It's not just about the menu and playlist.
Credit: JBM Photography

When it comes to planning your reception, the focus for most couples is, naturally, on the fun factor-the great food, awesome music, silly photo-booth props. But there are other, more practical considerations you might not have thought about but should, so all your guests are safe and comfortable from the moment they get to the reception to the moment they leave. Time to get real.

You have a responsibility when serving alcohol.

An open bar is a generous gesture but some guests won't be able to control themselves when "free drinks!" are available all night. To avoid anyone getting hammered and out of hand, hire experienced bartenders, who'll recognize when a drinker needs to be cut off from the booze supply. Since even people who aren't drinking like a fish may be feeling tipsy after a few gin and tonics and no food, be sure to serve nibbles when the bar opens for cocktail hour. The snacks don't have to be elaborate-cheese and crackers, veggies and dips will do but they should be plentiful.

You should accommodate guests' food allergies.

Peanuts and gluten are just the tip of the sensitivity iceberg. If you know that any of your guests have a particular food problem or dietary restriction, talk to your caterer about having choices on the hors d'oeuvres and dinner menus that will accommodate them. Or do a buffet, which would give everyone multiple selections. But don't go overboard trying to satisfy everyone's diet, like the wacky friend who just decided she's only eating white foods from now on.

Elderly guests may need a first-floor restroom.

Think about who'll be invited to the wedding as you're scoping out ceremony and reception locations. Do you have any elderly or physically challenged family and friends who would find it difficult or impossible to climb up the stairs to the second-floor bathrooms? Is there an elevator? If you can't accommodate some important people in your life, think seriously before booking a venue that can't handle these guests' needs.

Guests in wheelchairs need accessibility.

Is the entrance wide enough for your chair-bound great aunt to make it through? Is there a ramp? (If not, you can rent one.) What about a handicap-accessible bathroom stall? Also, when planning tables, put one less place setting at any table where someone's in a wheelchair will sit, to avoid a tight squeeze with the other guests.

Some guests may be a no-show because of sudden illness.

On the morning of the wedding you find out that Cousin Allison came down with the flu, and the groom's elderly uncle just isn't feeling well enough to take a long car ride to the wedding. As sympathetic as you are to their plights, you're also annoyed that you're having to pay for two pricey meals no one will be there to eat. All you can do is make sure to alert the caterer to set fewer place settings wherever the absentees were to be seated so the tables don't look bare, then stop thinking about it and focus on the guests who are healthy and happy to bee there.


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