After the formal part of the wedding reception is over, the bride and groom should plan to have a time when they can circulate, separately or together, and talk to all of the guests informally. This may be the only chance that you get to see your guests on an informal level, so make the most of it. If possible this should be done while you are still in all your wedding finery; it will be a chance for the guests to admire your outfits at close quarters as well as to give you their good wishes.
Once you have chatted to all your guests, and at a suitable time chosen in advance, you can retire from the reception to change out of your wedding clothes. Of course it is important to make sure that your going away outfits and any luggage you need for your honeymoon are safely dispatched to the reception so that they are there when you need them; this is the kind of task that can be entrusted to a family friend, or it could be left up to the best man to perform this service.
Make sure in advance that your reception venue has a suitable room for you to change in, and where you can leave your wedding clothes safely for your relatives and helpers to pick up and deal with. If your reception is in an hotel, restaurant or club it should be easy for them to provide a suitable room, and of course if you are at home these arrangements are even easier. If the reception is in a church hall, you may find that it is possible to change in the vestry of the church – or there may be a smaller, separate hall or room in the same building. These are all details to check when you book the reception.
Make sure that the people who will be sorting out your wedding clothes know where they now are and what has to be done with them, for instance, whether any cleaning is needed, or whether hired clothes have to be back by a particular date or time. If the clothes are your own, make sure that you tell someone if you have spilt wine, food, ink, etc, on them, so that the stains are not permanently ingrained by the time that you return from honeymoon!
Now is the time for any special or extra farewells; it is a nice gesture for you to go round as a couple and thank privately all the people who have been particularly involved with the wedding preparations and, of course, you will want to say a particular farewell to both sets of parents as you begin your married life. There will probably not be time to go round everyone again, which is why it is important to visit all the guests at the reception. Make sure that all your luggage is stowed safely In whatever transport you have chosen, and then if you have a Master of Ceremonies he will announce that you are about to leave. If you don’t have anyone to fill this role, make it obvious to the wedding party that you are ready to go and they can encourage the guests to cluster round to bid you a final farewell.
At this stage it is often traditional for the bride to throw her bouquet over her shoulder into the group of guests. Supposedly the person who catches it will be the next one to marry. In olden days the bride often threw one of her wedding shoes for the same purpose, but this has been superseded by the bouquet, probably for safety reasons! At this stage also the couple are often showered with confetti – watch out for the more ruthless guests shoving handfuls down your neck or into your pockets.
Practical jokes frequently rear their heads as the couple leave to go on honeymoon. If you are driving away, hide your car somewhere inaccessible until the last minute if possible to avoid it being daubed with slogans, shaving foam, old boots and toilet rolls. Other traditional tricks such as placing a kipper (presumably chosen because kippers are the smelliest foods available) on the engine of the car can cause great amusement to the guests and great irritation to you! Stones in the hubcaps, tin cans tied to the bumpers and balloons tied to the roof are other traditional decorations for the car of the newly-wed couple. You may prefer to leave your reception in greater style, by horse and carriage, boat or even balloon – or you might play safe and order a taxi!