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Just Said Yes October 2020

Cocktail reception vs seated dinner for social distancing

Brigid, on July 2, 2020 at 8:28 AM Posted in Planning 0 11
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Has anyone had, or are considering, a cocktail reception in lieu of a seated dinner? We are thinking because of the pandemic that guests can spread out more, so they might be more comfortable than being seated with different households.

Any tips on how to pivot planning from seated dinner to cocktail reception?

11 Comments

  • Caytlyn
    Legend November 2019
    Caytlyn Online ·
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    Maybe it's just me, but I feel like walking around and socializing with the entire guest list is more of an exposure than being seated at a table with one or two other households.

    If you do decide to go with a cocktail reception, it should be after dinner time, so I would plan for a ceremony around 7 pm or so. I would also make sure there is still sufficient seating for guests who don't want to be up and moving the entire time.

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  • Renee
    Super June 2020
    Renee ·
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    I understand your thinking. However if 25 people gather in one area because they are free to roam then that’s not social distancing. I say stick your plan and seat tables 6 ft part and place an empty seat between two different families.
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  • Julie
    VIP February 2020
    Julie Online ·
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    Here's a third vote that being seated in family/household groups is probably way safer. I don't know that I'd do a cocktail hour at all unless it's outside
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  • Stacey
    Devoted May 2021
    Stacey ·
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    I had the same initial reaction also...a free roaming environment sounds a lot less controlled than a seated dinner with tables properly spaced out. I saw from your other post that you like the idea of long banquet tables, and I think that might be the idea you have to revisit instead. Smiley sad

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  • Super August 2020
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    We postponed our big reception, but we're having a small wedding this year and we're kind of doing this. But we'll be outside 100% of the time and there will only be 15 people, and everyone will still have assigned seats.


    A cocktail reception makes you feel like you have more space because you're not limited to one area, but you would be having the same number of people in the same amount of space. Allowing people to roam would only make things less safe. The easiest solution would just be to have everyone seated by household. If your venue allows it, you can ask to use smaller tables so you don't end up with like 2 people at a table meant for 8.
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  • B
    Just Said Yes October 2020
    Brigid ·
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    View Quoted Comment

    Thank you everyone for your thoughts and feedback! I should have clarified that the cocktail reception would be outside in a large space. I will readdress the seated dinner layout with your advice.

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  • Megan
    Super October 2020
    Megan ·
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    We changed our plans to do something like this. We’re having a small wedding outdoors, and after the ceremony we’ll do a champagne toast, the dances, and then let families spread out for a cocktail hour.


    Being outside is 18x safer than being indoors, so I agree with you about this being a safer route. We’re keeping everything short and let guests know that it won’t be a “traditional” reception.
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  • Melle
    Rockstar June 2019
    Melle ·
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    Ah I agree with pp! The idea is you don’t want them roaming around to socialize
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  • V
    Master July 2019
    Veronica ·
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    Even with a big area, your guests would still be up walking around and mingling with us. I would definitely have a seat dinner.

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  • Queen Cone
    Devoted September 2020
    Queen Cone ·
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    I was originally thinking this exact thing but my venue feels ok with smaller tables of 4 or so and maybe some small cocktail tables around. its definitely an idea!
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  • Super August 2020
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    In that case, here's what we're doing this year in case you're still interested in the cocktail reception concept:
    We're having heavy appetizers in, "attractive individual containers." This way, everyone will be able to choose what they want to eat, but we didn't have to bring in any additional people to serve the food, but we don't have to worry about anyone touching anyone else's food. The appetizers will be set up in a separate "catering tent" next to the tent with the tables.
    Each table will have 2-3 people. I made masks for everyone and we'll tell everyone to wear them when they're not seated, so no one will be breathing on anyone they don't live with/regularly spend time with. Each person will also be given a bottle of hand sanitizer.
    If you have a large number of people, it would probably good to have the food separated into multiple stations to reduce the likelihood of lines forming.
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