There are many reasons why couples opt to hold a cocktail wedding reception over the traditional sit down dinner. For some it might be based on numbers or budget while for others it could simply be that formal dinners just aren’t their style. Whatever the case there are still some simple factors that must be considered to ensure you hold a well-received wedding reception.
First things first, getting your venue sorted is essential. The luxury of holding a cocktail reception is that there is a lot more freedom in where you choose to host your wedding reception especially as there is less concern with numbers. Holding a cocktail reception allows you to cater for more guests than might have been an option had you opted for a sit down dinner. While you aren’t holding a sit down event it is important when selecting a venue that you ensure they have plenty of seating or that you can hire some furniture and have it scattered throughout the venue. This is because at some stage during the evening each guest is going to want to sit down. You should also keep in mind that your older guests will prefer to sit and mingle rather than circulate the room.
Depending on your venue and the style of your reception, your dress code can be quite flexible and completely up to you. However we recommend always going with ‘Cocktail Attire’ as the safest and clearest option. Also, ensure you mention your dress code on your invitation or reception card to avoid any confusion.
One of the most crucial elements pivotal to the success of a wedding reception is the food. The first thing guests will comment on and remember about your wedding is what they ate and holding a cocktail reception can sometimes mean that there is a greater spotlight placed on the food you choose to serve. This means it is essential that you provide a range of canapé and appetiser options that are regularly and consistently circulating the room and then placed in a location easily identifiable by all guests. In selecting your food you need to be mindful of the diverse tastes and dietary requirements your guests might have, always ensuring there are a couple of vegetarian options available. You should discuss with your caterers about coming up with small entrée sized dishes that guests can easily eat if standing. Think risottos, pastas or even curries, the beauty of a cocktail reception is that your food doesn’t need to flow you can easily incorporate a range of different cuisines. As you will not be offering your guests a full meal you should attempt to provide them the equivalent of a full meal through your canapés.
Another option is to set up food stations where guests can serve themselves so that you can ensure everyone has had their fair share. Great food station options include paella, noodles or sliders. While you might want to offer refined canapés you can never go wrong with crowd pleasers such as mini pizzas, hot dogs and even sushi. A clever option is to serve the fine dining canapés early in the evening and bring out the snack food later in the night – that way your guests will have the best of both worlds. Keep your menu simple, tasty but most of all filling. There is nothing worse than having starving guests. As your reception is likely to go for a few hours it’s also a good idea to have food available for guests to snack on throughout the course of the evening, such as cheese platters or dessert and lolly buffets. Lastly, be sure to make it clear on your invitation that you will not be serving a full meal by simply writing ‘Cocktail Reception’ this way your guests will be prepared for the evenings events.
Now when it comes to atmosphere, every reception needs music. Whether you opt for a DJ, a band or an iPod dock your music has the potential to set the mood for your function. If you feel dance music won’t fit with the theme and feel of your reception, don’t forgo music altogether simply provide your DJ with a request for mellow, back ground music to foster conversation.
In terms of styling your reception, flowers are still very important. You can include floral arrangements in your décor by scaling them down to suit your venue. Smaller arrangements can be lined along the bar or sit central on coffee tables. This will allow your reception to still have a distinctly wedding feel.
While cocktail receptions are less formal than their sit down dinner counterparts you should still consider sticking with a schedule of sorts. Cocktail receptions might be less of the norm but that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate some traditions. Depending on your preferences, the cutting of the cake, first dance and bouquet toss can all be neatly slipped into your evening by having a wedding reception timeline or schedule.
Whether you had always envisioned holding a cocktail wedding reception or not you can still hold an amazing reception that everyone will remember and comment on kindly for years to come.