Want a relaxed vibe without sacrificing style? Follow this wedding planner's tips.

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Though formal wedding receptions have a reputation for being stuffy or serious, they can easily turn out to be some of the most energetic, fun, and easygoing weddings of all. One of the reasons for this is that the couples planning these formal events want their guests to have a great time while also feeling like they're lucky to be part of such a glamorous occasion. Wedding planner Julie Savage Parekh of Strawberry Milk Events shares her tips on how to pull off a formal wedding that feels easygoing for guests. She says, "Just because it's formal doesn't mean it can't be fun. In fact, it should be fun!" Here's how to make it happen.

Get guests dancing.

Savage Parekh says, "Setting the tone with great music and entertainment that makes people want to get up and dance definitely breaks the ice, even if it's a fancy schmancy event." If you're considering going with formal music for your ceremony, cocktail hour, and dinner, you can break out a big 10-piece band with multiple singers to really up the ante for dancing. Some couples also opt to end dinner with a performance that brings a bolt of energy to the room, like a group of flamenco dancers or fire dancers. Bringing in the dancing band after that makes the transition so much more exciting for guests.

Keep cocktail hour casual.

While guests are mingling and casually grabbing drinks and small bites, you have a chance to keep the atmosphere easygoing. Savage Parekh says, "Cocktail hour can also be a bit more fun than formal. So, even if you're having a seven-course tasting menu on the best Christian Lacroix china, cocktail hour food can be miniature versions of favorite foods that don't necessarily have to be fancy. It's all about how it's displayed that can make even the most casual, simple foods feel elevated."

sloan scott wedding couple on boardwalk
Credit: Jose Villa

Give everyone something to talk about.

Savage Parekh says, "We love the idea of interactive food stations to bring in the fun factor, and create talking points and conversation between guests. The key here is hiring the right caterer who excels at this, like our friends at Pinch Food Design. A few ideas: a mozzarella-pulling station for a twist on traditional caprese, or a slider station where chefs actually slide (pun intended) the finished product down mini wooden slides onto the display table, and, my favorite Pinch signature, float desserts in on balloons!"

Don't worry about the reception being too structured.

To keep the reception from feeling too stuffy, avoid scripting every 15-minute interval of the event. Savage Parekh says, "Don't over-program the evening. Allow lots of time for dancing outside of the special dances and don't let toasts and speeches dominate the night, and the event will feel less rigid and more like a party that is effortlessly elegant."

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