Why not have a cocktail party themed wedding reception?

cocktail party wedding reception
cocktail party wedding reception

Hosting a Wedding Cocktail Reception: Food and Service Ideas

Marrying couples today are thinking of new and different ways to entertain their wedding guests. One idea quickly becoming a chic trend is to host a cocktail reception following the wedding in lieu of a traditional sit-down meal.

There are many benefits to this style of celebrating with your guests:

Cost: This type of reception can be less expensive than a traditional sit-down reception, but not necessarily. The cost savings will depend on whether you provide a large variety of hot and cold dishes, and if you are serving a limited quantity of wine and beer or whether guests are treated to a full liquor bar.

Seating: Since this type of reception is considered a more casual affair, assigned seating is not necessary. This promotes mingling as guests feel free to wander and socialize as they eat and drink. Seating should be arranged for at least one-third of your guests.

A general recommendation would be to provide table seating at a rate of about eight to 10 places for every one hundred guests for a nice grouping. Creatively seat your guests in clusters of couches and lounge chairs with coffee tables, along with bar tables and stools either as an alternative to tables, or as a nice addition.

Music: Cocktail receptions call for a relaxing and casual atmosphere. You can set the right mood with a DJ or even your own selection of downloaded songs. Either one of these may be real cost-savers. However, if you prefer to have a live band, think about keeping it toward the lighter side.

Jamming rock ’n’ roll music may be a bit overwhelming at a cocktail reception. Jazz, classical, and reggae are more in line with this kind of after-wedding party.

Allow three to four hours for a cocktail wedding reception so your guests do not feel rushed or overtired.

Food Options at your cocktail party inspired wedding reception

There’s a wide selection of foods and service for couples to think about when hosting a cocktail wedding reception. A rule of thumb many caterers go by is to offer ten hot and ten cold hors d’oeuvres for a three-hour cocktail wedding reception.

With a reception of this sort, you want to keep the food items manageable as people may be holding their dishes or napkins as they stand. A popular food presentation is miniature versions of a regular dish such as mini sandwiches, mini tacos, mini bruschettas, or mini quiche.

Other favorite food ideas to serve or incorporate include beef and vegetable skewers, smoked salmon, grilled mini chicken satay, sushi rolls, meatballs, oysters, mushroom caps, and the like.

Talk with your caterers about creating finger food versions of traditional entrees. And consider picking a few cultural cuisines, such as Asian, Italian, Indian, or Mexican, and offer multiple selections within each style.

Desserts can follow along in the same vein with miniature cakes, tarts, puff pastries, fruit skewers, etc. passed by servers. Another idea is to have a dessert table filled with your choice of delectable desserts, with your wedding cake as the main feature. Serve the wedding cake, dessert, and coffee at the start of the last hour to signal to your guests that the reception is nearing its end.

How to serve your guests

Two distinct ways to present your food to guests are to either have stations set up around the room, or have waiters walk around the reception with trays. The first gives your guests more freedom to choose and they are less likely to miss a favorite dish.

Also, consider staggering your hors d’oeuvres so that your guests have time to enjoy their drinks and bites throughout the evening without feeling overstuffed or ravenous by the end of the night.

Cocktails and Sit-down Dinner

Couples can opt for a cocktail hour along with a sit-down dinner to enjoy the benefits of both, especially if the post-nuptial soiree is being held at a country club, fancy hotel, or resort that offers an in-house caterer. This is an option typically reserved for those couples working with a larger budget as costs may include the passed hors d’ oeuvres; an open bar; as well as the sit-down, multi-course meal.

If you decide to go solely with a cocktail wedding reception, be sure you state on the invitation that hors d’oeuvres and cocktails will be served after the ceremony so your guests will know what’s in store for them.

A cocktail reception is a trending alternative for couples that may want to mingle with their wedding guests in a more laid-back atmosphere. And don’t worry, just because the food comes in smaller quantities, doesn’t mean it won’t be just as delicious and innovative as the traditional sit-down meal.

Let your creativity flow, meet with caterers, and get ready for a fun alternative to the typical reception.

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Written by Steve Williams
I am a published writer, journalist and photo-journalist. I have an MA in Creative Writing and Journalism from the University of Wales and my journalism has been published in a number of UK national newspapers including 'the Observer'.