When you have been the DJ and MC at as many weddings as I have prospective clients are quick to ask questions and eager for advice. For the sake of time they often ask me what is the single most important advice I can give newlyweds-to-be for their big day. I never hesitate or have to think about the answer. I say it is simply to not leave your reception. My advice often generates looks of bewilderment. Why would any bride and groom leave their reception? I see it all the time and when it happens your party can stall. After all, you are the one common denominator to every guest there. You are the reason for the event and often the catalyst that precipitates the energy.
So let's take a look at a few of the reasons why brides and grooms would leave their own party.
1. Photography. You notice I did not say "photographer" because my intention is not to blame any one vendor. If you give your photographer an unreasonably long list of shots to get, you really can't blame the shooter for the excessive amount of time it takes. Sometimes a venue's interior is not that conducive to great pictures so you head to a patio, garden or other area away from the guests. At coastal weddings the temptation is for sunset shots on the beach. The value of these photo opportunities are obvious when accomplished quickly but if too much time passes, you will be missed and your party can suffer. The key to leaving your reception for photos is good communication between you, your photographer and the other on-site vendors.
2. Hair and Make-up. Slipping into the ladies room is common for all of the obvious reasons and not normally an issue if done quickly. However, when you go to freshen up it can create an impromptu "Meeting in the Ladies Room" as the classic 80's party song goes. Without someone paying attention to the time it can mean you vanish for a half hour or more. I always suggest you take one of your bridesmaids or maid of honor along who can watch the clock to avoid getting sidetracked or distracted.
3. Cigar Party. A popular ritual is the cigar party on the porch where the groom and his buddies congregate to light up for some male bonding. Although I completely understand this gathering from a social standpoint it can have the same impact on the event as the girls in the powder room. You are one-half of the most important couple at the wedding and it subtracts you from the party.
4. Facility Floor Plans. So often it is just the lack of proximity to the majority of the guests that means you have become disconnected from the event. One of my clients sat all of their college friends at a few tables in a section of a garden court separated from the others by hedges. Greeting their friends turned into almost another side party and I had to go find them. Large mansions with multiple rooms can also create the same affect which means your efforts to keep circulating become more important. Just the simple logistics of inside and outside seating can give the impression you are gone by creating isolation between you and some of your guests.
5. Changing Clothes. One tradition I rarely see today is the going away outfit or at least the couple changing out of their bridal attire before the reception ends. If changing is necessary because you are heading directly to the honeymoon after the party, I suggest you take turns so both of you are not away at the same time. Many Asian brides have both a contemporary gown and a traditional one. Having at least one bridesmaid or attendant helping her really helps expedite these changes.
My concern about your absence during the reception is also because of spontaneous events. As much as you plan there are still moments that happen on their own. For instance it is very common for a guest to approach me who wants to do an impromptu toast that is not in my notes or on the schedule. I need your presence and perhaps approval to facilitate this request. Group photos that include you or a surprise presentation are also very popular. If I'm aware that you have stepped away, I can much better react to these events and handle them accordingly. It is most important to alert your DJ/MC, on-site coordinator or wedding planner whenever you leave so we the ones in the best position to keep momentum going, the party flowing and make your absence less apparent.
Remember that you are the reason why everyone is gathering to celebrate your wedding. Both your presence and absence are strongly felt. For the sake of a great party make your presence the rule and any absence the exception for as short of time as possible.