How to Plan a Wedding Reception that Rocks in Nigeria (15 Steps Checklist)

The wedding reception will make up the biggest part of your wedding day, as well as the bulk of your wedding budget. The solemnization or joining ceremony is the easy part of any couple’s wedding day, it’s in the wedding reception that you’ll need to spend the most time, make the most efforts, decisions and expenses when planning your wedding. In this post, you will discover the simple steps to planning a good to great wedding reception, Naija style. Read on for our 15 simple steps to organizing a flawless wedding reception party – even if you cannot afford an event planner.

couple dancing inside wedding reception
Photo Credit: Nigerian Wedding Photography by Dotun

Wedding Reception Planning Essentials: Step by Step

Planning a flawlessly successful wedding reception involves a lot of planning, time, efforts and logistics. You need to think about the outfits, the food, drinks, the entertainment, the decoration, the souvenirs, the wedding vendors and more details. So, no matter whether you want to host a big or small wedding reception, you require careful planning to bring your wedding dream to life.

Step 1: Dream and Fantasize about the D-Day

Brainstorm about the reception setting, the look and feel of the venue; the atmosphere & ambiance, what you are wearing (bride & groom’s attire, the guests’). Pinterest wedding inspiration boards are the perfect place to start. You can also get wedding style ideas from magazines like Ovation or sites like BellaNaija that showcase pictures from real Nigerian weddings that have taken place.

Take a minute to dream about the type of reception you want to have, about all the things that would make a dream wedding reception for you. Write them down. Don’t worry even if your initial ideas seem stupid, later you can go over the list and take out the not-so-realistic things, so that you would be left with only the things you really you and your fiance are happy to have at your wedding reception.

READ ALSOAnswer these small quizzes that will help you flesh out your wedding day essentials

Step 2: Set the Date

What day would you like to have your wedding? Be sure to consider the season and weather, as well as the month (do you want to have the wedding in a popular weddings month or other?). Set the date before looking for venue and vendors – because you want to be sure that the vendors and venue would not be booked at the time. And, it’s a good idea to set a date at least 6 months in advance, so as to be sure that the venue, vendors and the most important guests you want to see would be free to attend the wedding.

3. Set the Wedding Reception Budget

Set aside a ballpark figure for the wedding, and use our wedding calculator to split the budget to know how much to estimate for your wedding reception (which includes food, drinks – basically, most vendor payments are related to the wedding reception).

Break down your wedding budget into the different parts of a wedding reception – you want to get an idea of how much to spend on every single thing. So, put a price beside each of the following (any amount, you need somewhere to start from – you can change it later when you confirm prices).  You can make a list of what to spend on or start with our ready-made full Nigerian wedding budget list.

RELATED: An easy way to know how much your wedding reception will cost, just from knowing how many people you want to invite

4. Decide on How Many Guests to Invite

bride groom dancing in wedding reception

How many people are coming to the reception? Put a number to it, because the number of guests guest determines how big or small a wedding reception will cost. The number of guests you expect will also determine:

  • How big/ small a venue you should rent
  • How many invitation cards to print
  • How much food/ drinks you should purchase, and
  • How many wedding souvenirs to buy.

RELATED: A Guide to Bridesmaid Duties and Responsibilities

5. Choose the Place, Location & book the Venue

Get a venue early enough, because the good venues get fully booked even 6 months to 1 year ahead. Decide on:

  • Where will the wedding and reception take place- what country/ state? in Nigeria, abroad, in the village, what state/ city?
  • What type of venue would you use for the reception – outdoor or indoor? hotel/ events center/ town hall / garden?

Glam Reception Venue Tips:

Whatever your choice, keep the following tips at the back of your mind:

  • Know that the right wedding reception venue determines the flow of your wedding day, and a great reception starts from choosing the right reception space.
  • When thinking of the wedding reception venue, be sure to find a place that is close to the church ceremony location.
  • And, if your preferred wedding date is during the rainy season, an outdoor venue is your best bet.

6. Plan the Wedding Outfits (couple’s, the guests’)

Will you have a dress change? How many times?

What would the bride and groom’s reception attire be like – formal? traditional? What colours?

How would you like your guests to wear –  aso-ebi or not? Formal attire (e.g. black tie affair/ a touch of purple / what colour?)

7. Decide the Wedding Reception Menu

What food will you serve your guests? Will it be Nigerian feood only, Naija + continental or what?

How many different food will be served (list them by names)? Will there be finger foods/ small chops?

What types of drinks will you serve?

How do you want guests to be served – sit-down meal or buffet style?

Glam Reception Food Advice:

  • If your fiance is not of your tribe or country, it’s a good idea to incorporate both bride’s and groom’s culture and food into the wedding reception menu.
  • Be sure to plan the wedding reception food according to your budget – no need to borrow for a wedding and later starve or drink garri everyday after wedding.

8. Plan the Wedding Cake

What would your wedding cake look and taste like – the shape, height/ number of tiers, the colours, what flavours/ frosting type/ icing?

Glam Wedding Cake Tips:

9. Plan the Wedding Reception Decoration

Think about how you want your wedding reception venue decor to be, including the decoration  colour scheme, the lighting, the seating and tables arrangement, the wedding cake, outfit colour matching of outfits of the couple and their wedding party’s (bridesmaids and groomsmen), the flowers etc. The reception decoration is basically about the look and ambiance of your wedding, and a big part of your wedding style. And, it’s not just about the colour scheme. So, keep decoration minimal and simple (rainbow colours are not elegant).

We recommend that you sit with your wedding decoration vendor to brainstorm ideas for wedding venue decoration, but it also helps if you have a small idea of what you like – such as: how you want the seating arrangement to be in your wedding hall (rectangular tables? sets of chairs around a round table? or how? Where will the bride and groom sit?

10. Plan the Reception Music/ Entertainment

 Would you want to have a DJ or music band, or both? What other forms of entertainment can you afford to thrill your guests with – comedian/ traditional dancers / solo singers? There’s no right or wrong here – let your personality shine through your choice of wedding reception entertainment, while ensuring to keep a balance with what your guests are likely to like.

Glam Wedding Reception Music Tips:

  • If you’re on budget, DJs are cheaper than live bands. And, a great DJ is better than a sloppy music band, any day. However you choose to entertain your wedding guests, know that a bad DJ/ band will dull your wedding reception mood and make your guests want to leave early. Don’t be stingy when it comes to getting a professional DJ that will keep your guests up and dancing. Do everything you can to keep the mood in your reception festive.

11. Plan the Pictures

In what forms do you want to keep your wedding day memory?

Based on your budget, can you afford to have both wedding photography and video coverage, or only photography? Wedding photography is another area where we advice couples not to be stingy – work around the budget you have to get a professional wedding photographer to cover your big day. We’ve heard many stories of couples who ended up having no pictures or very blurred photos of their wedding day – don’t make that mistake!

12. Research and Choose Wedding Vendors

Who and who (or what companies) will help you put together the different areas of the wedding reception – such as: the MC, the DJ, the caterer, the cake baker, the venue decorator, the makeup artist etc.

There’s a lot of logistics with wedding receptions, and you require other people (wedding service providers/ vendors) to help you translate your wedding dreams into a reality. The good vendors always get fully booked early, so start researching  for (who to hire) from at least 6 months in advance.  The best way to find wedding vendors is by asking around for the reputation and quality of the local vendors near your wedding reception venue. Good places to contact when looking for a wedding vendor include asking hotels and other wedding service providers to recommend reputable wedding vendors they have worked with in previous wedding events.

13. Decide How and Who to Coordinate the Reception

The wedding day is labour-intensive and you (bride or groom) cannot be there, except if you want to miss your wedding and regret it later. You should plan your wedding so that you can attend it like the VIP guest. You have to keep your wedding day for yourself, to totally enjoy all of it. Get someone (NOT YOU) to coordinate the wedding reception tasks in the last weeks leading to your wedding day. That person’s role will also help put out a few fires and last-minute confusion.

If your budget can afford it, hire a wedding planner for the coordination role. If not, find one or two capable friends or family members to help you out.

14. Design the Wedding Reception Program

It’s a good idea to create this with your wedding MC, but be sure to let him/ her know how long/ short you want the event to be. And it’s best to incorporate ideas from one or two wedding receptions you’ve attended and really like.

15. Decide What the Wedding Souvenirs Would Be

Wedding souvenirs should not be a do or die affair – if you give your guests a good food and entertainment, they’ll feel special even if you didn’t give them souvenirs. However, if you have a budget for wedding souvenirs, go for it, but know that a perfect wedding souvenir doesn’t have to be expensive.

Wedding Reception Planning Takeaway

Finally, your wedding reception should be about giving your guests a nice time, and that starts from knowing these facts – wedding guests hate to be kept waiting and they also hate a very long reception. So, be sure to be on time at your wedding reception (no Nigerian time thing) and keep your wedding reception not too long.

About Stella Anokam

Stella is the founder and Editor of this blog (NaijaGlamWedding). Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. Submit your photos to be featured - it's FREE, because we love everything weddings, bridal showers, engagement shoots.


  1. You are doing a great, job well done.
    I am planning to have my wedding in 6 month time. I am a yoruba lady and the type of person that do not have so many friends and am not so close to my extended family even my uncle family where i will do the introduction how do I make up for this in my preparation.

    • Hello Adewunmi, and thanks for the compliments. Here’s my thoughts:
      -For your customary marriage introduction preparations, you should ask your parents or the few relatives you are close to (even cousins, your cousins’parents/ aunts/ uncles), to lead you to your Paternal Uncles who are key players on the D-day. Use other relatives to get to them.

      -You do not need so many people to be at your wedding – these days, some of the classiest weddings do not have many guests – think of the Nigerian celebrity weddings – their are not many guests. The focus is on keeping it CLASSY. It’s okay, especially these days, to have a wedding where there are few guests.
      -I have a question for you – what kind of wedding size do you dream of? Lots of people or moderate number or few people made up of tightly close family members and friends?

      My advice for you is this: plan your wedding guest list around the few, close friends and family members you have, BUT focus on making it high quality, top class – so that your guests would be wowed, and keep talking of how yours was refreshingly different. >That you have fewer guests would mean that you can have extra money to provide great food for your guests and a memorable party experience.

      We have a series of posts on Ultimate Guide to Planning a Small, Intimate, Classy Nigerian Wedding (click).
      And, How to Wow Your Guests with a Small but Mighty Wedding (Celebrity Style).

      Hope the above tips help you.

  2. I really appreciate your detailed, insightful and helpful tips. We are planning a garden wedding (wedding blessing and reception same venue different location) for May. Just a little tip on how to go about the event, even though we have been able to make a budget and others via the tips from this platform. thank you in anticipation

    • Dear Alheri, I am so happy to learn that you have been planning your wedding details and budget with what you read here. Thanks for the feedback.

      On your garden wedding, here are some tips:
      1) Think about CONVENIENCE or RESTROOMS (especially toilet) for your guests. What is available at the venue you are thinking of? Would the number of toilets be enough? As the venue what is available, how many? And check to see that it is true and that they flush. >If nothing is available, ask around for where to hire mobile toilets. >>On the wedding day, have someone visit early and ensure the toilet(s) are washed clean. Also ensure there would be a few people on ground to wash the toilets in-between uses, because some guests may start urinating in surrounding open spaces if the toilets are dirty, and you don’t want that.
      2) What if it rains? The rains have been sporadic this year, coming at unexpected times. Would you use a tarpaulin or does the garden you’re renting have a covered tent-venue (marquee) that you could book for backup for you and guests to move to, if it rains.
      3) Your shoes: Do not wear pointy heels. They would sink into the sandy and grassy garden floor, and that would make you uncomfortable.
      4) Make your wedding dress to not be too long, because if it sweeps the garden floors/ sand, you are definitely going to have it dirty before the reception ends.
      5) Where will Your DJ setup? Ask the garden managers the location that is close to electrical sockets, where your DJ can plug his gadgets for sound. And be sure to check that the sockets work. >Ask if there are extra extension boxes. It would be good to let your DJ know to have extra extension boxes on hand.
      6) Speakers position: Your DJ should know to do this, but still hammer it in his head, and be sure that someone follows up that day. Have them position speakers on all 4 corners of the guest-seating area, but far apart, so that the music can be heard by all.
      7) Make sure there’s a nearby Parking Space for your guests. Many gardens do not have this, and if your prospective venue doesn’t, then schedule a visit again to that garden venue and walk around the environment to determine where and where to mark out for use as parking areas on your wedding day. >>To make this work, assign a few of your trusty people (wedding day coordinators) to direct guests to where they should park.
      8) Tone down on Glittery Makeup because in an outdoor venue, the sun would be lighting up your face and make any highlights look too much in pictures. >>Also, have a professional makeup do your makeup, so that every spot would be covered – if not, outside, natural lighting would show them in photos.
      9) Insects and Crawling Things: It’s common to have lizards and insects showing up around the wedding reception area, and guests would not be comfortable. So, ask the garden managers if they could fumigate insect repellents around the proposed wedding area, a few days to your wedding date.
      10) Minimal Decor Required: Nature is beautiful on it’s own, and so garden wedding venues do not require too much decoration to make it look uniquely different and classy.

      Pheww! Alheri, I guess those tips would help you take your garden wedding venue from the usual look and feel to uniquely beautiful. Finally, you might want to grab more ideas from one of the garden wedding venues we’ve featured on this blog.

  3. Olufunlola says:

    Hello Stella!

    Thank you very much for your posts. They give me a clear idea of how to plan my wedding and what to expect.

    I would like to know what the usual wedding reception agenda is? From the moment the guests arrive at the reception hall until the newly weds leave the building. I don’t know how I should set up the order of events that will occur at the wedding reception. I’ll really appreciate your help.
    Thank you!!

    • Thank you too for reading, Olufunlola. Okay, below is a wedding reception programme (order) from a Nigerian wedding I recently attended:
      -Arrival/ seating of guests
      -Recognition of Special Guests
      -Introduction/ Invitation to the High Table
      -Entry of Couple
      -Opening Prayer
      Opening Remarks
      -Couple’s Dance
      -Cutting of Cake/ Toast
      More Dancing
      -Presentation of Gifts
      -Vote of Thanks
      -Dance! Dance! Dance!

      • Olufunlola says:

        Thank you so much for your response Stella. That gives me a clearer picture of how I should organize the agenda. I appreciate it!

  4. Hi Stella,
    my Wedding is in a month and i must confess i have learnt alot form your blog. i hope to share my ideas after my wedding.

    please wish me luck.

  5. Christabel says:

    Hi Stella,
    Your posts are very insightful,

    • Hello Christabel. Thanks, I am glad you enjoyed reading my Wedding Reception Planning guide. I and my are team always gingered to write more posts, after reading a feedback like yours. We have more helpful posts, be sure to look around:)

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