Wedding Reception Trends: To Extraordinary and Beyond the Traditional Sit-Down Dinner

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To Extraordinary and Beyond: Ten tips for Non-traditional, Trendsetting Wedding Receptions from Just Marry! owner, Susan Southerland.

Going from ordinary to extraordinary has been the goal of Susan Southerland, one of this country’s top wedding planners and owner of Just Marry!, a wedding planning and designing company with locations in Savannah, Georgia, and Orlando and St. Augustine, Florida.

These days, the trend in weddings includes daytime receptions and themed celebrations. So says Susan Southerland in Bridal Guide, Mar/Apr 2006. If a traditional nighttime celebration isn’t the right choice for your reception, Susan has some ideas that can help you think creatively.

Here are 10 INspirational ideas for an OUT-of-the-ordinary, trend-setting receptions:

1.    Sweet Surprises Dessert Reception -- If you love dessert, nothing would be sweeter than to invite your guests to join in a decadent dessert reception. Make sure you have your ceremony later than the regular dinner hour and be sure to indicate on your invitation that the reception is desert only. For something really special, have a chef attended cherries jubilee, bananas foster or crepes Suzette station. For a bit of whimsy, add a “make your own sundae” bar. Serve coffee, cappuccino, espresso and tea to accompany the desserts.

2.    Sunny Side Up Breakfast Reception -- Are you an early riser? Celebrate your nuptials at sunrise and follow up with a breakfast reception. Traditional breakfast items can be supplemented with some fun “action stations” like omelet stations or pancake stations. Give oatmeal a new twist and have your chef create an oatmeal crème brulee.

3.    “Small Plate” Reception – Treat your guests to a multitude of different foods with a “small plate” reception. This type of menu may include six courses or more, all served in small portions. Begin with a demi-tasse cup of your favorite soup. Follow it up with a small appetizer course, small salad course, fish course and beef course. Finish it up with a cheese course and then dessert.

4.    Brunch Bonanza Reception -- Brunch is a great way to showcase unusual and fun foods for your wedding. Put a twist on tradition with corned beef served over sautéed potatoes, eggs benedict with smoked salmon and spinach, and caramelized banana and mascarpone French toast. At the bar, Bloody Marys with an array of garnishes like horseradish, blue-cheese stuffed olives, and grilled scallops and shrimp. Add a splash of crème de cassis to champagne for a Kir Royale. Non-alcoholic drinks can include lemonade in sugar-rimmed glasses or iced tea with fresh mint.

5.    Go Tropical Luau -- Start by greeting your guests with a Hawaiian Lei. Your décor should include tropical flowers like Birds of Paradise, Ginger and Orchids. Menu ideas are extensive from roasted pig to poi; lomi salmon to laulau. Your specialty drink -- Mai Tais. Hire Polynesian dancers and Tiki drummers for entertainment and suggest your guests wear casual beach attire so they can relax and enjoy the serenity of the islands.

6.    Fabulous Fiesta -- A Mariachi Band or Flamenco guitar will likely get your guests dancing, and if that doesn’t work Tequila cocktails certainly will. For the cocktail hour, have a salsa and guacamole” bar. Offer your guests steamed shrimp, boiled egg, chopped red pepper, chopped cucumber, chopped tomato, chopped onion, diced chicken and tomatillos to customize their guacamole. Entrees can include traditional Mexican favorites from childhood like tacos and burritos, or you can go for upscale fare like Ceviche, or barbequed venison. Don’t forget the Mexican Wedding Cookies!

7.    Hot Hue Barbeque -- Guests will be delighted to celebrate your wedding with this fun-loving party. You can celebrate casually with traditional fare including ribs, chicken and potato salad, or dress up your barbeque with grilled tenderloin, chicken kabobs and grilled lobster tail. If you are in a location that permits fire pits, consider preparing s’mores for dessert and hire an old-fashioned storyteller for post dinner entertainment.

8.    Now We’re Cookin’ Clam Bake -- This celebration would be perfect on the beach or on the loggia of a great resort overlooking the beach. A fabulous clam bake menu would include Fresh Steamed Little Neck Clams, New England clam chowder, Corn on the Cob, Grilled Steak and Barbecued Chicken and Boiled Lobsters.

9.    Paint The Town Red Wine Pairing -- People are becoming savvier to wine and how it blends with food. Combine a bit of education with your wedding meal and hire a sommelier to work with your catering manager to create a perfect food and wine menu. Print a menu for your guests so they remember which wine they enjoyed. A great guest favor would be a bottle of wine from one of your courses.

10.    Music To My Ears Entertainment Based Reception -- This reception is truly for the adventurous. Consider having a multi-course meal and change your entertainment with each course. For example, appetizer course with an opera singer, soup course with a jazz trio, salad course with acrobatic performers, entrée with a big band, dessert with string trio. After the formal dinner, switch to a high-energy band or DJ for a night of dancing.

Bodacious Bonus idea… Whichever style of reception you choose, consider doing an “after-party.” Go from formal to wild with a martini bar, a light show, light hors d’oeurves, club music and dance the night away with the real party animals at your wedding.

Southerland is not new to high-profile weddings. Her weddings have appeared on the Style Network’s ‘Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?’, The Learning Channel’s “A Wedding Story,” and many of the country’s most popular bridal magazines. Susan is a popular speaker on weddings and wedding planning, she has spoken to many professional organizations, including the annual convention of the Association of Bridal Consultants and The Caribbean Wedding Association.

Whether looking for a traditional wedding day or a trendsetting alternative for your special day, the experts at Just Marry! have what it takes to handle the most challenging of circumstances while making the memories of a lifetime.

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