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The Wedding Guide - The Reception
The Reception

Theme Receptions
Receiving Lines
Guests / Seating
Reception Rituals
Wedding Toasts

Theme Receptions

Would you like to do something different for your big day? Here are some suggestions for popular theme weddings:

Period wedding
You and your guests dress up in the clothes of a certain era. Most popular are Victorian and early 20th century weddings. Expense is something to consider if you decide to do a period wedding.

Ethnic wedding
Celebrate your ethnic backgrounds with food, dress, and rituals of your heritage.

Holiday wedding
Of course Valentine's Day is the most popular variation on this theme. People also have Christmas and Halloween weddings.

All-night wedding
Sometimes this party continues in an additional hall after the normal-length reception. Sometimes it moves to someone's home. Usually it winds up with a breakfast the next morning.

Weekend wedding
Takes place at a resort or hotel. You spend the whole weekend with your guests on a mini-vacation.

Surprise wedding
It's a surprise for the guests. Invite them to a regular party, and when they arrive, they find out it's actually a wedding.

Home wedding
If you have a backyard big enough, or an interior big enough. It can be as formal or informal as you want.

Memory Lane wedding
Hold the wedding at a place that is special for the bride and groom. It can take place where you met (such as your college or high school), or where you first proposed marriage (a park or restaurant).

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Receiving Lines

The receiving line is an opportunity for the bride, groom, and key members of the wedding party to meet and greet every guest on their way out of the ceremony hall. These days most people do away with this ritual, and no one seems to mind. This way everybody gets to the reception hall that much quicker.

Guests / Seating

If you have to limit the number of guests, children are usually the first to go. Next are your co-workers. If you have a group of friends at work and you really want to invite them, you can invite them as a group and not invite their spouses or significant others. Also, you can whittle down the list by establishing a cut-off point and sticking to it. The most important thing is to be consistent and not make any exceptions. If you say no second, third, or fourth cousins, don't invite one or two of these. Usually you invite married guests' spouses. Lots of times you invite single guests' significant others, but if you have to keep the number down, you can ask the single people to come alone.

If your parents are divorced and one or both are remarried, you will probably want to invite your stepparents. Stepparents sometimes play a role in the ceremony or in the preparation or payment for the wedding. Make sure your natural parents are appropriately honored at the ceremony, however. If there is any tension between divorced parents, talk to them about how special this day is to you and seat them far apart from each other, without making either of them feel like they're being banished from the rest of the party.

During the ceremony, the bride's family usually sits on the left, and the groom's family sits on the right. At the reception, try to have eight to ten people at a table. Try to be considerate of the guests. Group people together at tables by age, relationship, common interests, profession, anything that will make them comfortable with each other. Elderly people will usually be happier away from the band or closer to the buffet table (if there is one). Some people have a head table with the bride and groom seated in the center of the table, with their bridal party members flanking them. In this situation, the bridal party members' spouses or partners are not seated with them. Often people opt for alternate arrangements, like having the bride and groom sit together at a two-person table, thus allowing the wedding party to mix comfortably with the rest of the guests. Usually you will employ placecards with each guest's name and table number. For a more informal choice, you can set up a seating chart with all the guests' names on it.

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Reception Rituals

The honeymoon
Teutonic marriages took place under a full moon. The newlyweds would then drink honey wine for thirty days after the wedding, hence the name.

Throwing rice
In the Orient, people would throw rice (which symbolizes fertility) at the couple in hopes that they would have many children. Today many people throw birdseed instead of rice, because uncooked rice is deadly to birds.

Bridal shower
The story is that there was a Dutch father who disapproved of a poor miller who wanted to marry his daughter. Saying that the wedding should not be stopped due to the miller's finances (or lack thereof), the bride's friends got together a dowry by "showering" the daughter with gifts.

Ring finger
The third finger on the left hand, because centuries ago there was thought to be a vein in that finger that led directly to the heart.

Wedding cake
In ancient Rome, a loaf of bread was broken over the bride's head, as a symbol of fertility. The guests would then eat the crumbs for good luck. In medieval times, wedding guests in England brought little cakes to the ceremony, which would be piled up together. After the ceremony, the bride and groom would stand over the pile of cakes and kiss. At some point, someone came up with the idea that they could put the cakes together and frost them, creating a precursor to our multi-layered wedding cake.

Diamond engagement ring
In medieval Italy, a groom would give the bride's family precious stones as a sign that he was serious about marrying her.

Wedding ring
In ancient times, a groom would wrap braided grass around the bride's wrists and ankles, to prevent her spirit from leaving her body. The grass later gave way to leather, carved stone, metal, then silver and gold.

In France, brides would bring all of their clothes and a few possessions with them to their husband's house in a small bundle, called a trousseau. Dowrys eventually became too large to be described by this diminutive word, but the name stuck. Today, trousseau can pretty much be used to describe what a bride receives at her bridal shower.

Something old, new, borrowed, and blue
"Old" signifies the bride's ties to her past; "new" is her hopes for the future; "borrowed" is friendship; "blue" is for faithfulness.

Carrying the bride across the threshold
This tradition originated in Rome, where it was ladylike to be hesitant to enter the bridal chamber; therefore, a new bride would only get to the room if her husband carried her in.

Best man and ushers
In the old days, a man would sometimes have to capture his bride from a protective family, sometimes a family with many big brothers. The man would have to bring his "best men" along with him to actually help him kidnap the bride from her family's house.

Bridesmaids and maid of honor
These were the women who would help the bride sneak away from her overprotective family in order to be taken away by the groom.

Old shoes
The father would throw old shoes at the bride to symbolize his yielding possession of his daughter. The shoes symbolized long-standing ownership and power over his daughter.

Giving away the bride
Just like it sounds. Once the father gave away his possession to the groom. Now it symbolizes the parents' recognition of the bride's passage from childhood into adulthood.

The veil
The veil has been worn to symbolize the bride's innocence and modesty. There is a legend behind the lace veil. It is said that George Washington's adopted daughter, Nelly Curtis, was proposed to by a man who saw her standing behind a lace curtain and was so taken by her beauty that he had to have her hand in marriage . She then wore a lace veil to the ceremony in order to preserve the effect for her groom.

Tossing the garter and the bouquet
In 14th-century France, wedding guests would chase the bride after the ceremony and tear off her garter in order to bring good luck. After a while, brides began voluntarily removing their garters and tossing them to the crowd. The bouquet was added to this toss later.

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Wedding Toasts

The first toast at the reception is given by the best man, after everyone has found their seat and has been served champagne. The bride and groom remain seated during the toast. After the best man's toast, the groom stands up and thanks the best man for his words, then toasts the bride and both sets of parents. After that, the bride may make a toast if she wishes, then the floor is open to anyone who would like to say a few words.

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Traditionally, the bride and groom take the first dance together, dancing to "their song." The bride also dances with her father, and the groom with his mother. At some point later in the party, the bridesmaids dance with the groomsmen. Any of these dances can be done away with, and they can happen at any point during the party. You can also combine dances; for instance, the bride and groom can start a dance together, and the father of the bride can cut in halfway through while the groom takes his mother around the dance floor.

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