You are recently engaged, and now it is time to start researching wedding reception ideas. But where should you start?

All good weddings start with a plan, and listed below are 6 tips that you can use to make sure you plan the wedding of your dreams.

Affordable Destination Weddings

Start looking for a reception location early

The first step is to figure out when you want to get married. Summer and fall weddings open the opportunity for an outdoor wedding reception; however these are also the most popular times to get married.

You need to move fast and start early to make sure you get your first choice of reception location during the busy seasons.

Event Planning Facts

The wedding is one of the happiest moments in a person's life. When you are planning yours, you just know that it is special. However, unless it stands out in a way or another, for most of the guests it might be just another wedding they attend and they won't remember much of it a few months later.

There are unique wedding ideas that can make yours shine and become a spectacular event not only for the bride and groom, but for each and every guest.

Here are some useful wedding ideas to transform yours from a regular wedding into an unforgettable event for everyone:

1. Pick a theme. Themed weddings are always fun and a great source of unique wedding ideas. Talk with your future spouse and brainstorm together. While your own preferences are always the most important, don't forget to try to take into account the guests as well. For example, you can't go for a new movie if most guests will be elderly persons and won't know what is happening.

The theme can relate to anything within reason so you can be as creative as you wish. If you can afford to splurge a bit, you can include impressive decorations or performances.

If you are mostly interested in outdoor wedding ideas, themes can be even more fun outside as you can include balloons, inflatable cartoons or various games. More space also means a good opportunity to add more decorations such as personalized chalkboards, bouncy castles.

2. Engage the guests. Organise a few activities for them to feel like they are really actively participating to the event. You can get some beautiful memories while you are at it too.

Place a bowl with pens and beautifully designed pieces of paper on each table. Ask your guests to write you a message or to share their favorite memory with one of the newlyweds.

If you have musically gifted guests, you can ask them to sing a song or to play their instruments a bit while your band or DJ is having a break. Also, if you are keen on someone's talents such as dancing, stand-up comedy or gymnastics, you can plan special performances.

No matter what you pick, make sure that no one is forgotten and that everyone gets to participate in an active way, even the elderly persons or the children.

3. Make the guests feel important. Take a while to write personalized notes. Handwritten ones will be the most appreciated. Share your thoughts on this day or just make random comments about your relationship to let them know how much you care about them.

If you are having a hard time opening up and sharing your feelings, you can just write a message that will indicate nice memories. For example 'Alice, thank you for being there with me from rags to riches' or 'Johnny, you will always be my brother from another mother'.

However, if you are running out of time or you simply don't have the inspiration to write a message to everyone, a standard card to thank them for joining the wedding will do the trick. Choose an elegant font and an exquisite design for the card to become a small gift.

4. Customize the entire event. Don't try to copy someone else's wedding, especially if you are on a budget. From engagement rings facts to the tiara, everything should be personal and according to your liking.

If there are wedding ideas that you really enjoy, try to add a personal touch. The event doesn't have to be particularly fancy or pricey. A bit of extra time and effort can make a huge difference.

You can use personal family photos as decorations or tie the napkins with ribbons in your favorite colour. Bring a funny photo stand-in or include mini versions of your favorite foods instead of main dishes.

Get bold and don't stick to eating or dancing the whole evening. Still, whatever you choose to do, make sure that it is fun and that it won't be regarded as offensive or that it won't make any guest remember an unpleasant event.

5. Don't stress out about it. Last but not least, don't transform your special moments into a highly stressful event. You will only end up obsessing over each and every detail. Also, the chances to be disappointed raise significantly if you want everything to be perfect. Admit that you can't control everything and just enjoy yourself.

At the end of the day, no matter how flawless everything might turn out to be, the guests might only remember how stressed out and uncomfortable you have been the whole day. A genuine smile is often worth more than exquisite details.

Wedding Planning

Having worked in the event planning industry for almost 15 years there are not many surprises left - but occasionally I still get the "they did what" pass my lips! Why am I not surprised anymore - because over the years the number one rule for event planning is putting time into the pre planning of the event, and then planning contingencies for the exceptions that may happen?

So where do you start? As far out from the event date as possible as getting space is the first step. In Orlando where we do a lot of work it is not unusual to be booking one year out at some of the venues, as they are booked solidly every week.

The first few decisions are the easiest. What is the budget? What is the event about? A party, corporate seminar, convention, festival, wedding, anniversary the list is endless, but one thing remains a constant once the event has a name and the type of event is decided, the next step will be to decide where to hold the event. This is where the real event planners stand out from the crowd. So you have an event - okay lets book a hotel is normally the next answer but why would you miss out on an opportunity to create a unique experience for your client. Stop thinking like a newbie!

Look around the city where you are and start looking for that space that is different! We once held a red carpet fashion show right outside the Lingerie store that was promoting their opening! What's unusual about that? Nothing except the two lane highway outside we had to close, get planning permission and then build a 150ft marquee over the roadway, flooring, carpeting, stage, runway, extravagant lighting. All in one day. That's planning. Or the client that wanted a nautical theme, so we brought in a pirate ship complete with water cannons, pirate uniforms for everybody including the CEO! Ahh Captain. Get the idea, think outside the box - everybody does hotels, make your event unusual. What about an event/launch or party on the top floor of a multistory car park, we have even taken over parking lots for major festivals downtown and invited 5000 people to attend. Used castles for car launches and produced tours for musical competitions.

So know we have an event and the location/venue. Do you need planning permission for the event? If you have tents, or are somewhere public the answer is going to be Yes. Get that permit application in quickly, the city will have lots of questions for you to answer. Don't worry they will let the event happen they just want every answer and t crossed, so allow time for them.

Are you helping with the marketing too? Now is the time to get all this started and the timeline built when the copy, printing, mailing emailing needs to be done. Do you see a pattern starting, timelines, pre planning, etc.

Next on the list is going to be catering commonly called F&B. Is this a sit down event, stand up cocktails, dinner reception, hors-devours, alcohol, etc. Again another decision and one that needs a budget figure. Hot meals catered with full service can cost upwards of $50 a plate or as low as $19. Its all about the budget. Once you have decided on what is required your event planner will have a list of suitable caterers who can produce the meals.

If the event is themed, then the next step is to design the layout of the tables, surroundings, and make the venue become an experience. I remember erecting a Marquee inside a tall ballroom for one client, as they did not want the tradition ballroom space. A local hotel has two weeks of Ice sculpture in their ballrooms and kids can play on the ice slides, play in the snow and experience below freezing conditions - in Central Florida

Another area that will need addressing is entertainment, is their music, DJ what style and what purpose. Is it for dancing to or just background ambience? Again if the event requires a headliner you will have to contact the booking agencies in plenty of time to ensure schedules are available - you did have a second choice ready as well didn't you?

So now we have an event, the date(s), a theme, a venue, food and drink, entertainment and the permit has been granted by the city!

What about Sound and lights and video for the event - usually called Audio Visual or AV again the event planner will know what and where to get the appropriate systems from and the size of equipment required depending on the number of attendees. While we are looking at AV, we may as well mention the videographer to film and record the event for the DVD and also the photographer to take a zillion shots during the evening making sure to get everybody in at least one picture!

The event date is obviously getting closer. If this is a corporate event you will want to make sure that there is all the appropriate insurance and Public/General Liability insurance certification in place. The policy should be for at least $1 million dollars of protection.

The fire Marshall always wants to know about events in their city and no matter how big or small, a phone call to answer their questions and get approval is always part of the planning stages. It is your responsibility to contact the fire Marshall not theirs to contact you.

One area that a number of people forget about is how are people getting to the event, are people flying in, are you booking the tickets? And if so what transportation are you providing from the airport for them? We use certain limo services that have given us great service and deals over the years and we know that guests are in good hands.

So far we have overcome every problem but as this is a summery of event planning, every event will be different. Seminars for instance will need registration tables, classroom style layouts, etc each event has its own nuance.

On the day of the event, everything comes together as planned, if you didn't plan for the contingency then panicking doesn't help. Look at every part of the timetable and second guess what if scenarios? Plan around those too so that your day runs smooth.

Lastly the day isn't over until the last guest leaves..errr no! until the venue has been restored to how you found it, until all the decorations are removed, the catering has packed up and left, the AV guys have got all their gear in the vans and the venue operations personnel have finally said goodnight and thank you.

Steve A Brown
Event Planner - Resource Management Alliance