Consider the Cocktail Reception
Casual, fun, and hip
By Natalie Tsang
September 28, 2011
When choosing a wedding dress, you only have to please yourself, but the reception belongs to the guests. A cocktail reception is great for adult-only, casual, small weddings. Time-wise, they usually follow early afternoon weddings or later evening ones. In these situations, guests have probably eaten a full meal shortly before the ceremony.
If youre considering a cocktail reception purely for economic reasons, reconsider. The money youll save on smaller portions is usually used up by more expensive ingredients and a bigger selection of booze. This type of reception is inappropriate for children and usually not a good idea if you have a lot of people coming from out of town or making a long commute. If you love the idea of a lot of small bites, but would like your guests to be full, an alternative is a tapas reception. Tapas is a Spanish style of small plates, but you can play with other types of food as well.
Whats the proper etiquette?
The most important thing is that you should be clear that you wont be serving a full meal somewhere on the wedding invitation.
The cocktail reception is usually much more casual than a sit down dinner and requires less planning, but that doesnt mean that there is no plan. Make sure the best man and maid of honor know when to give their toast. You can give guests some time to mingle before having your emcee announce games, speeches, the cake cutting, and dancing.
What should you serve?
The simple answer is whatever you want. However, it helps to have a theme somehow to organize the food, drink, plate ware, and utensils. There should be some coordination between the drinks youre offering and the types of food. For example, sake and Italian food might not be a match made in heaven.
A cocktail reception allows you to serve a variety of appetizers from gluten free to vegetarian to meat lovers delight. It is especially meaningful if the foods are important to you. Perhaps he proposed at a Chinese restaurant, well then, Asian fusion is a meaningful way to go. If you met at summer camp, then grownup versions of smores and hot dogs are in order.
You should offer mixed drinks, wine, and beer, but pick one or two types of alcohol and offer several varieties. Love beer, then share your favorites. If youre more into wine, offer tastings. Or go crazy with mixed drinks.
The room layout
To make the atmosphere more about mingling, free the space of potential roadblocks, and make food and drink easily accessible.
Use servers instead of food stations to distribute food to avoid huge lines and save space. Never put a drink or food station near the entrance, because people will block the door. Be sure to have a few cocktail tables -- some high, some low -- so that guests can have a place to rest their drinks and sit down. If youre not into dancing, place low tables with chairs along the wall, and high-tops without chairs toward the middle of the room, but if you are, leave the center open.
Since you will be navigating in a smaller space, youll want to ditch the wedding gown and change into a cutie cocktail dress.