Seven ways to involve family at your wedding reception

Here comes the big day! Not only are friends coming into town from all over to celebrate with you, but so are your beloved family members — the ones who watched you grow up and helped you get where you are today.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could somehow acknowledge their importance? You can, and not just at the ceremony. Here are seven ideas to involve them in your reception and show them how much they mean.

1. Create a Family Tree

Hang family photos from real branches, identifying who’s who. Or ask someone to help you make a large family tree poster, featuring four generations of wedding photos. Another take: Place beautifully framed photos of family members just about anywhere — along a table, on a wall — or unframed photos clipped onto strings. Your guests will enjoy learning more about you through them and your relatives will enjoy the spotlight.

2. Give Them Jobs

Plan to have a photo booth? A guest book? Let your more outgoing relatives “man” the areas and infuse the scene with fun. Young relatives in particular might enjoy the sweet role of serving cake or other desserts. Recognize these folks in your program so they feel even more special.

3. Eat It Up

Pretty much nothing says “family” better than treasured recipes passed from Great Grandma or Cousin Jimmy to the bride or groom. Before your wedding, ask family members to submit a time-tested recipe and create a keepsake cookbook to give your guests (or feature the recipes online). For a sentimental touch, include the cook’s or baker’s photo, name and relationship to the couple. You could even incorporate some of the treats into your reception’s menu and at some point, ask the contributors to stand for recognition.

4. Make It Movie Night

Everyone loves slide shows or videos. Production companies can take your still photos and apply music and captions to the pictures, which could include images of you and your new spouse while you were children and throughout the years on up to when you met. Include photos of family members too and identify them. If you’re developing a website or app for your wedding, place a copy of the show there so people can watch it whenever they’d like and be reminded of names and faces.

5. Feature Their Favorite Things

Maybe your mom and dad had lilacs at their wedding. Perhaps Grandma Lillian collected lace. Could you find a way to work in these items? Place a card on each table to tell the story of why these things are meaningful to you. It’s also a great way to recognize relatives who have passed on.

6. Hear, Hear

There’s no rule that says the only one allowed to propose a toast to the happy couple is the best man. It could also be a parent, grandparent — anyone special to the couple. Some receptions feature several toasts throughout the evening.

7. Something Old, Something New…

Get the party started by asking special relatives to tell you in advance their favorite classic drink (something old), a modern drink (something new), a favorite drink recipe you got from someone else (borrowed) and—you guessed it—a drink that’s blue. Acknowledge your mixologists’ names and relationships to you on the menu. Cheers!

Because you know your family members best, you’ll probably think of additional ways to shine a light on them during one of the most special days of your life (a guest appearance with the band because your aunt’s also a bit of a rocker, perhaps?). And when your wedding day comes to an end, you’ll have created yet another memory that you all can treasure.

Want to learn more about planning a wedding reception at Monona Terrace? Contact Breanne Chase, social sales manager, at or 608-261-4093.