It’s a toss-up whether the reception or the wedding is more important, but your reception is almost certain to cost more and last longer, so chances are you will spend more time working on it. For this reason, you want it to be unique and speak to your personal style (while the ceremony will likely be more traditional and utilitarian).
However, you are likely working with a budget, which means you may not be able to get everything just the way you want it. For this reason, you’re going to have to prioritize. And when it comes to décor, you may find yourself with little left to spend (after food, entertainment, and so on). So here are a few ways to make your reception stylish and unique without spending a lot of extra cash.
The floral arrangements could get expensive, especially if you have your heart set on some rare or unseasonal flower, but you also have the potential to really cut costs here and still have some lovely arrangements. There are tons of beautiful flowers that aren’t too pricey and by buying what’s in season you can also keep the cost down.
So ask the florist for recommendations and think about making the centerpiece of each table a favor for one lucky guest seated there (mark a random name card from each table as the winner).
2. Table dressings.
Linens, plates, and silverware will all make a difference in the cost of each place setting. While you could certainly cheap out with paper plates and plastic utensils, you probably don’t want to do so unless you’re hosting a BBQ for your reception (in which case it is perfectly appropriate). But you also don’t have to shell out the money for fine china. Most likely no one will even notice if the service is plain, so go for something that won’t break the bank.
3. Dance floor.
Most reception halls have some sort of suitable flooring to accommodate the dancing portion of the evening. But if you’re in a carpeted room, think about renting out a sizable square of parquet flooring. It shouldn’t be too expensive and it will make cutting a rug a lot easier (after all, you don’t actually want to cut the rug by snagging your heels on it). This should help to avoid a lot of potentially hazardous tripping (and not the “light fantastic” variety).
Since you don’t have to pay the utility bill for the reception hall, you might not be terribly worried about the lighting – at least not until twilight settles in and you realize the only illumination in the place comes from horribly unflattering fluorescent tubes. Ug-ly. And bad for photos. So if you want to add some mood lighting without throwing a lamp on every table, you can create a gorgeous (and cheap) arrangement by pouring rice into a tea cup or mason jar and settling a votive candle in the center.
5. Other furnishings.
If you want something a little cozier than folding chairs, see about renting some stuffed couches and chairs from a local furniture store. They often have pieces that they rent out for events and it shouldn’t cost you much to create the lounge-y atmosphere you crave in a portion of the reception hall.