Wedding Reception Icebreakers?

A recent post on Bride.net got me to thinking about how wedding guests interact at receptions. I’m not talking about groups of friends or relatives who already know each other, but rather the table of singletons who only know the bride or the couples who have no one else in common and are all stashed at the same table. As many of you surely know, sitting at a wedding reception table with seven strangers can be a bit intimidating.

The icebreakers are meant to make the process of getting acquainted easier on the guests and give them something to do when they’re not watching the first dance or watching the cake cutting or listening to speeches, etc. Some suggestions included putting out Fortune Telling Fish or having wedding guests play guess the Jelly Belly flavor.

It is certainly an interesting notion. And I do like Fortune Telling Fish!


But if reading old etiquette guides has taught me anything, it’s that the art of conversing with someone you’ve never met but have been seated next to at a dinner party or dance used to be a skill that everyone was supposed to possess. It was not at all unusual to be seated at the same table, but not next to your spouse, and you were expected to chat with the people flanking you. It’s not terribly difficult. I sometimes feel a little anxious about starting a conversation with someone I’ve never met, but I get over it.

There are, of course, unobtrusive icebreakers. A reception photobooth with props can be an icebreaker, as can a box of conversation starter cards at each table. The nice thing about icebreakers like these is that people can participate or not, as they like, and there is far less pressure to take part in something like that than there is in, say, a competition to “win” the centerpiece in front of you.

But the thing is, there are plenty of people who don’t associate attending a wedding with passing an orange back and forth without using their hands or playing a round of pub-style trivia madness. Some folks, for whatever reason, would prefer not to have to touch a relative stranger for the purposes of getting acquainted. And some of the wedding reception icebreaker ideas I’ve read feel an awful lot like lame corporate team building exercises.

I’d suggest that any bride- or groom-to-be who is considering including reception ice breakers in his or her wedding should think carefully about the people invited. You know your friends and relatives best, so you should have a good idea of whether the majority of people attending your wedding will want to participate in directed partner switching on the dance floor or a rousing game of buttocks balloon bursting. If you suspect that most of your guests would rather simply sit and converse or do a turn around the parquet, perhaps save the icebreakers for the rehearsal dinner.

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5 Responses to “Wedding Reception Icebreakers?”

  1. Rubiatonta July 2, 2010 at 6:54 am #

    At my youngest sister’s wedding I was seated at a table with three couples in their 20s (I’m not in my 20s, by about 25 years). They all knew each other — and guess what? They had a lovely conversation. Which didn’t involve me at all. At all.

    I’d have killed for a fortune-telling fish.

  2. Christa Terry July 2, 2010 at 8:52 am #

    @Rubiatonta Oh, that’s terrible! I always make an effort to chat with people at a wedding reception table, especially when he or she is a singleton. As a result, I’ve talked to lots of interesting people and even vendors who were stuck eating at the ‘random Internet friends’ table.

  3. Twistie July 2, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    Like Christa, I make an effort to talk to the people I don’t know. It really isn’t that difficult, folks! You can start with ‘how do you know the happy couple?’ and then move on to whatever reasonably related anecdote or question seems appropriate.

    But I do like the fortune telling fish. Those are fun and reasonably non-threatening, and you can get plenty for a pittance. But pass the orange or butt balloon bursting? No thanks! At that point, why not just start a game of naked Twister and have done with it?

    And folks, if you’re at a wedding and see someone at your table who hasn’t said anything for a while, do something to draw them into the conversation. Ask a question, explain an in joke, anything. Who knows? You could make a new friend.

  4. Toni July 3, 2010 at 3:28 pm #

    What happened to my post?

  5. Christa Terry July 5, 2010 at 11:59 am #

    @Toni Aw, crap. Every now and then a real comment from someone we <3 finds its way into the spam catcher and gets lost. I really hate it when that happens :(