What Are The Unconventional Wedding Reception Tips?

woman standing beside black metal grille inside bu

Celebrations are more interactive than ever, with couples surprising and delighting their guests with all sorts of wedding reception activities and entertainment to get (and keep) the party going.

From beloved lawn games to professional performers and even printing your face on a cocktail, here are 11 unique wedding reception ideas — with and without dancing

  • Have a pre-ceremony cocktail hour. 
  • Write your vows (love letters) 
  • Have a family member or friend officiate the wedding. 
  • Wedding party with whoever the couple wants on their side.
  • Include your pets
  • A grown-up flower girl or ring bearer.

Have a picnic with your closest friends and family after the ceremony, or return to your house and turn up the music. On the other hand, you could do something completely original and go to the cinema to watch a film. There are no rules as to what your reception has to include, so do what you want to, and enjoy it.

  • Hire a roaming raw bar. 
  • Surprise guests with an end-of-the-night food truck. 
  • Pick an incredible backdrop for your engagement session. 
  • Could you show them some #Natitude? 
  • Guide guests to their seats with take-home wine stoppers. 
  • Frame the scenery. 
  • Forget the flower baskets.
  • Have your wedding at a unique venue like an art gallery.
  • How about a warehouse.
  • Have your wedding in your backyard.
  • Have your wedding at an Airbnb /VRBO.
  • City Hall and a meal.
  • Have a BBQ instead of a wedding reception.
  • Eloping somewhere totally awesome with your best friends.

Elopement refers to a marriage conducted in a sudden and secretive fashion, usually involving a hurried flight away from one's place of residence together with one's beloved to get married without parental approval.


Challenge Guests To A Game


This first wedding reception idea takes advantage of the great outdoors. "Set up croquet or other lawn games," suggests Amy Nichols, owner of Amy Nichols Special Events. Options include monogrammed corn hole, giant Jenga, and bocce ball. Set the game time to the background of bluegrass music or soft jazz, and let guests get a little competitive, drink in hand.

Ask An Artist To Paint The Room

Commission your very own wedding art with this very creative wedding reception idea. First, hire a painter to capture the scene of your wedding. "Guests like watching the scene unfold on the canvas throughout the evening," says planner Tzo Ai Ang of Ang Weddings and Events. Next, place the artist in an area with a good view of the room but where guests can also stand by and observe. One tip: "Give the artist early access, so they can paint the background before guests arrive for dinner," Ang suggests.

Have Fun In A Photo Booth—Or Two

"Photo booths are always a big hit with guests," explains Chandra Keel of Chandra Keel Weddings + Events. She recommends offering two photo booth options in which guests can memorialise the event. "Each booth should have its backdrop and props," she says. "Guests can choose which style they like best or try both."

Print Your Face On A Cocktail

Put a new spin on your photo booth and bar by combining the two. The Grand Bevy's SIPMI Live is a technology that allows you to print photos on edible paper to top your cocktails. You can sync this to your photo booth so that couples can sip their latest pose—after an Instagram, of course. Another option is to have the photo on the cocktail set at each place setting as the guest arrives for dinner.

"It's an intimate and fantastically fun touch to your wedding," says Josh Rosenthal, CEO and founder of The Grand Bevy. "To pull it off, ask your guests to send a picture ahead of the event. Just don't tell them why or you'll spoil the surprise." Be sure to publicise your hashtag nearby—you'll want to see the posts.

Guide Guests Through A Wine Or Spirits Tasting

Make your bar into interactive entertainment by hosting a live tasting of your favourite wines or spirits. It's easy. Come up with a theme, such as tasting beers from local breweries or a whiskey flight of your favourite American and Scotch spirits. It's also a great way to show off special drinks to your relationship, such as a lineup of Chilean wines to commemorate your first big trip to South America or Champagnes to honour your engagement in Paris. Then, have a bartender or sommelier guide groups of guests through the tasting during the reception.

Offer A Build-Your-Own Cocktail Bar

Have your guests participate in the mixology of their drinks with a build-your-own cocktail bar. The bartender will mix up the base beverage, such as a gin and tonic, and then guests can add their garnishes from a herb and botanical station. Or, host a martini bar where guests can customise their cocktail by choosing between gin or vodka, shaken or stirred, and olives or a lemon twist.

Set Up A Portrait Studio

A photo booth with hilarious props is amusing, but why not give your guests a serious photoshoot? Set up a portrait studio where guests can have a well-lit, posed shot in front of a glamorous backdrop. The resulting pictures will be ready to grace the pages of a magazine. The trick? The photos are taken by a pro photographer rather than a machine.

"It creates an experience where the guest and the couple both get to capture timeless classics," says photographer Gurminder Banga of Banga Studios, who has set up portrait lounges at events worldwide. Oh, and you "must have a wind machine because that takes it to a whole new #BeyoncéStatus level," he says.

Design a scene that matches the style of your wedding, including similar colours and decor, and position guests at different heights to create a dynamic shot.

Hire Aerialists, Mermaids, And Interactive Performers

Performers create a "wow" factor at your wedding, from aerialists pouring Prosecco to mermaids swimming in pools. Think about what makes the most sense at your event. Will professional dancers in disco-ball-inspired outfits help move guests to the dance floor? Do you want an entrance to remember with moving statues?

"I love it when guests enter a room after cocktail hour and see something that creates immediate excitement," says DJ Joe Bunn of the Bunn DJ Company. He has worked with companies like Elevate to suspend performers in the middle of the ballroom and greet guests with a dress made of Champagne flutes that are filled with bubbles. His tip? "Hire a company specialising in costumes, rigging, and performers." Then, you won't have to worry about any of the logistics. Instead, sit back and enjoy the show.

Pose For A 360 Glam Cam

Make like an actress on the red carpet and have your guests pose for a 360 video, just like the celebs attending the biggest award shows. It works especially well if the dress code is formal or black tie. Why not feel like Hollywood royalty for a night?

Offer The Coolest Of Desserts

Here's your Top Chef moment: Delight your guests by instantly freezing ice cream in front of them. Planner Sonal J. Shah of Sonal J. Shah Event Consultants loves including this, known as nitrogen ice cream, as an alternative to a dessert station. How it works: Ice cream is flash-frozen with liquid nitrogen, which looks like magic to someone watching the liquid turn to a creamy mass that looks and feels like Häagen-Dazs. Companies like 321Chillz will come on-site with all the equipment to serve inventive flavours like Chocolate Cherry Pinot Noir and RumChata & Fireball. Bon appétit!

Karaoke With A Live Band

Karaoke at a wedding might not be your first thought but hear us out: Host live band karaoke. "Take what you love about karaoke and throw out what you hate," says Jeremy Davis of Equinox Orchestra, who offers this as a service to their couples. That means there are no cheesy machines or sake bombs. Instead, the band works with the couple ahead of time to develop a setlist based on their guests' favourite songs. Then, when karaoke kicks off, usually in the last hour of the reception, guests can jump on stage and sing along with the help of lyrics on an iPad. "Our ringleaders are there to help those that are good at singing or awful at singing make it through the tunes with the band," he adds.

Contrast The Unconventional To The Traditional Wedding Ceremony

Excited guests twist around to peer at the head of the church aisle as organ music begins. It's the cue the procession is about to begin!

The bride's mother leads the way and then sits in the front pew on the left, the bride's side. Meanwhile, the groom has materialised at the altar.

Bridesmaids and groomsmen appear in pairs, one man and one woman each. They are solemn, arm in arm, walking down the aisle.

Each pair splits at the altar, lining up on the side assigned to their gender.

Woman = Bride = Left

Man = Groom = Right

Then cuteness. A little flower girl is fumbling rose petals from a basket. A small boy child is holding a ring bearer pillow.

The organ music rises to a crescendo. Here comes the bride!!! She appears. Demure in a white, flowing gown. The long veil covers her face.

It is time for the bride's father to give her to another man!!! He escorts her down the aisle and hands her off to the groom.

The religious leader of the church conducts the ceremony. Vows, rings, blusher folded back, kiss.

The new couple, a man with his wife, walks back up the aisle. Guests congratulate them at the door as they leave. The couple leaves the church, peppered with thrown rice.

Non-Traditional Wedding Ceremony Ideas

lighted tree decor on wooden dock photo – free ima

Since you are reading this, at least some of the details above are not your thing. The good news is you can change any piece of it you wish as long as you stay within your state's law.

Keep scrolling if you do not get into the formality of a church ceremony and regular reception. You will find some things to do for your anti-wedding wedding under "What to Do Instead of a Wedding."

If you plan to have a ceremony with a full contingent of family and friends present, read below. Here are some non-traditional ideas to get you started.

First, here's a bonus idea! If you find yourself in a lurch where guests would love to attend but cannot, stream your wedding ceremony so they will not miss out. Here's how to have an online wedding that anyone can attend.

Instead of the couple only, have a family wedding by including your children in the vows, with hugs and kisses.

Have each set of parents give away their son or daughter to the bride(s) or groom(s).

Instead of "giving away" the bride, have each parent "take in" the future spouse. (Not literally, of course. They don't want you living with them! LOL.)

Carry ferns instead of flowers. Or make the bouquets from buttons, brooches, or paper.

Or carry something else that reflects who you are. For example, a local couple here once carried flowers made from pizza. Not my thing, but hey, if your life is pizza, why not?

Play music and have everyone dance as you come out of the church instead of guests throwing rice or bird seeds.

Go bare-headed instead of wearing a veil or hat.

Hold the ceremony someplace besides a church. Remember those non-traditional venues I linked to above? Choose one of those instead!

Have grooms-people and brides-people instead of -maids and -men, mixing genders according to friendships or relationships.

If there are no obvious choices for a flower girl and ring bearer, omit them from the ceremony.

Have the wedding party face the guests during the ceremony.

Non-Traditional Wedding Wear

Wedding attire is another way to make your wedding stand out. Tradition dictates a white gown for the bride. Bridesmaids in the wedding colour, with matching dresses. Groomsmen in neutral-coloured tuxedos.

Here are some alternative ideas for wedding party wear

Wear bridal pants or other wedding dress alternatives instead of a gown. (See the bridal jumpsuits shopping section for inspiration.)

Buy a wedding gown in your favourite colour and put the bridesmaids in white.

Let your bridesmaids wear cocktail dresses with a colour or style theme rather than those made specifically as bridesmaid dresses (some of the pins on the Bridesmaid's Ideas pinboard can inspire you).

Instead of renting tuxes, let the guys wear suits or shirts and suspenders without a jacket.

Toast with a signature drink instead of champagne.

Skip the traditional guest book and choose a creative way to remember your guests–a thumbprint wishing tree or wishing rocks, for example (more ideas are in the Guest Book Alternatives section).

Set up a self-serve drink station instead of a full-service bar.

Instead of best man and maid of honour speeches, have those in the wedding party share their best stories.

See each other and spend quality time together before the wedding.

Toss something fun, like bride and groom bears or candy, instead of the bouquet and garter.

Feed each other something besides cake–another dessert or favourite entree.

Skip the tiered wedding cake altogether and have an ornate cake table with several single-layer versions or other desserts.

Provide an empty, food-friendly favour box and let guests choose their treats from a candy or food buffet. (Check out my page 37 Cheap and Unique Wedding Favour Ideas for Guests for more ideas) 

Make your centrepieces mini dessert stations and forego separate desserts and favours. (Like my Mini S'mores bar centrepiece.)

Have son-mother-in-law and daughter-father-in-law dances.

What To Do Instead Of A Wedding

If you do not get into the formality of a church ceremony and regular reception, this section's for you. An "anti-wedding" may be the thing for you and your partner.

Eloping is a time-honoured solution. This option is so obvious I didn't even give it a number! Tim and I planned a trip to Vegas and told a few people the night before leaving. We streamed the private ceremony online for people to watch live.

We also took photos and let close families choose which prints they'd like. And had a video made for the digitally challenged to watch once we returned home.

There were some unhappy campers among the family. I'm sure they would be with yours as well. But, hey! It's your wedding, and it should make you happy.

Notice the problem if you want to have a non-religious ceremony. And do not want a government official to preside. Non-traditional wedding ideas 26-29 cover possible options for you.


Wedding receptions can be fun, but they can also be pretty boring. We've got you covered if you're looking for some new and exciting entertainment options. We've gathered a list of the best (and most unusual) wedding reception entertainment ideas available. From fire dancers to contortionists, there's sure to be something that will excite your guests and make your reception memorable.

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