This Evolution of Exchanging Vows Gives Us All the Feels

This Evolution of Exchanging Vows Gives Us All the Feels

Marrying into a family? Your wedding should be about more than you and your partner.

Weddings are emotional for just about everyone, that’s a fact. Two people have found each other in this crazy world and they’re committing themselves to each other for life. But when children are involved, the weight of that commitment takes on a whole new level of sentiment.

Every situation is different, but one thing is the same: The commitment that is being made to your partner needs to be made to their child (or children) too. Most of all, they should feel included on the wedding day. One of our favorite ways to do this? Writing vows catering to your relationship with your new stepson or stepdaughter. It shows how seriously you’re taking your new role in the family and it will be, without a doubt, a lifelong memory added to a day of very special events. Here’s a few examples just to show you how it’s done:

This California wedding, in which the groom knelt down to the bride’s five-year-old daughter and said: “I vow to always be fair and honest with you. I promise to support you in every way I can. I promise to always hold your hand and brush your hair when you ask me to. I promise to tuck you into bed every night. I vow to show you how a man should treat a woman through my relationship with your mom. And above all else, I vow to protect you, care for you, and love you ‘so big’ forever.”

In Brazil, another groom did something similar where he presented the bride’s daughter with a ring and asked if he could “be her dad forever.” (Cue the tears.)

Earlier this year at The Knot Dream Wedding, Devon Still presented a separate set of vows to his six-year-old daughter, Leah, and his now-wife, Asha Joyce, while the three held hands at the altar. Then at the reception, the couple surprised the crowd with a choreographed family dance after the music unexpectedly cuts out and Uptown Funk takes over the speakers.


You’ll Need This Reception Extras Checklist

You’ll Need This Reception Extras Checklist

Keep track of all the small details for your reception with this handy checklist.

Outdoor wedding reception hanging lantern decor

Photo by KT Merry

Aside from your rentals, you may need a few extra items to really personalize your reception if they’re not provided by your venue. The small details can make a big difference when it comes to pulling your look together and helping your wedding stand out. Your florist, event designer or stationer may be able to provide these items, but if not, you could DIY a few of them of them or buy the rest in bulk. Reference our checklist below for all the essentials:

Reception Decor for the Table

[ ] Candles

[ ] Nonfloral table accessories

[ ] Table markers or table number holders

Cake Table Reception Extras

[ ] Cake topper

[ ] Cake serving set

[ ] Cake stand

Wedding Paper Reception Extras

[ ] Table numbers

[ ] Table menus

[ ] Place cards or seating chart

Photo Booth Reception Extras

[ ] Photo booth props

[ ] Photo booth backdrop

Extra Touches

[ ] Wedding signs

  • Bar sign
  • Ceremony entrance sign
  • Parking sign
  • Photo booth sign

[ ] Wedding chair decor

[ ] Cocktail napkins

[ ] Guest book (don’t forget the pens!)

[ ] Bathroom convenience basket items

[ ] Entranceway and/or hallway decor


5 Emotional Groom Reactions We Can’t Stop Watching

5 Emotional Groom Reactions We Can’t Stop Watching

Love Stories TV has done it again—we hope you have enough tissues.

Photo by Grimace Films

Get ready to shed some happy tears! Here are five emotional wedding videos from Love Stories TV, all featuring an insanely adorable groom reacting to his bride. Tears, smiles, vows and first kisses—these sweet clips will get you right in the feels.


  1. ​1. When your bride is so beautiful you can hardly catch your breath:

    Video by: Little Josh Productions

    Christian’s reaction to Camille walking down the stairs actually gives us butterflies.

  2. 2. This officiant trying to keep it together during the groom’s vows:

    Video by: NST Pictures

    Sean’s vows to Anne Marie read like a timeless love poem.

  3. 3. The groom who couldn’t finish his sentence because he kept tearing up:

    Video by: Canvas & Light

    The filmmaker asks Garrett what he loves about Jane. We start to cry the moment he tears up—every time.

  4. ​4. Possibly the happiest groom in the history of grooms:

    Video by: Dallas Wilson Wedding Films

    This one’s a true heart-melter.This couple didn’t do a first look, so the groom’s face when the bride walks down the aisle is incredibly emotional—then he doesn’t stop smiling for the rest of the video.

  5. 5. This groom’s face when he turns around to see the bride:

    Video by: Grimace Films

    Saman is speechless when he turns around to see Lindsey for the first time.

    Vanessa M. Buenger is the head of growth at Love Stories TV, the place to watch and share wedding videos. Browse their library of curated and categorized real wedding films to get ideas and inspiration for your day. Share your wedding video on Love Stories TV to inspire others.


12 Questions to Ask Potential Cocktail Hour Musicians

12 Questions to Ask Potential Cocktail Hour Musicians

Here are a few points to cover with possible pros before signing a contract.

Mariachi band

Photo by Carrie Patterson

Your cocktail hour musicians have the important job of setting the right mood. Before you book anyone, ask them these questions to make sure they’re right for the gig.

1. How would you describe your style?

Why you want to know: Your cocktail hour is prime chatting, mingling and photo-taking time for you and your guests, so you’ll want to choose a musician or group that knows how to keep things low-key (think: a jazz trio, quartet or acoustic guitarist). An ensemble that describes itself as AC/DC meets Lady Gaga (whatever that means), might not be your best pick. In other words, save the rocking out for later on the dance floor.

2. Have you played many weddings or cocktail parties?

Why you want to know: You want to make sure they have ample experience working professional events in general, and, in the same vein as the above question, that they know how to achieve the right cocktail hour vibe. Ask to speak to some of their previous couples who can to tell you honestly about their experience working with them.

3. Can we hear you perform either publicly or privately? Can we listen to a demo of your work?

Why you want to know: Nothing compares to hearing and seeing musicians perform live—it will give you the best idea of what your cocktail hour entertainment will actually sound and feel like. If you don’t have an opportunity to check them out in person, ask if they can send you a sample of their work.

4. Do you have another event before or after ours?

Why you want to know: If they’re booked somewhere before, ask what will happen if the other event runs over. On the other end, you don’t want them cutting out early and leaving your evening in silence to make their next gig.

5. Will you require equipment, or will you provide it all yourself?

Why you want to know: Most pros provide their own equipment—music stands, microphones, speakers and so on—but you never know. Find out exactly what equipment they bring, and what you need to rent (or borrow from the venue). Although cocktail hour entertainment is usually more low maintenance than, say, a reception band, you might need to hide cords or speakers to keep the event space clean.

6. How much room will you need?

Why you want to know: How many musicians there are and how much equipment they require will determine how much space is needed. The sooner you find this out, the sooner you can pick a spot for them to set up based on the venue layout and acoustics.

7. Are you familiar with the music we want, or do you need us to supply sheet music?

Why you want to know: It’s not wise to assume your musician knows exactly which rendition of “Fly Me to the Moon” you want to hear over champagne and passed hors d’oeuvres. Chat about your preferences so everyone’s on the same page.

8. What do you typically wear?

Why you want to know: A potential musician will usually have several professional choices for you to choose from, such as a tuxedo, or simple coordinated outfits, like black shirts and pants.

9. How much setup time do you need and who will do the setup?

Why you want to know: If it’s just one or a few musicians with instruments, they’ll probably be able to manage setup themselves, but ask about their plan just in case.

10. What’s your sick-day policy?

Why you want to know: If a key member of the ensemble comes down with the flu the morning of your wedding, they should have a reliable replacement (and you should meet them prior to your event too).

11. What’s your cancellation policy?

Why you want to know: What are the repercussions if you change your date or change your mind on your music?

12. What is your fee for a wedding cocktail hour (probably about two hours of work)? Do we need to pay travel expenses too?

Why you want to know: Get a sense of the all the costs up-front—cost per hour, travel expenses, overtime fees, cancellation fees and so on.

Start your search for a cocktail hour musician right here.

Want cocktail hour inspiration? We’ve got everything you need here.

Need some sound advice? Don’t make any of these wedding music mistakes.


The Perfect Las Vegas Wedding Weekend for Every Type of Couple

The Perfect Las Vegas Wedding Weekend for Every Type of Couple

Check out these itineraries for a fun-packed destination wedding you (and your guests) will never forget.

Las Vegas welcome sign

Destination weddings are the best kind of two-for-one for you and your guests: a party and a vacation all at once. And when you’re planning one in Vegas, there are endless activities that will amp up the experience. No matter your personality, you can choose the elements that speak to you, from indulging in a delicious feast to lounging luxuriously by the pool. To help you pinpoint your ideal itinerary, we’ve compiled our favorite activities and venues for every type of celebration, whether your guest list is two or 200.


Gourmets hunting for the next great meal will find enough world-class cuisine in Vegas to please even the most discerning palates.

Carson Kitchen restaurant in downtown Las Vegas
Photo by Carson Kitchen

Start things off: To get your guests better acquainted with the Vegas culinary landscape, schedule an afternoon with The Walking Gourmet. This three-hour walking tour is sprinkled with stories about the city’s gastronomic history accompanied by plenty of good eats. If everyone has room for more, head downtown for a welcome dinner at Carson Kitchen, the last outpost of rockstar chef Kerry Simon. His legacy lives on at this Fremont-area favorite with intriguing menu items like squid ink spaghetti and caviar deviled eggs.

Joel Robuchon restaurant Las Vegas
Photo by Joel Robuchon Las Vegas

Celebrate your love: The Michelin-starred Joël Robuchon at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino is the only Las Vegas restaurant with a designated spot for wedding ceremonies. Its lavishly decorated Parisian Terrace serves as an intimate space to say your vows, followed by a five-course tasting menu in a private dining room.

Giada restaurant at the Cromwell Las Vegas
Photo by Giada Las Vegas

Say farewell: You can’t send your loved ones home without one more amazing meal. A good-bye brunch at The Cromwell Las Vegas’ restaurant Giada, TV chef Giada De Laurentiis’ signature spot, is a must for any true Food Network fan.


Las Vegas is no stranger to luxury. There are plenty of spots where to-be-weds and their guests can feel pampered like the VIPs they are.

SW Steakhouse at Wynn Las Vegas
Photo by Wynn Las Vegas

Start things off: Kick off your ritzy weekend with that classic symbol of high-class dinners: the steakhouse. SW Steakhouse at Wynn is one of the best on the Strip, but its waterfront view of the nightly Lake of Dreams show really puts the experience over the top. Follow your decadent night out by inviting your guests to a relaxing day at the spa. The Sahra Spa & Hammam at The Cosmopolitan is as fancy as it gets. You can even book your own penthouse with a steam room, hydrotherapy tubs and a private treatment area. How luxurious is that?

Four Seasons Las Vegas
Photo by Four Seasons Las Vegas

Celebrate your love: Weddings at the Four Seasons Las Vegas are known for their impeccable service and serene settings. With multiple venues in one location, the Four Seasons lets couples customize every aspect of their day and benefit from some serious red-carpet treatment.

Bouchon at the Venetian Las Vegas
Photo by The Venetian Las Vegas

Say farewell: What could be classier than ending your wedding weekend with a fancy French brunch? Bouchon at The Venetian features the world-famous cuisine of award-winning chef Thomas Keller. Enjoy brioche French toast, smoked salmon and decadent pastries while people watching on the patio.


Got wanderlust running through your veins? Pay homage to all the places you’ve been (or dream of visiting) at a wedding that spans the globe without ever leaving Las Vegas.

Ka by Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas
Photo by Cirque du Soleil

Start things off: Transport your guests—or at least their taste buds—to Thailand with a rehearsal dinner at Lotus of Siam. This James Beard Award–winning restaurant focuses on authentic northern and eastern Thai cuisine, some of which you might not see elsewhere in the US. Continue your cultural tour by catching a performance of KÀ by Cirque du Soleil® at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino. The thrilling acrobatics, martial arts and rotating stage are sure to leave your jaw on the floor.

Zen Ceremony wedding in Wynn Las Vegas

Photo by Wynn Las Vegas

Celebrate your love: The ceremony venues at Wynn provide a luxurious, private getaway from the hustle and bustle of the Strip. For an Asian-inspired setting, the Zen Ceremony in Tranquility Hall features an aisle lined with sparkling lanterns and a giant gold peacock. If you need space for more guests, the Primrose Garden serves as a lush, green backdrop for your vows. Afterward, let your reception take you to Italy via TREVI at The Forum Shops at Caesars. The atmospheric restaurant overlooks the Fountain of the Gods in the Forum from a balcony worthy of a Roman holiday.

tropical tiki drink

Photo by shutterstock

Say farewell: The last stop on your global wedding tour is Hawaii, by way of some classic ’60s kitsch. An after-party at Frankie’s Tiki Room will leave your guests digging the laid-back, tropical vibe surrounded by some classic artifacts of Vegas history.


If you and your fiancé feel more at home surrounded by clean lines and modern art than over-the-top opulence, Vegas still has you covered.

Twist by Pierre Gagnaire in Las Vegas

Photo by Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas

Start things off: Make a jaw-dropping (and mouthwatering) first impression by inviting your guests to dinner at Twist by Pierre Gagnaire. Located at the Mandarin Oriental, this sleek, sparkling space is dotted with more than 300 tiny globe lights that seem suspended in midair. The restaurant’s modern take on traditional French cuisine is the brainchild of Gagnaire, a revered French chef, and this is his only outpost in the US. For more fun with your loved ones, rent a poolside cabana at the Mandarin Oriental pool deck, and soak up some of that desert sun in a chic, contemporary setting.

Keep Memory Alive Center in Las Vegas

Photo by Keep Memory Alive Center

Celebrate your love: Connoisseurs of modern art will fall head over heels for the distinctive ceremony space in theGALLERY Featuring Dale Chihuly. Couples can say their vows at any spot in the gallery, surrounded by Chihuly’s world-renowned dramatic and colorful glass sculptures. Afterward, dine and dance inside another work of art—the Frank Gehry–designed Keep Memory Alive Center. This soaring structure of steel and windows is an unforgettable backdrop for a reception with modern flair.

Hyde at Bellagio Las Vegas

Photo by Bellagio Las Vegas

Say farewell: If you’re not ready for the party to end, continue the celebration with an after-party at the Hyde Bellagio. You can send your guests out in style as you finish the evening basking in the glow of the dancing fountains.

Like what you just read? Click here to take a survey and be entered to win a $100 American Express gift card.

The Knot and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority present Match Made in Vegas, a sponsored series featuring unforgettable venues, insider tips and real-life inspiration to help plan your perfect Vegas destination wedding. To get started, visit Viva.LasVegas.com/weddings.


9 Unforgettable Las Vegas Wedding Venues

9 Unforgettable Las Vegas Wedding Venues

Defy expectations at these creative locales that suit every wedding style.

Las Vegas Strip lit up at night

Photo by Shutterstock

Forget everything you thought you knew about Las Vegas weddings—nowadays the venue options are as varied and imaginative as the resorts that line the world-famous Strip. From eye-catching nature scenes to iconic modern landmarks, we’ve rounded up our favorite picks for an unforgettable ceremony or reception. At these sites, what happens in Vegas is sure to have everyone on your guest list talking for years to come.

  1. In the Gardens at Springs Preserve

    tables set up for a wedding in a cactus garden

    Photo by Springs Preserve

    Getting married in the middle of the desert doesn’t mean you can’t be surrounded by lush greenery. Eco-friendly and LEED-certified, the museum and gardens at Springs Preserve offer a variety of locations for ceremonies and receptions, from an arbor to an amphitheater. You can even rent the entire botanical gardens, allowing guests to stroll through Cactus Alley and spot butterflies in the Wildlife Garden while sipping champagne.

  2. Under the Sea at Mandalay Bay

    Mandalay Bay Seascape ballroom with aquarium views

    Photo by Tory Kooyman

    If you’ve always dreamed of being a mermaid, Mandalay Bay’s Seascape ballroom gives you a fish-eye view of the underwater world in its 1.3-million-gallon aquarium. With floor-to-ceiling windows that peer into the Shark Reef tank, the room is available for both ceremonies and receptions, so guests can watch aquatic creatures swim past as you say “I do.”

  3. Lakeside at the Westin Lake Las Vegas

    sunset lakeside wedding at Lake Las Vegas
    Photo by The Westin Lake Las Vegas

    A waterfront location might not come to mind when planning a wedding in the desert, but the shores of Lake Las Vegas provide a stunning backdrop for a sunset ceremony or cocktail reception. The lakeside courtyard at The Westin Lake Las Vegas hosts up to 250 guests amid sparkling fountains and fire pits, surrounded by views of the water and mountains. After the ceremony, you can host a dinner on the waterfront, dance the night away in one of its ballrooms or even rent a yacht to cruise around the lake.

  4. In the Desert at Red Rock Canyon

    desert view of Red Rock Canyon, Nevada
    Photo by iStock

    Only 17 miles west of the Vegas Strip, Red Rock Canyon is a National Conservation Area with gorgeous rust-colored peaks stretching across its dramatic landscape. This eastern corner of the Mojave desert provides nature lovers with a scenic backdrop for a dazzling desert ceremony. There are two sites in the park designated for weddings, which are available with a Special Recreation Permit you need to purchase 14 days in advance. It’s standing room only for up to 50 guests, but several companies offer transportation so you can return downtown to party the night away afterward.

  5. At the top of the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas

    the Eiffel Tower replica at Paris Las Vegas
    Photo by iStock

    Paris is synonymous with romance, but you don’t need to trek all the way to France for a wedding with Parisian flair. Instead, say your vows 460 feet in the air on the observation deck of the half-sized replica of Gustave Eiffel’s iconic structure at Paris Las Vegas. Surrounded by 360-degree views, you and 12 guests can bask in the glow of the Vegas Strip, followed by a feast of French cuisine one story below at the Eiffel Tower restaurant.

  6. Among Vintage Relics at the Neon Museum

    vintage neon signs at the Neon Museum, Las Vegas
    Photo by The Neon Museum

    If you’re all about classic Vegas, the Neon Museum and Boneyard is a retro glam wedding wonderland that’s right up your alley. The outdoor gallery is home to more than 150 vintage neon signs, making for some colorful and cool photo ops. The space is available for ceremonies and receptions, and you can even arrange a guided tour of the gallery for your guests.

  7. In Front of the Dancing Fountains at Bellagio

    Hyde nightclub at Bellagio, Las Vegas
    Photo by Bellagio

    Imagine your first kiss as a married couple accented by a swell of music, lights and a choreographed water spectacle. Shooting over 400 feet in the air, Bellagio’s mesmerizing dancing fountains serve as the grand finale for ceremonies on the Terrazza di Sogno or in the Hyde Bellagio. After the dazzling display, you can continue the party with a reception in one of Bellagio’s ballrooms or restaurants.

  8. High in the Sky at Stratosphere

    the Stratosphere hotel in Las Vegas
    Photo by iStock

    Want to wed at the top of world? Stratosphere’s Chapel in the Clouds is about as close as you can get. The tallest resort in Las Vegas has four ceremony and five reception sites to choose from, where you can host weddings of all shapes and sizes—up to 240 guests. The commanding views from the 104th and 112th floors spread across all of Las Vegas Valley and the mountains beyond.

  9. In a Hidden Oasis at the Flamingo

    lush garden wedding ceremony in Las Vegas
    Photo by Cashman Photo

    If you want to stay in the center of the action, but still have a ceremony that feels worlds away, the Gazebo Chapel at the Flamingo is a tranquil retreat in the middle of the Strip. Surrounded by palm trees, garden flowers and an ivy-covered gazebo, this outdoor venue is a romantic spot to say your vows with up to 100 guests. Bonus: the lush, tropical grounds of the resort include plenty of waterfalls for great photo ops.

    Like what you just read? Click here to take a survey and be entered to win a $100 American Express gift card.
    The Knot and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority present Match Made in Vegas, a sponsored series featuring unforgettable venues, insider tips and real-life inspiration to help plan your perfect Vegas destination wedding. To get started, visit Viva.LasVegas.com/weddings.


Exactly What to Look for When Finding a Wedding Reception Location

Exactly What to Look for When Finding a Wedding Reception Location

One of the first tasks on your to-do list is choosing a fabulous reception venue. Before you sign anything, make sure your first choice checks off all these boxes.

Modern Farmhouse Venue

Photo by Lacie Hansen Photography

Other than that just-right feeling of finding “the one,” there are several things you should look for in a wedding reception site. First, if you haven’t already, head to The Knot Venue Concierge, where all you have to do is tell us what you’re looking for in terms of budget, guest list and style, and we’ll help you with the rest of the details, like scheduling tours and, later, booking your venue. Here are some helpful tips to help you narrow down your list.

A Roomy Fit

It sounds obvious but make sure the room is large enough to accommodate the number of people on your guest list. The site may look enormous when it’s empty, but wedding essentials—tables, chairs, a buffet, bar, the band or DJ setup, the dance floor—will fill it quickly. Not to mention your guests will need some elbow room. Even if you choose an outdoor site, you’ll need ample space on the lawn, in the arboretum or poolside. The best way to assess the size of a site is to go see it when another wedding (with an equivalent guest list size) is all set up. On the other hand, if you decide that a special site, like your favorite bar or your parents’ garden where you got engaged, is the only place you want to celebrate, you can always work backward and tailor your guest list to match the venue.

Eating, Drinking and Partying Areas

There should be logical places within the venue where guests can eat, drink, mingle and dance. When you’re standing in the space, try to envision where each activity would happen (especially if your ceremony will also be there). If a room is too small to separate into sections accordingly, you’ll probably feel cramped. If it has an odd configuration, like it’s shaped like an S, that could compromise your party’s flow as well. Also, note the locations of columns or other obstructions in the room—will they block your guests’ views of the dance floor or the cake table?


Privacy varies widely by venue, as does the importance couples place on it. If you’re having a daytime event in a public spot, such as a park, beach or botanical garden, be prepared for strangers to trek past your party. They may even smile, wave and come by to offer their well wishes. If this is okay with you, go for it. If not, opt for a lawn on a private estate or golf course.

Remember, this caveat isn’t just for outdoor weddings. Banquet halls and hotels often hold more than one affair at a time. If there’ll be other events going on simultaneously in rooms close to yours, you may hear karaoke-loving guests belting Madonna through the walls or guests may meet them over the hot-air dryers in the bathroom. If this bothers you, try to schedule your wedding when there won’t be another one next door. If that’s impossible, visit the site on a dual-party night and see how the sound carries and whether there really are any major problems before you make a decision. Or you could hold the reception at a restaurant or gallery that will allow you to rent it out so your party is guests only. Ask about available security at your site to keep wedding crashers at bay.


Light can make—or break—the mood and space. If you’re marrying during the day, double-check that your hall has plenty of windows. Who wants to spend six hours in a dark room when the sun is shining? If it’s an evening affair, make sure the room’s not too dim—or that the lighting can be controlled for the big entrance, dinner and dancing. If you’re marrying outdoors, say, at dusk, will you be able to set up candles if necessary?

Visit the site at the same time of day you’ve chosen for your wedding. Even if the space looks romantic by candlelight, you may be surprised by the sight of that outdated carpet during the day. If you only check it out in the evening, you’ll also miss a chance to see how the sunlight streaming through floor-to-ceiling windows completely transforms the room.

A Great View

What will your guests see when they walk into the room? Whether it’s your city skyline, a stunning vista of rolling mountains or crashing waves, exceptional locations with a view are always a plus. If there’s no view per se, look to a place’s décor or architectural details. Artwork on the walls, fine Persian rugs on the floors, period furniture in the corners or an amazing crystal chandelier as the room’s centerpiece all give your reception site that something extra.

The Proper Palette

If you’re considering a certain theme and color palette for your party, make sure the site’s existing, nonremovable décor doesn’t clash with your vision. The venue doesn’t have to be done in the exact colors as your planned decorations, but the walls, carpets, chairs and curtains shouldn’t drastically conflict with your party’s mood or theme. If you want a spring wedding brunch, a space with pastel colors or floral motifs would be a perfect fit. For a classic wedding, consider an elegant room done in neutrals or black and white.

Ample Outlets

Do a thorough check around the room for plenty of power outlets—especially if you’re partying in a place that’s doesn’t usually host weddings. You’ll want to make sure that your entertainment crew has all the power they need to keep the party going. This means taking note of all the electrical outlets in your reception area and supplying them with more than enough extension cords that they can use safely.

Good Acoustics

If the place is too echoey, it could give some weird reverb to the band, not to mention make it difficult for guests to hear one another talking. A tile or wood floor will amplify sounds while a thick carpet will tend to muffle them. Check out the room’s sound quality during an event and tailor your music to the venue. A jazz combo will sound better at an intimate art gallery than a 14-piece orchestra would (not to mention the fact that it takes up less floor space).

Plenty of Parking

Make sure the site is near a good parking lot, garage or big, empty street where it’s legal (and safe) to park. If parking is a problem, look for other ways to get everyone to the party. Can a shuttle bus or vans take guests from the ceremony to the reception? Inadequate parking isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, but it may mean spending more time and money to figure out a viable transportation alternative.

Plan B

While you might not even want to think about rain putting a damper on your outdoor wedding, you can’t look at venues without considering an alternative plan of action should Mother Nature have other ideas. Figure out if there’s an indoor space you can use should the weather turn, or if there’s an option to set up an outdoor tent if your heart is set on an open-air celebration.


20 Secrets to a Fun Wedding Reception

20 Secrets to a Fun Wedding Reception

Well, they’re not really secrets—just super-solid ideas.

Sure, the ceremony is the most important part of the day for you and your partner, but the reception is what your guests are most looking forward to. Make the reception celebration memorable and personal, and plan a night your guests won’t forget. Still looking for your dream reception space? Check out all the venues in your area here.

  1. Arrange Seating Assignments Thoughtfully

    Pink and gold place settings at outdoor wedding reception

    Photo by Larissa Cleveland Photography

    It sounds obvious, but it belongs on the list: Seat guests with people they’ll know and get along with. A well-thought-out seating chart leads to great conversation, which leads to a great dance party, which leads to…well, you get the idea! So seat your high school track teammates near your college running buddies, and put your tween cousins with other kids their age rather than their parents (and keep track of it all with our seating chart tool).

  2. Give Out Party Favors

    DIY face masks of bride and groom for dance floor

    Photo by Rachel Pearlman Photography

    Don’t forget that a reception is a party! Let your guests know that it’s okay to cut loose after a formal ceremony by passing out fun wedding favors at the reception. A few of our favorite ideas? Funky masks, sunglasses or Silly String.

  3. Keep the Toasts Short (and Prep Your Toasters)

    Bride and groom toast guests at wedding reception

    Photo by Delbarr Moradi Photography

    As meaningful and wonderful as toasts can be, it’s really all about quality over quantity. So direct anyone who is speaking in advance to keep their speeches to two minutes max and ask them to share any other long stories at a prewedding party like the rehearsal dinner.

  4. Have a Game Plan for Kids

    Kids table decor at wedding reception
    Photo by First Comes Love Photography

    To keep the little ones entertained throughout the night (and to give their parents an opportunity to hit the dance floor), have an area specifically for them. In a separate room, arrange for a babysitter who can set up movies for them to watch and games to play. Or designate a couple tables just for the kids and pack them with coloring books, crayons and small toys.

  5. Jazz Up Your First Dance

    Choreographed first dance routine

    Photo by The Nichols

    All eyes will be on you during your first dance, which means it’s the perfect opportunity to shock your guests. Imagine starting with a slow dance to “At Last” and then suddenly switching to a fast, sexy Latin dance or a jazzy swing step. It’ll totally throw your guests for a loop and set the tone for a lively dance party.

  6. Plan an Interactive Food Station

    Grilled cheese food station at wedding reception

    Photo by The Reason

    Great food makes great celebrations, but customizable food (so that everyone gets exactly what they like) is even better. A mac-and-cheese station, pasta bar or grilled cheese station where people can choose their own toppings and sauces will leave you with happy, well-fed guests ready to have a good time.

  7. Serve a Leisurely Dinner

    Farm to table small plates wedding catering
    Photo by Al Gawlik Photography

    Instead of a quick, three-course menu of salad, entree and dessert, stretch out dinner over four or five smaller courses. Then, plan small surprises in between, like a short toast from your hilarious aunt or a professional dance performance. It’ll give your guests the experience of a fun night out on the town, complete with dinner and a show.

  8. Change Into Something Comfortable

    Short reception dress with feather skirt and embellished bodice

    Photo by Ashley Brockinton Photography

    Let’s put it this way: You won’t have a good time at your reception if you can’t breathe, right? So after the first dance, swap your veil and train for a little white dress. (This party switch applies to grooms too—depending on the formality of the wedding, guys can change out of a restricting tux into a more relaxed suit.) If you and your new spouse are comfortable enough to move freely, you’ll dance more, chat more and laugh more, and that’ll rub off on your guests.

  9. Plan Surprise Entertainment

    Acrobatic performance at wedding reception
    Photo by Anne Almasy

    Sometimes the best parts of a reception are the things guests don’t see coming. Surprise your guests with unexpected entertainment during the cocktail hour or reception, like a belly dancer, mariachi band or even a salsa dancer.

  10. If You’ve Hired a Band, Make Sure There’s Good “Break” Music

    Bride and groom dance to wedding band
    Photo by Riverland Studios

    We’ve all been to that wedding before: Just when the dance floor starts to get packed, the band takes a break and the party dies. Don’t let that happen to you. When you hire your band, ask specifically about how they plan to handle breaks. Some bands will take them in shifts and split off into a smaller two- or three-piece band, while others will turn on filler music. If yours is planning to use filler music, ask whether you can provide the mix.

  11. If You’ve Hired a DJ, Make Sure You Share the Same Tastes

    Wedding DJ plays music at Wythe Hotel reception
    Photo by Chellise Michael Photography

    Okay, this is an obvious one, but it made the list because music is a major fun factor at the reception, and it has a lot to do with how long your guests will stay. The last thing you want to see is your dance floor clear out when the “chicken dance” comes on. So, make sure to talk to your DJ about your do-not-play list.

  12. Play Danceable Music

    Reception dance floor under string lights
    Photo by W&E Photographie

    Whether you’ve hired a band or a DJ, if you want to keep the dance floor packed (and we’re guessing you do), plan a playlist of songs that will please the crowd, not just you two. You may love obscure indie rock, but now isn’t the time to show off your discerning taste in music. People love dancing to Lady Gaga and Madonna—so let them!

  13. Add a Lounge to Your Reception

    Outdoor patio reception lounge
    Photo by The Nichols

    If possible, create a loungelike area in your reception space. Why? People can get antsy. Instead of having your guests sit around the same dinner tables all night, a change of environment will promote conversation and keep even your nondancing guests entertained. Look into renting or borrowing couches, chairs and other pieces of furniture that you can then stage with pillows and votive candles in your wedding colors.

  14. Hire a Day-of Coordinator

    Bride and groom's first dance at tented wedding reception
    Photo by Chennergy

    You may have a ton of fun ideas for your reception lined up—say, a rockin’ entrance, amazing band and surprise late-night snacks—but the truth is, it’s much harder than you’d think to keep each of those plans in check. If you already have an event planner, genius. If not, look into booking a day-of coordinator to oversee the details (trust us, it’s worth it).

  15. Bring in an Expert Tasting Station

    Whiskey tasting station and cigar bar
    Photo by Troy Grover Photographers

    A full bar is a must-have for a great reception, but amp it up a notch with an interactive drink experience. We’re talking about a wine, beer or whiskey tasting, where guests can sample different drinks and learn a few tasting notes. A hand-rolled cigar station also fits the bill, as does a choose-your-flavor margarita bar (yum!).

  16. Create Zones

    Blue and yellow reception decor
    Photo by K. Thompson Photography

    The key to a lively celebration? Movement. The best parties encourage lots of dancing, with mini breaks for mingling and snacking—not just sitting. So divide your reception into distinct areas for dancing, sipping drinks and chatting, and getting coffee or bites to eat. Arrange a few cocktail tables near the bar, provide an outdoor seating option or set up a dessert table of bite-size sweets.

  17. Order Good Food (That’s Not Stuffy)

    Mini chicken and waffles wedding catering
    Photo by Braedon Photography

    Just ask yourself: What would you want to eat? If you’re not the meat-and-potatoes type, consider doing something more to your liking—maybe Spanish tapas, Mexican fajitas or a big Italian dinner. Or skip the sit-down altogether and opt for a heavy hors d’oeuvres reception. Think mini sliders, bite-size vegetable quiches or a cheese table.

  18. Keep Your Guests Fueled

    Late night pizza station at wedding reception
    Photo by Bonnie & Lauren

    If you want to ensure an all-night crowd, arrange for your catering staff to bring out trays of late-night munchies like French fries or even a pizza bar. If you stick with low-key comfort foods like those, they’ll wish the party would never end. Another great idea: Offer a coffee bar complete with special syrups and toppings to keep them caffeinated.

  19. Tell Your Guests About an End-of-the-Night Treat

    Fireworks over tented wedding reception
    Photo by Aaron Imaging

    Nothing stops a party in its tracks faster than guests heading for the door early. To keep guests celebrating, plan a treat for the end of the night that people will look forward to: You and your new spouse can perform a song with the band for the last dance, or you can plan a reception getaway that’ll gets guests excited, like a fireworks show or an exit with sparklers.

  20. Put on a Welcome Dinner

    Guests drink out of vintage glasses at party
    Photo by Paper Antler

    Okay, so this tip isn’t for your reception, but it will end up making the party more fun. Why? A casual event where all of your guests can meet and mingle the day before the wedding means that by the time your reception rolls around, everyone will have already gotten to know one another. That way, your guests can skip the pleasantries and get right down to celebrating.


How to Start Your Search for a Caterer

How to Start Your Search for a Caterer

To find the right food pro for your wedding reception, start with these helpful tips.

Wedding Entre

Photo by Theresa Choi Photography

It’s time to get down to business and find an amazing caterer to bring your ideal wedding feast to life. Tackle this major to-do as soon as possible—the best caterers are often booked well in advance, even up to a year. Here’s exactly where to begin your search.

Where to Start Finding a Caterer

  • Ask recently married friends for vendor referrals.
  • Scroll through The Knot Marketplace for top local caterers and client reviews in your wedding location.
  • Hotels, country clubs and large special-event facilities often have in-house caterers, and if not, they’ll definitely have a list of preferred pros. That means choosing a venue like one of these will take you totally off the hook for finding someone yourself.
  • Ask your favorite restaurant to cater your day. If they don’t do weddings, some spots might be able to point you to a trustworthy restaurant that does.
  • The photographers, florists, videographers and planners you’re speaking with might keep a list of reputable caterers they’ve heard of through the industry grapevine or know personally.

Tips for Making Appointments

  • When you call to make appointments, try to schedule tastings as part of the interviews—their personality is incredibly important, but it’s their food you’ll be putting to the test first.
  • Before you leave, don’t just take a business card—ask each caterer to draw up a rough outline including details like cost per person, menu options, exactly what the fee includes (alcohol, rentals, tips), service and presentation style, and less expensive alternatives. Make sure to ask these important questions before making any decisions to book.
  • Check references and find out several things to make your search more helpful: one, the customer’s head count, venue and menu items; two, the food’s taste, presentation and preparation; three, the quality and efficiency of the waitstaff; and, four, whether or not the menu and bill met expectations.
  • Take extra precaution and get the full scoop on a particular catering firm through the Better Business Bureau before you make any moves to hire them.

Ed Sheeran’s New Song Is Perfect for Your First Dance

Ed Sheeran’s New Song Is Perfect for Your First Dance

We’re swooning over his next hit.

Ed Sheeran

Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

We’ve been waiting for Ed Sheeran’s new album Divide ever since he dropped his last one, X, which included hits like “Thinking Out Loud” and “Photograph.” We already love the two upbeat songs he’s released pre-album launch on March 3—”Shape of You” and “Castle on a Hill”—but we’ve been waiting for that signature Sheeran love song to really take our breath away. Lucky for us, he dropped a new track today (his birthday!) called “How Would You Feel (Paean)” and we can’t get enough.

The guitar, the piano, Sheeran’s vocals—this slow track is perfect for a newlywed first dance. Just read the lyrics:

“How would you feel/if I told you I loved you/It’s just something that I want to do/I’ll be taking my time/spending my life/falling deeper in love with you/So tell me that you love me too.”

Take a listen for yourself here.