Even if your budget is small and your wedding dreams are big, you can plan a reception that will provide a lifetime of cherished memories for the happy couple and their loved ones.
Determine how many people will be attending the reception; then you will know what size space you need to rent. It doesn't have to be a fancy restaurant or country club. It can be a simple town hall, community meeting space or place of worship.
Catering the reception can be expensive. Consider alternatives such as meat and cheese trays from your local grocer or fast-food restaurant. Fried chicken with mashed potatoes and rolls would work. Order your cake from the grocer as well. Cupcakes work well when small children are guests. Clear plastic plates and utensils work fine -- don't forget the wedding theme decorations at your local dollar or craft store.
Decorating the hall depends on how much time and money you want to put into it. To make it a little fancier, put bows or balloons on the chairs, or cover with cloths. If using balloons, consider buying a helium balloon kit. You can purchase white paper tablecloths with plastic backing for the tables. If the hall you decide to rent does not provide tables and chairs, these can be rented. Order or create a small bouquet of silk or fresh flowers for each table in the bride's colors. Buy or collect small plastic bowls to put nuts and mints in for each table.
Putting up white or colored Christmas lights adds a nice touch. If allowed, you can staple, nail, or tape the lights to the walls. As for music, depending on the size of the room, place one or two CD players in the hall so the music isn't overwhelming, but can be heard.
Have large plastic garbage bags on hand so cleanup will be very easy. Ask the wedding party or guests if they would like to keep the flowers -- then throw anything you can away.
Know your budget before you start, and stick to it. Focus on what will reflect the personalities of the bride and groom and their guests, and help them enjoy the day. Ask a few relatives to take pictures, or offer disposable cameras to guests.