Wedding 101

Which Type of Wedding Reception is Right for You?

by Stephanie Hallett on

So you've set your budget and pondered your wedding style -- now it's time to determine what type of reception is right for you! The vast majority of U.S. couples choose evening receptions that carry on late into the night, but perhaps you're not the all-night dancing type, or maybe your budget doesn't allow for five hours of free-flowing alcohol. Don't stress! There are many other varieties of wedding reception available  to you. Here are seven options we love (and remember, you can always forge your own path and try something new)!
1. Breakfast/Brunch
Breakfast/brunch weddings are a great idea for early risers, waffle enthusiasts, and couples on a tight budget! Offer up a custom omelet station, a waffle bar overflowing with toppings, a pour-over coffee bar, and free-flowing mimosas. Not only will it cost you less to forgo a many-hours-long open bar, no one will question it if you skip the DJ, and you can definitely get away with having a brunch wedding on a Sunday when you're guaranteed to get a good deal on the venue of your dreams.
2. Luncheon
A breakfast/brunch reception may be too early for some couples to stomach -- after all, if you're serving up your post-nuptial meal at 11 AM, you'll be saying your vows with the sunrise. If you like the idea of a daytime reception but can't pull yourself out of bed before dawn, marry at noon and serve your guests lunch shortly thereafter. Consider having a picnic in your favorite local park following your afternoon "I dos." Serve up lemonade, champagne cocktails, and micro brews alongside your favorite barbecue or tasty sandwiches.
3. Cocktail
Cocktail receptions take place in the evening but are a bit less formal than traditional wedding receptions. Instead of a full sit-down meal, guests wind their way around your venue, sampling small bites from different food stations or roving waiters. The bar is open and can serve beer, wine, and signature cocktails, or offer up any variety of beverages depending on your budget and tastes. (Note: cocktail receptions tend to be shorter than traditional ones, so you'll want to make your way around the reception more quickly to ensure you greet every guest!)
4. Cake & punch
A cake and punch reception -- also known as a champagne and cake reception, or a drinks and desserts reception -- is a variation on the cocktail reception that includes only sweet treats. These types of parties tend to take place later in the evening, after guests have had a chance to eat dinner, and can be a bit friendlier on your budget. Serve up a signature cocktail or your favorite bubbly and a slew of delicious treats -- and expect plenty of speeches and dancing till dawn.
5. Full meal
There are a variety of ways to serve a full meal at your wedding: sit-down, buffet, and family-style are the three most common. Each serving style has its pros and cons, though serving a family-style is usually the most cost-effective. A sit-down meal involves servers bringing individual plated courses to each guest, whereas a family-style meal involves servers bringing large platters of food to each table for guests to share. A buffet-style meal requires guests to serve themselves, leaving the most room for individual choice and preference.
6. High tea
A high-tea reception is a lovely sort of afternoon/early evening soiree that's perfect for quieter couples and those who might want to skip the alcohol. Serve a variety of aromatic teas, tasty sandwiches, and desserts, and enjoy an elegant afternoon full of conversation.
7. Potluck
Perhaps the most unconventional reception style, the potluck fete invites guests to contribute a dish to a communal meal. Perfect for families with storied culinary traditions, or even just those craving something a little more low-key, the potluck reception is sure to provide an atmosphere of festive fun. While potluck receptions have fallen out of favor in recent years, we'd love to see them come back as a trend!
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