Top Wedding Reception Themes

A wedding reception is important. It’s not just an after party. It’s the celebration of two people joining their lives together. It’s a milestone in this crazy thing called life. With that in mind, there is no one-size-fits-all wedding reception.

Every couple is different. And, with that, their needs are different too. For that reason, we created this article so each couple can identify with at least one of the top wedding reception themes.

After reading this, you and your significant other will be able to identify what type of reception you want and what your reception goals are. You’ll be able to break down the goals into tangible, doable tasks. And you’ll find out what wedding reception theme you can integrate into your wedding.

Wedding Before Wedding Reception

First, before you go on to plan your reception, you need to figure out what you want from your wedding. Overall, weddings are supposed to be a day of celebration—sure, there may be a little stress but not to the point where it overshadows your best day.

Take a gut check. If the thought of inviting hundreds of people to your big day makes your heart flutter, it may be a good idea to cut back.

On the other hand, if you find yourself grinning from ear to ear as you list neighbors of neighbors to the list, a big wedding may be the right fit for you.

Normally, the people at the wedding transition over to the reception. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can always get married in front of a few close family and friends. And then open up the reception to a larger crowd.

Answer These Questions

What do you want to accomplish for your reception? Do you want to give your friends and family a good time? Do you want the reception to showcase your love? Do you want a reception at all? Identify your goals.[1]

Maybe you actually only want an intimate get-together at the courthouse and a dinner after. Or you want to dance the night away with family and friends on board a cruise ship?

Either way, first thing’s first, know what you want.

Breaking the Goal Down into Actionable Steps

Like anything else, you start with a goal—an intangible idea—and break it down into tangible steps to make it less overwhelming and more realistic and attainable.

So, for your reception, let’s say your goal is to celebrate your love on board a cruise ship, enjoying the moment. How do you go about accomplishing that?

First, Google companies who offer packages that include access to a yacht you can use for your reception.

Schedule multiple consultations and speak with representatives to find out what package is best for you in accomplish your goal.

Alongside this step, you’ll need to create a budget. As with any budget, you have to prioritize. If you’re on a tight budget, perhaps it’s best to pay for the yacht rental but get appetizers instead? Or pay for the catering but rent the boat for less time?

No matter what, representatives will be able to set you up with a plan that works with you.

Also, when you’re picking out the package, you’ll want to decide the wedding reception theme that will best accomplish your goal.

If your goal is to showcase your love and have a good time on a yacht and you’re merging two different cultures, perhaps mix and match each culture by selecting certain dishes from one culture and choosing the dessert from the other?

After selecting a theme and package, talk with the representative about the details—such as decorations, music, and flowers.

By breaking your reception goal into steps, you and your significant other are less stressed and the reception will be that much more memorable.

What to Include in a Themed Reception

Here are some of the common items that will make your theme pop.


Your wedding invitations are the first impression your guests have of your soon-to-be wedding and wedding reception.

To kick it off with a bang, if your theme is a beach wedding, perhaps glue some sand and sea shells to the invite? If you have an Italian wedding theme, maybe include a small Italian flag or have quintessential Italian staples—pizza, Rome, you name it…— on the invitation.

Whatever you choose, it’s not the time to make the theme subtle. You don’t want to confuse guests, making them wonder what your reception or wedding will be.

If anything, you want to get them excited. And you want to show how excited you are about celebrating your life with the one you love.


While the invitations may be the first impression, your decorations solidify your reception theme. Basically, you want your guests to walk in and know instantly they just stepped foot into an Arabian night themed wedding. Or a Mardis Gras wedding.

So, check out decorations that will make your theme stand out: twinkle lights, themed balloons, ribbon, themed center pieces.

(Remember, always though make sure you pair up the decorations to see if they go well together. The last thing you want is to blow up the balloons and set up the center pieces and realize something is off on the day of.)

Setting or Wedding Venue

The wedding venue, of course, has to match your theme. For instance, if you’re going to have a beach themed wedding, it makes sense to have it on board a boat. The same goes with having a Hawaiian themed reception.

Types of Reception Themes

Below is a variety of reception themes you could easily use for your wedding and reception.[2]

Classic American Theme

This is a great option if you can’t decide what themed reception to choose. Catering options include the Classic American Buffet. Eat fried chicken on board the California coast. Dance to classic American music—such as The Eagles, Elvis, and James Brown.

Italian Wedding

Italian weddings are known for being loud, family-oriented, and overall fun. This is a great option if you have a guest list of over 100-150. You can even choose the Roman Holiday catering option.

Which includes menu options such as pollo Italiano, pasta au natural…

Celebrating with a Hawaiian Theme

As we mentioned, this is a great wedding reception theme to have on board a boat. As you have the ocean and sunset as your backdrop. You can even add a Hawaiian touch by playing Iz. Pair this theme with The Hawaiian Luau, a menu that features a Hawaiian pineapple tree, with assorted fruits and berries cascading from it. (And that’s just the appetizer!) You could even take it a step further, and look into tiki torches and Hawaiian dancers.

Bring Mardis Gras to Your Reception

Celebrate Mardis Gras on your wedding night. Give guests colorful beads as they board the boat. Play Louisiana-inspired music. Serve a Mardis Gras menu: Louisiana blue crab, gumbo, and blackened tri-tip. This is a great theme to choose from if you have a large, loud party. Expect the party to continue through the night!

Keeping Things Simple

You want a simple wedding. Nothing too fancy and overbearing. You’re only planning on inviting 50 or so guests. In which case, you might want to stick to a simple menu—like the Pasta Extravaganza or New York Deli.

With simple food choices such as these, combined with twinkle lights, the reception remains intimate and personable. Consider having your reception on a smaller, classy boat.

The Wedding Reception Rules

There are certain traditions many couples incorporate into their wedding reception. Do you have to do this? No. But it’s worth taking a look. And mixing and matching. (Or why not start some of your own wedding traditions?)

The Grand Entrance

Traditionally, the wedding party enters the reception halls. And then the new couple makes their entrance. This makes the starts the reception with excitement. The couple can either go to the dance floor and dance their first dance. Or they can head to the main table to eat.


The best man and maid of honor normally make a toast, spilling out embarrassing stories and wishing the couple well. The immediate families can also make toasts at this time as well.

Tossing of the Bouquet or Garter

The bride tosses her garter or bouquet into a crowd of single women. In which case the woman who catches it will become married next. Of course, you can do something else—token in the cake, pair two single people together, or bypass this tradition.


  • First, decide what type of wedding you want to have, as your wedding party normally transitions to the wedding reception
  • Figure out if you want a reception, as well as what goal you want to accomplish
  • Break the goal into actionable steps to make it attainable
  • Decide on a theme and pick out invitations, decorations, wedding venue, and catering to go with it
  • Consider incorporating wedding traditions, if you want; or why not start your own?

No matter what type of wedding reception you decide to have, it is bound to be memorable and special.

For more information on making your reception beautiful, speak with one of our knowledgeable wedding planners.


[1] The Week: A common sense guide to planning your wedding

[2] Live About: Traditional Elements of the Wedding Reception

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