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15 Standout Reception Ideas

Vintage wedding photos on display.  

7. Include your entire family without crowding the aisle.
Ask your family members for pictures from their own weddings and display them; include vintage photos of those who have passed on. Or, incorporate a famous family recipe into your menu. One New York bride included recipes from both grandmothers: “I had one grandmother’s pierogies at the cocktail hour, and my other grandma’s garlic pasta, served late at night.”

An autumnal place-card holder.  

8. Let the season inspire the details.
For one fall wedding, planner Loulie Walker placed escort cards atop mini albino pumpkins, and for a holiday-themed reception, she created Christmas tree-like centerpieces from oversize gumdrops and carnations. Hire a choir to sing or carol as guests arrive to the reception. Josh Brooks of Fête recommends the Boys Choir of Harlem ($15,000; 212-201-1303; For an over-the-top “Winter Wonderland”-themed wedding, Preeti D. Shah of Spotlight Style rented an ice machine to sprinkle snow over guests, and a faux ground cover of non-evaporating snow so it looked as though they were walking on clouds (from $250 for machine rental; Snowmasters; 256-229-5551).

9. Let guests take their own portraits.
One New York couple set out a Polaroid camera so guests could take their mugs and place them on a magnetic board for everyone’s viewing. (Sadly, Polaroid instant film is being discontinued—start your eBay searches now!). If you want a filmstrip-producing vintage photo booth, rent one from NYC Photo Booth (from $1,795 for four hours; 800-531-3727; Or, ask your photographer about providing a self-automated portrait set-up (usually from $350 an hour, widely available). Mark Van S. studio’s Digital Photobooth comes with a 3,000-lumens projector, so you can literally project photos as they’re being taken (from $3,900; 718-852-7399; Planners Josh Brooks and Jung Lee, along with their colleague David Sugar, take the rowdiness a step further with a video confessional booth (from $1,900; 917-549-2715).


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