Groom’s Guide: Life of the Party

Someone’s got to be responsible for a memorable reception. It might as well be you.

Photo by Jenny Jimenez

0712-grooms-guide-ideasWhile the ceremony may be the soul of your wedding, the reception entertainment is what will really make it a party. Thankfully, long gone is the era of fist-pumping DJs playing “Celebration” and “Macarena” while barking at attendees to line up for the next silly ritual: garter toss, dollar dance, conga line…. These days, Seattleites who just wanna have fun can get pretty creative with their options.

Figuring out which diversions are good fits for your big bash is a great gig. Let your intended get to work on those 17,000 to-do-list items while you weigh the merits of card tricks and vintage joysticks. For a good time, just keep reading.



Get your guests to swing outside the box

Reception Planning 101: Lively dance parties make fast friends out of total strangers. When Grandma’s breaking it down in the middle of an impromptu circle, you know you’ve done well.

START SOMETHING  The transition from meaningful ceremony to a mean celebration isn’t always easy—you can’t just order your guests to move it and shake it. Aviva Palmer of the Adventure School notes that in the Jewish tradition, the hora to the tune of “Hava Nagila” makes easy work of calling folks to the dance floor, but the event expert has tips for gentiles who don’t want to introduce a circle dance into the mix. Break out a bin of dancing props (think sequins and jazz hats), dim the lights, and stage a toast with shots instead of Champagne. “Guests like to know that they are allowed to go crazy,” Palmer says.

LIVE WIRE  It’s tried-and-true that wide-appeal soul or funk bands work in the reception room. Palmer suggests looking up Lady A or Eldridge Gravy and the Court Supreme if you want to get down. Another route: Jesse Brix and Travis McBurney of True Colors Events like to see couples pay tribute to their cultural heritage. “We’ve hired really incredible mariachi bands, bagpipers, accordion players,” and, for one event, a zydeco (cajun-blues-R&B mix) band “to perform and provide dance instruction.”

HEY, MR. DJ  The city’s best DJs bring a personalized, hosted vibe to the party, but Palmer likes upping that ante even more with the addition of a performative element. Stage a spotlit karaoke-style duet with your brand-new better half, have your attendants organize a flash mob, or hire a group of dancers in sparkly leotards to execute a Super Bowl–esque boogie to show ’em all how it’s done.,



Picture the new (and old) world

The challenge to cram as many people as possible into a tiny space is a time-honored tradition. Plus, photo booths can yield new favorite Facebook pics and fun souvenirs without intruding on dinner.

OLD SCHOOL  Rent a classic movie theater–style booth from 321 Foto and park it in a corner. Older relatives will love the retro angle, guests get tangible evidence of your swell party planning, and you can have multiples printed so that revelers can paste a copy—with a message—into what will become a very special guest book.

GET DIGI  with It Photo sharing? There’s an app for that. Palmer turned us on to Wedding Snap, which allows cousins, best friends, and savvy grandparents to automatically add their shots to a running slide show for everyone to see. The photos are saved to an online album where you can view, edit, and share them.

0712-grooms-guide-new-yorker-cartoonsAre you big on YouTube? Brix says they recently planned a celebration that included an unobtrusive video setup by Thrilled for You, a company that facilitates recorded messages for video guest books. And then there’s Life’s Flix, a new local company that supplies couples with handheld video cameras to dole out to guests, and then edits the footage for them later.

ANALOG OFF  Now we’re getting really old school. You could have guests sit for portraits—with an actual artist. Well, a caricature artist. Stephanie Solomon of Solomon Event Planning says Milt Priggee works in a “New Yorker–cartoon drawing style that’s more sophisticated” than your average corny, big-head rendering.

Similarly, Sam Day sets up his easel and paints the scene; guests can look over his shoulder at the progress, or plant themselves in his line of vision and hope they show up like one of the picnickers in Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (a.k.a. the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off painting).,,,,



Nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, is there?

Lawn D’Arte When it comes to outdoor events, Stephanie Wilson of Vows Wedding and Event Planning says nothing spikes the cocktail hour like a round of croquet. If it’s little ones you aim to inspire (read: keep busy), a beanbag toss or a horseshoe pit will do it. Of course, sometimes adults want in on that kind of action, too. Palmer counts a gigantic, lawn-size version of Jenga, a huge paint-by-numbers canvas, and ring toss with—you guessed it—wedding bands and faux diamond sparklers among her party-planning high points. Big-box stores like Fred Meyer are great sources of fun and games, but think about adding a customized element or at least pretty signage and elegant storage options to keep the sporting life in line with the day’s look and feel.

MULTIPLE CHOICE  Seattle is rife with pub trivia; lists dozens every week. How about taking a cue from that popular pastime? The True Colors Events crew once created a Jeopardy-style competition for guests, and Palmer suggests personalized Proust questionnaires (“the bride’s favorite fictional heroine” instead of “favorite fictional heroine”) or custom crosswords on chalkboards. Mad Libs can be fun group projects; on card stock with bold titles, they could even double as table markers.

PINBALL WIZARDS OF THE COAST  Brix and McBurney have experience setting up comfy hangout spots where guests can get their video game on. The consultants worked with one couple who brought in a full-size Ms. Pac-Man cabinet. Clowns Unlimited rents classic arcade options and pinball machines as well as a large-scale virtual graffiti booth and a projection screen for Xbox’s Dance Central.

DEALER’S CHOICE  Video games too anachronistic for your vintage-themed celebration? How about a Monte Carlo–style casino? The Vows Wedding and Event Planning team told us about the high-stakes Roaring ’20s–style lounge with craps, blackjack, and poker they crafted for one couple. Guests were allotted a certain number of chips to play with; at 9, the casino closed and the DJ paused the dance party to award prizes.