Dodging the Drama - Tips on Managing Reception Challenges

Wedding Planning New Hampshire

Come check out our most recent publication in the Keene Sentinel's Monadnock Vows Edition! 

DIVORCED PARENTS OR GLUTEN-FREE GROOMSMEN? MANAGING RECEPTION CHALLENGES by Nicole S. Colson

On paper planning a wedding reception might look simple. The checklist includes renting a venue, hiring a caterer, photographer and DJ and the rest is just well, cake, right?

One local wedding and event planner says it’s the devil that's in the details, which is where she comes in.

Spofford resident Lauren Dragon-Cook, owner of LDC & Co. wedding and event planning, says it takes a couple roughly 250 to 300 hours to plan a wedding. If the wedding is within six months to a year after setting a date, that's 40 hours a week spent – the equivalent of a full-time job.

A big part of her role as planner is to help couples have their dream wedding reception that is within their budget. This means she has to be ready to meet any challenge head-on.

One very common issue that has come up for her time and time again is how to manage the seating chart for sensitive family situations, such as when either the bride or groom’s parents are divorced, whether or not those parents have new families.

"It really depends on the venue and what you're doing for a meal," said Dragon-Cook. "A sit-down meal is different from a buffet or a backyard barbecue where you can choose where you want to sit."

Dragon-Cook uses software that imports the guest list and seating chart and guests’ names can be dragged and dropped and moved at will.

"Brides love it because they can see if Dad is sitting here then there are at least two tables between him and Mom," she said. "Sometimes people need the visual."

The same goes for photos, which can also be tricky with these type of family dynamics.

"You have to ask whether Mom and Dad should be included
in the photos together," said Dragon-Cook. "Nine times out of 10 the divorced parents have no problem with it."

Another recurring issue is the decision as to whether or not children are allowed to attend the reception.

"If the invitation or event web- site doesn't point it out then typically kids are allowed," said Dragon-Cook. "If kids aren't allowed the bride will usually make that known."

She suggests couples choose their words carefully when outlining their policy on children at the reception.

"It's nice to write something like 'We love your children but we want this to be a night out for you too,'" she described.

Nursing moms are always the exception, she added.

For guests with children who have come from out of town and are spending the night, Dragon-Cook has seen couples hire a babysitter to supervise children in a separate area (depending on the venue) from the reception.

"Every situation is different," said Dragon-Cook. 

What she means is guests should never assume they can bring their children. 

"The couple may be on a strict budget and are paying per head for the meal," she said. "If you bring your child that's another meal that has to be served."

If there's any question about whether or not you can bring your children to the reception it doesn't hurt to reach out and double-check.

"You won't be ruffling any feathers if everything is out in the open," assured Dragon-Cook. 

While some guests worry about bringing their children, many also want to know about whether or not they should bring a gift to the wedding reception.

Gift registries for couples, explained Dragon-Cook, are not as automatic as they once were because today many are not moving in together after the wedding - they already live together. 

"They have more than enough tongs and salad spinners," said Dragon-Cook. 

While some guests like to know about a gift registry because the couple is just starting a life together, others may not have the money to afford an expensive pot or pan or other items on the registry.

The best way couples can communicate the existence of their gift registry to guests is by including on their event website - Dragon-Cook points out there are many free sites. A reference to find more details on the site can be included on the formal invitation.

One trend she's noticed in place of the gift registry is the "honey fund," an account set up by the couple for guests to send monetary gifts for the couple's honeymoon or new home. 

Planning the meal served at the reception presents its own set of challenges, from accommodating dietary restrictions to food allergies. 

"If the bride and groom are gluten-free or vegan, for example, they are usually courteous about it and don't subject the guests' to their lifestyle," she said. "Usually there's at least a vegetarian option for all guests who want something besides a salad.

"Likewise, if a guest has a serious or dangerous allergy to say, shellfish, it's wise to eliminate it from the menu. She suggests couples offer a space for guests with allergies or restrictions to list them on the return invitation. 

No matter the issue, Dragon-Cook can't emphasize enough the importance of guests voicing their concerns to the bride and groom and vice versa.

"It's the lack of communication that causes most of the hang-ups," said Dragon-Cook. "It's always nice to at least ask."

To view the entire magazine, click here.

Nicole worked as a staff writer for The Keene Sentinel in Keene, NH for 12 years before becoming a freelance writer and editor in 2013. She has since written feature content covering many topics, including health, the environment, small business, local food and farming and arts and entertainment. Among the publications for which she’s written are Business NH magazine, The New Hampshire Business Review, Monadnock Table magazine and The Small Business Journal of Greater Monadnock and Southeastern Vermont. She has also written content for several area nonprofit organizations and small businesses.