There are many decisions to make as you are planning your wedding. One of the most expensive and difficult ones is your reception. What to eat, where to have it, how much will is it cost and who has to sit by Uncle Bert and Aunt Alice.
Here is where I’m going to break with tradition and suggest you consider a Cocktail/Appetizer style wedding reception. I have spent more years than I would like to admit watching people interact at all kinds of events, including weddings. Long and huge round tables are not conducive to good conversation.
I know, I know, having an elegant room filled with tables, flowers, lights is lovely, but it’s not why people come to your wedding. They come to celebrate you and your love’s exchange of vows, share their stories of their associations with you and enjoy the company of your other guests. I’m not saying you have to give up on ambiance or beauty for your reception, but maybe a little of the formality of a sit down dinner or buffet.
Here are my 5 reasons why you should consider a Cocktail/Appetizer style reception
1. Creative and interesting food options: Rubber chicken, tough steak and mystery sauces — The choices for a wedding reception menu tends to be very limited — especially if you are on a budget. Your meat choices are usually a chicken dish of some sort with a sauce usually of cream, sherry and mushrooms, beef or pork something, something and maybe an option of salmon or shrimp. This isn’t a knock on all caterers, because some can do a fabulous job with the standards. But they are just that — the standards — nothing memorable. Image pretty, filling, party-perfect bites of food for your reception — something for everyone and enough to fill up even your brother, Steve. The key is to select a good variety, 7 to 9 options and include some heartier items — and maybe count Steve twice. For a three hour period you should count on 11 to 12 per person. You don’t have to go with the little cocktail wieners and chicken wings — check with a smaller caterer who is more flexible who is willing to get a little more creative. Think of all those great looking hors d’oeuvres seen on Top Chef! Go Simple or go elegant.
Here are a few ideas:
- Mini Black Raspberry Chicken Salads dressed with Black Raspberry White Balsamic Vinegar
- Baked Brie w/ Pineapple-Mango Chili Jam with homemade pita chips
- Roasted Red Pepper Sauce with crisp, garlic chips
- French Onion Roast Beef baked cheese dip served with mini French baguettes
- Asian Slaw and Prawn Tartlets
- Hawaiian Chicken , Cuban-Style Grilled Pork or a more traditional Ground Round Slider
- Chili Con Carne and/or Spinach & Ricotta Mini Empanadas
- Apple Pie Mini Hand Pies
- Chocolate & Espresso Mousse Pudding Shot
These are just a few ideas to start be creative, get out there and Google all of the food sites for yummy ideas and don’t be afraid to ask for exactly what you want even if they don’t have it on their menu.
2. No need for seating charts: I think seating charts are the biggest pain in the the tushy in wedding planning. Admit it, most people are really horrible at sending back their RSVPs and that leaves you scrambling at the last minute trying to figure out where to seat your boss and then she doesn’t even show up — yeah, that happened to me. Even using the method of the guest picking their own seating with pre-made cards takes time and money you don’t have or don’t need to spend. You don’t need extra stress right now — don’t do it.
One thing that you may consider even with this style of reception is to have a formal wedding party table for a couple of reasons. It makes sure you have a spot for Mom, Dad and the in-laws to sit, you can still do all of those fun, formal decorating things you want to do with much less investment and it’s nice to have a place for the wedding party to be together for the toasts and formal pictures.
3. Mingle, Mingle, Mingle: This is one of my personal favorites. Guests start mingling much sooner is my observation than in either of the more formal styles of setup. The party doesn’t have to wait for the dance to get the action started. I find it very hard to chat with people on long tables or round ones. You are usually too far away to hear the conversation and it looks odd or is awkward getting up to get in on the fun. Even Uncle Bert and Aunt Alice get to chat with more people instead of getting stuck at the “old people” table. With cocktail tables, some seated, most not, people move around — chat with different people — and mingle, mingle, mingle.
4. Long waits to eat: Ugh! It doesn’t matter if it is a sit-down served reception or a buffet — you are always end up waiting. Waiting for your number to be called to go to the buffet, waiting for your table in the far corner to get served. Often times half are done and ready for dessert and the other half is still waiting to be served. Setting up food in multiple areas for a cocktail service not only lets people eat when they want to eat, but it keeps lines short and moves people around to check out what’s over on THAT table. Who knows they may find someone they haven’t gotten to talk to when they are grazing the tables.
5. Cost: Generally speaking it should be less expensive for this type of reception, however, that will depend on how fancy your choices are and how many you choose and how long you expect to serve them. Although cost is always an important part of the decision, but I suggest you also consider the other four reasons for having a Cocktail Style wedding reception!
Wishing you love and joy!
Paula Kiger says
Great ideas! I have to admit I just went to a sit down dinner at my niece’s wedding last weekend and it was AWESOME. Sit down dinners are rare (to me) down here in the South so I was grateful to have a chair all night long (when I wanted it) and real food! But you do make great points. The highlight should be the couple, for sure.
Interesting in the Midwest they are very unusual — this style works wonderfully for a rustic country wedding on the farm — I’m glad you had a wonderful time at your nieces wedding!
What a great idea! Nothing is worse than to be stuck at a table with people you do not want as seat mates!
This style works perfectly with a rustic country wedding on the farm, but also works well anywhere. Thanks!
[email protected] says
Thanks for the great ideas, Mary. I much prefer cocktail/appetizer receptions to a formal sit down.
Thanks Nancy — they work especially nicely for farm and barn weddings!
Ellen Dolgen says
What a fabulous idea! I think people like to mingle and not feel married (no pun intended!) to one table!
I love puns — so I appreciate your play on words!