Reception PHOTO: Sargeant Photography

The best reception

Planning a fete that pleases all is no small feat but can be done

By Sara Cardine 06/01/2011

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When the I do’s have been exchanged and the bird seed has been thrown, most wedding parties have one thing on their collective minds — the reception. 
Traditionally, the wedding reception is a celebration of the newly married couple and the place where everyone who was involved in the arduous wedding preparations can take off their heels and bowties and just let loose. Big or small, intimate or raucous, a good reception reflects the tastes of both the bride and groom and considers the enjoyment of the company invited to share in the day’s festivities. 
But what happens when a bride and groom can’t seem to agree on one single atmosphere that will magically please everyone, from great aunts and uncles to that cadre of old buddies who have one eye trained on the complimentary bar?
Discovering a style, theme or event that pleases guests on many different levels can be tricky, so if you know you want something more than a backyard family-style barbeque or picnic reception, you may want to think about enlisting the help of an event or wedding planner. These professionals often have years of experience making complicated events come together, but more than that they can help you identify a mood or style that feels authentic to you and make sure the whole thing goes off without a hitch.
A lifelong event planner, Peggy Kelley founded her own Pasadena business, Timeless Celebrations, in 2006 after her own wedding left her longing for meaningful guidance throughout the process. In the five years that have followed, Kelley has planned and designed a number of events, including weddings and receptions ( When she sits with clients for a free, first-time “discovery meeting,” Kelley learns more about the bride and groom-to-be and their own story, so she can design a unique and fun reception that speaks to their own lives and their love for each other.  
“The key is that everybody gets heard,” she said. “By understanding how a couple loves each other and by understanding their own personal dynamic, you’ll see [a vision] unfold as a reflection of the relationship.”
Today, Kelley said, it’s more common for men to get involved in the plan and design of their receptions, though they tend to be more interested in the entertainment and technology elements of  the event, while women may concentrate more on the overall esthetic and the venue itself, she said. Though priorities and approaches are disparate, most couples want the same thing. 
“At the end of the day, the bride and groom want their guests to have an amazing time,” Kelley said. 
This is something to which Southern California wedding planner Lindsay Longacre can attest. Longacre owns LVL Weddings & Events, an Orange County business that offers clients a personal and fresh approach to their wedding receptions and events. The LVL team maintains a blog that discusses wedding trends and dedicates a portion of its Web site,, to “I Do How-Tos.”
“Brides are becoming more savvy and DIY (do-it-yourself),” Longacre said. “They are beginning to think outside the box and put their own spin on their wedding.” 
This can be a benefit, because an informed bride and/or groom will be able to clearly communicate their wants and needs. But sometimes, Kelley said, a couple may actually get more out of the planning process if they keep their minds open and ask where they are willing to negotiate.  Part of a planner’s responsibility is to help a couple prioritize elements of a reception, such as venue, food and flowers, so they can keep their own spending plan in mind. 
In addition to thinking of cost, a couple should make sure their preferences are equally represented in the rehearsal, ceremony and reception. If a groom wins on the venue, then the size of the guest list and food could be up to the bride, Kelley suggested. Another way to find common ground is to look for clever ways both can parties can get what they want, Longacre said recounting 
a past experience. 
“A bride wants an elegant garden wedding and the groom wants an ice cream cart, and the two don’t necessarily go together,” she recalled. “I was able to find an ice cream cart that has a vintage look and offer ice cream that incorporated lavender and basil, which ties into the garden feel — voila!”
The key to maintaining post-nuptial bliss at the reception is often learning to compromise, both planners agree.  Not only will it help ensure the health of the marriage in the long run, but it will help both a bride and groom remember the real reason they gathered here today — the love that brought them together in the first place.


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