Valet parking, a table for gifts and cards, round tables, covered chairs, china place settings, ornate flower centerpieces, helium balloons, candles, linen napkins, champagne glasses, a head table for the bridal party, servers with trays of beverages and hors d’oeuvres (spring rolls, cheeses, quiches, fruit), water, tea, lemonade, coffee, beer bottles, glasses of wine, an open bar, buffet line, wooden dance floor, DJ or live band, big speakers, artificial trees and plants lit with white lights, soft lighting, the cake, people eating and drinking, stray toothpicks on the table, tablecloths that partially hide purses and kicked-off shoes, a crowded dance floor, couples dancing, daughters dancing while standing on daddy’s feet, a conga line, line dancing, people collapsed into chairs to take a break, sleepy babies, half-empty dishes, the bride and groom circulating to talk to people, loosened ties, dress jackets draped over chairs, people leaning close to yell over the music, a videographer, camera flashes, guests throwing birdseed or rice as the couple exits
Boom of bass music, soothing classical music, scrape of forks on china, clink of glasses, people talking/laughing, feedback from the microphone, toasts and speeches, the DJ announcing the bridal party, quieted voices during the couple’s first dance, bursts of laughter during dinner, servers asking if they can clear your dishes, people jumping/clapping/singing on the dance floor, songs fading into one another, loud fast dance music followed by slow romantic songs, cheers and jeers while the cake is being cut, babies crying, children running and laughing, people yelling over the music, drinks being poured, beer bottles being opened, heels clacking across tile or wood floor
Burning candles, sweat, flowers, food smells, coffee, spilled beer or champagne, perfume and cologne, gum, mints
Tears, sweat, chicken, steak, salmon, vegetables, chocolate-covered strawberries, fresh fruit, rolls with butter, coffee, beer, champagne, water, tea, lemonade, wedding cake
Covered chairs that provide softness and keep you from slipping, tablecloth brushing your knees, heavy silverware, wetness of condensation on water glasses, scratchy linen napkins, aching feet from standing or dancing too long in uncomfortable shoes, too-tight tie around your neck, warm jacket, sweat trickling between shoulder blades or down the side of the face, dry cake crumbs, squishy icing, awkwardness of trying to balance heaped plates with silverware/napkins/full cups, crush of people on the dance floor, music booming through the floor and into your chest, people stepping on your toes, cool drink slipping down your throat when you take a break from dancing, ice settling in your glass, quiet sway while dancing with someone you love
–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.
Example 1: It was the coolest reception venue I’d ever seen. Brick-walled, dim, and cozy—on weeknights, it probably hosted poetry readings and open-mic nights for jazz up-and-comers.
Example 2: I wiggled in my chair, trying to get comfortable in the slinky little dress Tessa had talked me into buying. The gyrating mass on the dance floor was calling my name but if I tried to get out there and wiggle, something would rip and I’d turn this family reception into an NC-17 event before you could say DD. The music faded and in the quiet between songs I heard a distinct click. I whirled to face the creepy old man and his disposable camera at table #4. “Pervert!” I mouthed. I threw a napkin over my cleavage, which was like trying to cover the
–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.
Example 1: (Simile) The guests rushed the buffet line like stampeding cattle in the Old West.
Example 2: (Metaphor) Ben craned his neck to see the top of the cake. It was the eighth wonder of the world—the
Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.