DJ, photo booths, and live bands are old hat when it comes to a wedding reception if you want to stand out of the crowd. Bring at least one of these unique entertainment ideas to make it unforgettable.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t consider DJ, photo booth, or live bands when looking to spice up the party! Who in clear mind would question them as essential? However, if you’re wanting to set your wedding reception apart from the rest, you’re going to have to take it to the next level.
No matter what you end up doing—be it hiring a live painter and a magician or staging a treasure hunt for guests—you’ll want a professional photography team on hand to document every hilarious moment and back up the talk of the town.
Yearn for Yard Games
For midday ceremonies at beautiful outdoor venues, yard games can be a great way to keep your guests laughing and playing for hours—at least until the dance floor opens up.
Some of the top yard games include corn hole, giant Jenga, ladder balls, bocce ball, lawn bowling, shoot-a-duck, table football, ring toss, croquet, etc. The best part about some of these games is that you can customize the items to match the theme of your wedding.
If you’re looking to keep your entertainment cheap at the wedding, lawn games are a particularly apt solution as many libraries will loan them out to you for free.
Upping Your Game with Entertainers
Wandering performers are another fun way to spice up your wedding reception—though you might still want to steer clear of any mimes.
The best type of entertainer for your wedding comes down to personal tastes. One of the most exotic and unique entertainment ideas is to have belly dancers and fire performers putting on a show. Others want entertainers that will interact more directly with guests. Magicians or palm readers will add an enigmatic or supernatural feel to your wedding reception.
For a time-saving one-stop shopping, entertainment agencies offer a wide spectrum of any imaginable performances to choose from, from aerial acrobats and living statues to celebrity imitators and burlesque artists.
Magicians or palm readers are especially useful as ice-breakers at the cocktail hour but can also take care of those guests who stay away from the dance floor and sometimes look isolated if not bored.
Mr and Mrs Smith (a.k.a. Shoe Game)
Ready for the public fame… or shame? How well do you really know each other? A shoe game reflects on a TV show Mr and Mrs game back from the 60s. Bride and groom are asked quiz questions of all sorts, from easy to tricky and funny. Questions are usually the type of “Who is…” and the couple sits with their back to each other, raising his or her shoe for the answer. To bring more variety, cards and markers can be used to jot quick answers to other types of questions.
Want to give your best man an alternative way of humiliating you in his speech? Task him with preparing the quiz questions and and hosting this game.
Game of Guests
Well, well… Here’s where the very idea of writing this article was conceived. Coming from the former USSR, I have a soft side for many things Russian (substitute with any post-Soviet bloc, if you will). Things can get wild at Russian weddings and while bears on the streets is a myth, abundance of vodka at weddings is a reality.
Because most Russians traditionally get married before age 24 (heck, I was 18.5), they learned how to bring fun, quirky, and arguably racy games like no others! I will not vouch for some crazy guest games but some of those I witnessed will add a whole new dimension to a predictable traditional Western routine.
Say, a naughty version of the Mr and Mrs outlined above. Presumably, a marrying couple know each other very well, including physical traits. Get a groom blindfolded and have him identify his bride’s leg among 4-6 guests, including the bride. (A more G-rated variation gives the groom a napkin with lipstick marks from several women.) Then they switch and the bride is going for a hairy set of male attendees. (An easier and more conservative version—ID-ing by touching faces.)
Another high-energy game that keeps the floor laughing in tears is balloon-stomping. Participating guests are paired up and a balloon is pressed between each couple. The winners pop that balloon first. Sounds simple but you go try not to pee when watching them move…
The category deserves a separate article full of ridiculous games like hiding a bride for ransom if groom cannot find her, predicting first child’s gender, assigning house chores by pulling household items from a sack, dressing a doll the fastest, musical chairs, Roman Hands and Russian Fingers, frying pan and ladle, and more. You got the point: spice things up, comrades.
To keep the element of surprise to both guests and the couple, have the games planned out and led by a few friends-activists. If the above loco games are too much for you, at least go with one or two of the conventional ones.
Dancing with a Twist
Think you can beat those epic YouTube videos? Couples learn a secret dance routine that often starts off to a classy (perhaps intentionally cliché) tune and then record-scratch into some hip moves.
Surprises work the other way around, too, and I see an envious lot of it at Indian weddings. Close friends and relatives of all ages come up with dance numbers when anything goes. “How they met” musicals, improvs, lip syncing, and flash mob—whatever makes the crowd go wild, from Bollywood to Dirty Dancing-inspired routines.
In a well orchestrated fashion, the initial surprise part for the couple transitions into a grand performance for the guests’ entertainment when bride and join in. Find inspiration in some of the best viral wedding dances to have your guests drop jaws.
On a more traditional side of unique entertainment ideas to keep the crow is the old-fashion dance off. Split some of your guests into female/male, bride’s/groom’s sides, family/friends, work/school, or any other suitable gangs and have them dance match, wall on wall.
Finally, consider bringing a dance instructor to conduct an introductory group dance lesson. Many couples would be thrilled to refresh their salsa or merengue moves for free!
Give your guests’ interest a major boost and offer an inspiration by having that instructor(s) perform a solo or duet routine prior to the lesson.
Tickling for a Treasure Hunt
Sometimes weddings are best when you allow yourself—and your guests—to tap into that inner child and just have fun. And, one way to do that is with a treasure hunt.
Such a scavenger hunt can focus on family traditions and allow guests to learn all sorts of amusing details about you, the newlyweds! Though such entertainment is a bit much for a big wedding, for smaller intimate affairs it can be a blast for everyone involved.
Put up a contest for a photo scavenger hunt to have your guests compete along a pre-printed challenging check-off list, e.g., crazy jump, silly face, dance move, selfie with catering staff, and so on. Lots of people want to show off and to kid around and will eagerly recommend this as one of unique entertainment ideas stolen from your wedding reception.
To add an edge and endless bursts of laughter, have the guests use a hashtag and stream their photos live to a venue’s screen via services like Slidesome.
Splashing Out with a Live Painter/Caricaturist
If you look for art in unique entertainment ideas, there is nothing quite like the thrill of watching someone paint your wedding. Throughout the country, there are thousands of trained artists who specialize in doing exactly this.
Given that their styles and skill levels vary drastically, you’ll want to ask to see samples of their work before you sign any contracts. A stylishly designed business website speaks volumes. I used to draw, too, and believe in high-end presentation of one’s portfolio. That said, a good live painter will not only create several stunning paintings for your home, but they’ll also be social and interact with your guests.
Most guests get a kick out of watching a painting come together, as well as spotting themselves on the canvas.
If you’re wanting an artist to produce more than two or three pieces, you can consider hiring a charcoal artist or perhaps a sketch artist to entertain your guests.
Caricature artists can double as an alternative to favors for your guests — highly personalized, unisque, and creative!
Mixing it Up With a Mixologist
If you’ve got a drinking crowd that wants to be wowed on your hands for the wedding reception, a mixologist is the way to go.
A mixologist is basically a next-level bartender. Some will be able to ask guests their favorite song, favorite color, or favorite moment at the wedding, and then design a custom cocktail based on that idea.
Another possibility is a flare bartender who not only will be able to pour some of the fanciest drinks in town but will put on a flashy show in the process. She twirls, whizzes, throws, and catches bottles in between making cocktails. You cannot take your eyes away.
Not only can a mixologist recommend a signature cocktail for your wedding reception based on your theme, but specialty drinks are also a great way to save money if you’re on a budget: you don’t necessarily have to offer a full bar.
Creating With DIY Stations
DIY stations are always a big hit at wedding receptions. Part of the reason for this is that they are so obviously customizable, a prerequisite for unique entertainment ideas. You can tap into your cultural heritage with a DIY station by allowing guests to create a craft that ties into your family history. Or, they can create something that they’ll be able to take home.
Some of the most popular DIY stations at wedding receptions are cigar rolling, flower crown making, and an assortment of food preparation fun! All of these can help keep your guests entertained as they tap into their own creativity.
Food or ice cream trucks can offer a versatile hipster option for any guests tired of typical wedding caterer menu choices during those mid-reception breaks.
Final Thoughts: Unique Entertainment Ideas Is the Definition of Fun Wedding Reception
Be honest—after attending several weddings, can you really take one apart from another? Don’t miss a chance to make your guests say: “Ooooh, Anastasia and Radek’s wedding?! Who can forget it??” I will surely not because I was turned into a lead singer of an impromptu mime band as part of a game show (pictured above).
Of course, having the right photography team to capture those moments—be it a painter dashing out the father-daughter dance or a belly dancer putting smiles on relatives’ faces—will make all the difference in the long run.
Tell us about your favorite wedding reception unique entertainment ideas in the comment section below!