - our opinions are 100% our own.Dustin Otterspoor // Senior Writer & EditorHoneyBookBest Overall Management ToolStarting from: $34 per...

The Best Wedding Tumblers for 2020

The Best Wedding Tumblers for 2020

Shannon Capri // Senior Writer & Editor We may earn a commission through carefully selected links on this site. However, this never influences our evaluations or writing - our opinions are 100% our own. Go green with fun personalized wedding tumblersAre you looking...

12 Fun & Unique Wedding Gift Ideas for 2020

12 Fun & Unique Wedding Gift Ideas for 2020

12 Fun & Unique Wedding Gift Ideas for 2020Cash or a gift? Why not find the perfect gift for the happy couple to remember you by!?Written by Kelli SalmonPicking a good wedding gift seems easy at firstThe invitation came in the mail today, now what? Well, that’s...

Best Wedding Gifts 2020: Popular Gift Ideas for the Bride & Groom

Best Wedding Gifts 2020: Popular Gift Ideas for the Bride & Groom

Best Wedding Gifts for 2020Explore some of the most memorable and unique wedding day gift ideas to celebrate the new bride and groom!Picking a good wedding gift seems easy at firstThe invitation came in the mail today, now what? Well, that’s simple—it’s time to start...

15 Best Mother of the Bride Gift Ideas for 2020

15 Best Mother of the Bride Gift Ideas for 2020

15 Best Mother of the Bride Gift Ideas for 2020Your future bride's mother is an important part of her life, and soon will be a part of yours - get her a gift that she will love and cherish forever.Source: ABM PhotographyFinding good mother of the bride gift ideas can...

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