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Wedding Planning: Different types of receptions

November 17, 2011

Most people, when they think of wedding receptions, think of the whole shebang: cocktail hour followed by dinner followed by dessert and coffee. But there are so many other ways to host your guests!

1. Sunrise ceremony followed by breakfast/brunch

Think of all the possibilities: an omelet or french toast station, bellini or mimosa bar, mini quiche as hors d’oeuvres {man, that is a really hard word to spell}, personal syrup dispensers, coffee {lots and lots of coffee!}.

Pros: Budget-friendly, less money spent on alcohol, and you can leave for your honeymoon the same day.

Cons: Requires an early wake up call for your wedding party AND your guests.

2. Lunch reception

I have to admit that I kind of love this one. I always find myself drawn to garden or backyard weddings–there’s something so intimate and laid back about them. And you can get really creative with it. Instead of tables, lay out a bunch of blankets. Serve lunch in picnic baskets. Go all out with gingham.

Pros: Significantly less expensive than dinner, you may be able to leave for your honeymoon the same day, allows for a more relaxed atmosphere, AND you can play lawn games.

Cons: If you want fancy, then this probably isn’t your thing.

3. Afternoon tea

Afternoon tea is usually served between 2:00p and 5:00p roughly–in between lunch and dinner. Think of all the finger food possibilities! And vintage china! And doilies!

Pros: A little more elegant and classic than the picnic reception, vintage decor, {obviously} less expensive.

Cons: I guess if you don’t like tea this really won’t work for you.

4. Cocktails

In my mind, cocktails can be served before or after dinner although officially I think it’s a before dinner thing. If you’ve ever been to a cocktail party, you know how much fun it is to get dressed up in your cocktail attire, drink fancy drinks, and nosh on fun hors d’oeuvres {there’s that word again!}. Seriously, how much fun would it be to request cocktail attire on your invitations?

Pros: Less money spent on food as you’re only serving appetizers, doesn’t require full tables or seating arrangements {you can set up cocktail tables and be done with it!}, great option for foodies or liquor connoisseurs, fancier all around.

Cons: Includes hard liquor {most likely}, not exactly the right atmosphere for a more laid back, relaxed reception.

5. Full dinner

I really don’t need to say much about this option as it is the most popular and expected.

Pros: You offer your guests {especially the ones who have traveled far} a nice meal, longer time spent with friends & family, many, many options {appetizers, drinks, dinner, dessert}.

Cons: It can be costly although there are, of course, ways to get around the money factor, ending time is usually late into the evening {requiring that you secure a hotel room for the evening, set up room blocks for guests, & even arrange transportation}.

6. Desserts & drinks

Start everything a little later in the evening so guests can eat before attending. Serve a bunch of fun desserts and drinks and then dance the night away! My good friends did this for their reception and it was FUN. They set up cocktail tables around the room, had the most amazing spread of cakes, cookies, chocolate, & fruit, and everyone had a blast.

Pros: Again, less expensive than dinner, many options for decor/style, the perfect setting for lots of candlelight {oooh, I love candlelight}.

Cons: Late start equals late ending, you {bride & groom plus wedding party} have to make sure to eat beforehand.


What are your thoughts on the different types of receptions? Would you choose something other than dinner? Which one would you pick?

PS. Stay tuned tomorrow for some fun photo ideas for each of these options!


Sunrise ceremony via The Landlocked Bride

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 17, 2011 2:17 pm

    Haha, I love that your only “con” for a tea party is if you don’t like tea.

    I was exhausted at the end of the reception and we even left about a half hour earlier than we’d planned to. While I would have loved a little more time to get ready before the ceremony (those last minutes before we started taking photos were a bit rushed), I couldn’t imagine pushing the whole time line later for a “desert and drinks” style reception.

  2. November 17, 2011 6:47 pm

    I love all these! John and I joke that we should list “Brunch” as our religious beliefs, and we’re talking seriously about a morning wedding!

  3. November 21, 2011 6:53 am

    Love this post! Nice to know that you dont have to buy everyone dinner!


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