Alexandra
Just Said Yes October 2019

Cocktail Style Reception

Alexandra, on October 30, 2019 at 4:23 PM Posted in Wedding Reception 0 11
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My fiance and I are looking at having a cocktail style reception opposed to a sit down dinner. We imagine heavy apps passed along with multiple food stations. I have never attended a wedding that has not been a sit-down dinner and hoping for any advice or suggestions to make this work. We are planning on having our ceremony at 5 light cocktail hour 6-7 then into the main area for the reception which will include the heavy apps and food stations. We will also have an open bar. Any advice is helpful!

11 Comments

  • Alyssa
    Expert June 2020
    Alyssa ·
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    Make sure your guests are VERY AWARE of this, and that there is food being served most/all of the night. If there is booze flowing, people need to make sure their bellies are full and they're not starving themselves waiting for a dinner that won't come.

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  • MrsD
    Legend July 2019
    MrsD ·
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    I haven't heard a ton about these from a planning standpoint, just that they typically are more expensive then regular meals since SO many appetizers are required to actually fill guests up. I would plan on seating for everyone even if it's casual cocktail style seating (some couches, some regular tables, etc.) since it would suck to stand for an entire wedding. I honestly get tired of standing towards the end of a 1 hour cocktail hour. I also would put "drinks and heavy hors d'ouevres to follow" on the invite so people know. We've only been to one of these and didn't realize a full meal wasn't being served until about the third round of appetizers (they had waiters coming around to each table and passing them out) so we didn't really feel like we ever got enough food.

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  • Ivy ORP
    VIP October 2019
    Ivy ORP ·
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    We had a cocktail reception and it was a big hit but our ceremony was at 2. Still, no one left early to have dinner and our reception went well into the night. Everyone loved the caterer and we've actually forwarded their info to a couple of guests that are interested in hiring them for their parties. The biggest advice I have is to not only have various protein options but also add heavy apps and hors d'oeuvres like pasta and potato to keep guests full while drinking. I would also speak with the caterer about bringing out the food in waves to ensure there is a near constant stream of food and that guests get multiple options throughout the night. Make sure your guests are aware that the reception will not be a sit down dinner, but prepare for a bunch of questions since it is out of the ordinary.

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  • Alexandra
    Just Said Yes October 2019
    Alexandra ·
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    Thank you. I will make sure to have plenty of seating and make our guest aware!

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  • Jeanie
    Super February 2020
    Jeanie ·
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    We are doing something similar. Someone else had posted about this recently, and I saw that people said guests would be hungry. I don’t see how that’s possible if they eat what is offered. I’ve left sit down dinner wedding starving because the food was cold or disgusting, not because there wasn’t food. Our invitations say cocktail reception following ceremony. I don’t see a need to “warn” people that it won’t be the same old traditional wedding. As far as our guests drinking. Well, they’re all old enough to know their limit. I’m not their mother and have no intentions of telling them what or how much to eat so they don’t overindulge.
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  • Reena
    Dedicated July 2020
    Reena ·
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    I agree with you.

    At least in my area our wedding planner said a cocktail style reception is starting to become the norm. Most weddings I have been to in recent years have all been cocktail style receptions and we had no warnings.

    Our reception venue doesn’t allow enough table and chairs for everyone. We picked this venue based on our wedding planner’s recommendation. Her thought is as soon as people start dancing chairs will be available. As long as we keep the food out for the entire reception people can keep going back to it.

    With our caterer we have to select “two major meats”. Other food options are quite substantial like hamburgers sliders, pulled pork sliders, etc.

    Cocktail style receptions may just be more common to my part of the country though.
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  • R
    Devoted September 2018
    Rachel Online ·
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    I think the points about telling or reminding guests is so they don’t see the appetizers being passed around and thinking: oh, I’ll just wait for the main course, when there is no traditional main course coming.

    I usually attend weddings with a clutch purse, meaning I have only one free hand to drink or to eat if I’m not offered a seat at a table. It gets a little tricky. But I’ve never been to one of these weddings... only accidentally when a wedding ran out of food for dinner. Boy did I regret passing on those appetizers when my hands were full of my clutch purse and coat (it rained). 😂
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  • Reena
    Dedicated July 2020
    Reena ·
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    Oh no!

    We are using a 1880s cellar for the reception that has 4 separate rooms. We need to block the “food room” during cocktail hour. We will make sure our cocktail hour is short because we don’t want to tease our guest with just staring at the “food room” 😁

    I have been to weddings that have been in a large ballroom with just a cocktail style reception. I do think the type of venue should determine if it’s cocktail style or not.
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  • Reena
    Dedicated July 2020
    Reena ·
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    My above message was for this. Sorry 😬
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  • Alexandra
    Just Said Yes October 2019
    Alexandra ·
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    Jeanie,
    agreed haha. I keep having friends saying everyone will drink too much but with all our friends in our mid 30s, we are adults and should know better. Thanks for making me feel better ha.
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  • Melle
    Rockstar June 2019
    Melle ·
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    If it's heavy and it's served buffet style I would be ok with it.
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