Brides DailyDIY

6 Steps to Planning Like a Party Pro

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Photo by Mark Matcho/BRIDES

Going the DIY route and planning your reception yourself? Don't panic. BRIDES magazine has got your back—and the vital info and tricks every bride needs to know.

Step 1: Figure out the seating chart
You don't need to assign each guest to a specific seat, but you should definitely assign each guest to a table.

Step 2: Arrange escort cards
These are also known as seating and table-assignment cards; make sure people see them as soon as they enter the dining room, but also avoid causing a traffic jam and don't put them right inside the entryway or by the front doors.

Step 3: Position the bar
It will be the reception's center of attention (after you, of course), so don't place it against a wall. Instead, leave room on all sides, so guests can be served from any direction. Same goes for positioning the buffet table—but do not put the food and bar near each other, or you'll get a traffic jam!

Step 4: Set the table
A nicely dressed table makes guests feel welcome. The basics: A charger (decorative plate) is centered at each person's place setting. (A waiter will remove it just before dinner is served. If you're having a buffet, there's no need for a charger, but do set out glasses and flatware.) Flatware is placed in the order it will be used, from the outside in. Put the salad fork to the left of the dinner fork (on the left of the plate), and the soupspoon to the right of the knife (on the right of the plate). The bread-and-butter plate goes above the forks. The water goblet goes above the knife, and the wineglass to the right of the water goblet. Place a folded or tied napkin in the center of the charger.

Step 5: Stage the dance floor
Position it in front of the band or DJ, with tables radiating out from the other three sides. Allot 2.5 square feet per guest, based on the entire list (only 30 to 40 percent of them will be on the floor at any one time).

Step 6: Station the cake table
Get the cake ready for its close-up by putting in a well-lit, accessible area. To avoid collisions with guests, make sure it's on a sturdy table that's far from the dance floor and major traffic-flow areas. The table should be 5 to 10 more inches around than the diameter of the cake. Use linens that complement your overall scheme and that drape to the floor. A little drama + a lotta buttercream = a guaranteed showstopper.

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