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15 Standout Reception Ideas

Notebooks conveniently placed for guests' well-wishes.  

4. Celebrate your heritage through food ...
For a Chinese bride and Lebanese groom, caterer Olivier Cheng combined cuisines for the cocktail hour: He created a Middle Eastern grill station and a dim sum station, and passed wonton cups with shiitake, ginger, and scallion, as well as pumpkin kibbe with chickpeas, spinach, and tamarind dipping sauce. Something we love for a Jewish wedding? Mini matzo-ball-soup shooters! Planner Ann David integrated Indian and Jamaican flavors into signature cocktails to pay homage. For this, call on mixologist Herb Westphalen, 212-684-6521; or a specialty caterer like Death & Co., 917-595-9717; Cuffs & Buttons, 212-625-2090; or Contemporary Cocktails, 646-652-6879.

Individual paper cranes at a Korean wedding.  

5. ... Or through décor and entertainment.
To incorporate her culture into her wedding, New York bride Jane Shin folded a paper crane for each guest using origami paper. “Cranes are Korean symbols of longevity, patience, and care,” she says. At a Lebanese wedding, planner Leslie Price hired belly dancers to perform. “The bride did a belly dance of her own. She had been taking lessons for months” (from $1,200 for dancers; Nadia Moussa Dance Company; 212-677-8173). At a wedding at the Foundry, Mexican bride Olivia Lua hired a mariachi band: “It was explosive; they had the trumpets blaring. Our guests couldn’t stop talking about it.”

6. Solicit keepsakes from your guests.
Send a blank response card with your invitation instead of a check-off RSVP, and (hopefully) you’ll receive a creative response from each guest. Keep the responses in an album for years to come, or display them at the reception. At one wedding, Jung Lee of Fête set out old-school notebooks and pencils for each guest to jot down notes to the couple. For something more elegant, leave an oversize glass-blown jar in a central location and set small, blank cards on a silver tray alongside an engraving pen, with a sign asking for well-wishes. Planner Eyal Tessler did something much more elaborate for one wedding: “We included a piece of fabric in the invitation and asked guests to personalize it with photos and drawings and send it back with the reply. Each piece was sewn into a quilt which we used as the chuppah cover.”


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