Most people’s wedding receptions are the biggest and most expensive party they’ll ever throw.
Insider asked wedding professionals what reception trends and traditions couples can skip to save money and stress.
Skip individual place cards in favor of a big seating chart
The award-winning wedding master of ceremonies Artem Lomaz told Insider that place cards can add unnecessary expense, clutter, and confusion to a reception.
“Place cards often get lost or mislabeled and leave guests unsure of where to sit,” he said.
Instead, do a seating chart that’s easy to personalize and allows guests to orient themselves in the space.
Champagne toasts can be a waste of money
The wedding planner Lindsey Nickel of Lovely Day Events said couples should skip handing out flutes of sparkling wine and allow guests to toast with the drinks they already have.
“This will save you a tremendous amount of money since guests often just take a few sips of champagne and leave the rest,” she said.
If you’re determined to offer bubbly, try serving it in shallow coupe glasses rather than flutes to reduce waste.
Trendy food walls can be unsanitary and wasteful
The food-wall trend — in which couples set up a wall of edible decor like doughnuts or candy — tends to look better on Instagram than in real life.
“After the first few guests grab their desired pieces, the novelty wears off and you’re left with stale snacks hanging on a wall,” Lomaz said. “And if your reception is outside, the food may attract wildlife or bugs.”
Avoid perishable decor by instead providing a photo op with draped fabric or hanging plants.
Scheduling a getaway car might cut your time with your guests short
Renting a fancy car to make a grand exit from your reception can be pricey and lead to missed opportunities to connect with guests.
“Getaway cars can be great for photos, but couples often feel rushed to leave and miss out on saying goodbye to guests,” Nickel told Insider.
Instead, the wedding planner recommended using that money for the bar tab at the after-party instead.
Fireworks can be smoky and dangerous
Fireworks are an exciting way to end a wedding, but they can be loud, smoky, and hazardous to the environment.
“The air and noise pollution created by fireworks can wreak havoc with the local environment and interfere with animal life,” Lomaz said.
If you want something similar, try passing out glow sticks or sparklers (with safety introductions) to guests.
A giant wedding cake isn’t necessary or cost-effective
“A huge cake isn’t necessary, especially since the high price of a large, elaborate wedding cake often catches couples by surprise,” Nickel said.
Instead, order a small cake to cut at the reception and serve a sheet cake, or have a dessert bar for guests.
A long lineup of speeches can be boring for guests
The wedding and event planner Keith Willard told Insider that most receptions don’t need more than one or two toasts.
“A long list of speeches or toasts can bore guests,” he said. “At least half your guests won’t know each other, meaning long-winded personal reflections won’t be appreciated.”
Willard also said that toasts should ideally clock in at under three minutes and be given by senior members of the wedding party, such as the maid of honor or the father of the bride.
Guests usually end up abandoning their favors
“Customized favors can often feel forced,” Nickel said. “Plus, the majority of favors are usually left behind by guests.”
If you really have your heart set on favors, consider something consumable like chocolates or jars of local honey.
You shouldn’t serve more than three courses at the reception
Even if you and your partner are foodies, a wedding reception isn’t the best time for a seven-course dining experience.
“Don’t make your guests sit through four or more courses,” Willard said. “A long meal is time consuming and takes away from the guests’ ability to let their hair down and have some fun at your wedding.”
Focus on choosing an incredible main course and some interesting appetizers for cocktail hour.
Dance-floor props can look out of place next to carefully chosen decor
The wedding photographer Amy Kolodziej said that dance-floor props can detract from the elegance of a wedding reception.
“Strobing headgear and neon glow sticks very rarely match the vibe from the rest of the wedding day,” she said.
The photographer suggested serving a signature cocktail or fun snack during the reception instead.
The bouquet and garter tosses might alienate some guests
The bouquet and garter tosses are longstanding wedding traditions that can make some guests feel uncomfortable.
“Unless you’re getting married young or before most of your friends, asking your guests to self-identify as single can be awkward,” Kolodziej said.
Skipping the flower toss can also save money by eliminating the need for an extra bouquet.