The serious part is over, and now it’s time to party! Whether you’re a dance-til-dawn kind of group or not, follow these basic rules and tips, and everyone is sure to have a good time at your wedding reception.

1. Get things started early. Plan a little pre-reception before the ceremony, and surprise your guests with finger foods and maybe even an early cocktail. If you’re having wedding programs, add a wedding-themed mad lib, word search or survey (i.e. How many kids will they have? What kind of house will they live in?)

early cocktail wedding reception ideassource

2. Keep your guests fed. Nothing sends a party downhill faster than when people are (a) drinking on empty stomachs or (b) just plain have empty stomachs. If your wedding ceremony and reception are in the same location, consider offering a snack to guests when they arrive. Something as simple as salted peanuts will do. The meal typically opens the reception, which will keep guests fueled for several hours. If you’re planning on partying until late into the night, it’s a good idea to offer midnight snacks, like fresh popcorn, mini grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza, or coffee and doughnuts.

midnight snacks wedding reception ideassource

3. Keep the kids occupied. If the kids are happy, the parents are happy. You can go all out with a bouncy castle, magician or balloon animal architect. Or keep it simple with a kids’ table and activity buckets, with coloring pages, crayons and other (not too messy) craft supplies. If it’s indoors, consider renting an extra room to set up a movie-and-popcorn section. And if there are a lot of kids, it may be worth it to hire one or two babysitters.

4. Provide interactive stations. Whether it’s an omelet bar for a brunch wedding or a mix-your-own-mashed-potato bar for an evening affair, letting guests personalize their food is a sure way to keep everyone happy. Popcorn, nachos, grilled cheese, and crudité with dipping sauces all are crowd-pleases for savory options. If you’re serving brunch, you could do a biscuit bar or fresh-pressed juice station. And for dessert, consider build-your own s’mores, ice cream sundaes or frozen yogurt. An interactive drink station is also a fun option. A Bloody Mary bar with guest’s choice of hot sauce and veggies or a martini bar with a variety of different vodkas, gins and vermouths and a big selection of garnishes is really fun! Or hire an expert to lead a wine or whiskey tasting for guests who want a low-key break.

Bloody Mary bar wedding reception ideassource

5. Plan a surprise! Get guests’ attention in between courses, or ensure your dance floor stays full late by promising an end-of-the-night surprise. Professional entertainers like tango dancers, acrobats or an a-capella group are a great way to get the reception off on the right foot. A fortune teller or fireworks is a fun way to round out the night.