One of the many questions a couple faces as they begin their wedding planning is whether they should have a traditional seated dinner or an alternative cocktail reception.
An alternative cocktail reception with heavy hors d’oeuvres is a great way to save money on comfort foods that have different twists of flavors. On your invitations, let your guests know they will not leave hungry. However, keep in mind that guests tend to eat more hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail reception than a regular cocktail hour and will be up and moving all night long socializing.
“Serving foods on a tiny scale such as macaroni and cheese bites, gourmet sliders, mini crab cakes, and mini grilled cheese sandwiches with soup shooters have all been seen before,” said Charlotte Jarrett, owner of Charlotte Jarrett Events. “The idea is to serve fun foods that are filling, but display them in a unique way. So try a new combination of them.”
This intimate setting is easy to coordinate. Since the focus is not to sit down for a seated dinner, you can get creative. “For seating, use a variety of sizes, shapes, and height to create a feeling of a lounge area, said Raquel Shutt, owner of Wedding Savvy, Inc. “Try 6 feet long banquet tables, with leg extensions, three on each side and one on each end, short cocktail rounds with four chairs at each, and tall bistros with two to four chairs. You will be surprised how quickly that seating will add up!”
Not everyone will eat at the same time, some may be eating and drinking, others may be dancing, but do not let your guests feel confined to one table. Your tables should turn over quickly. Some guests may prefer to sit; create a distinct lounge area. Look into rental companies, IKEA, or discount furniture stores; you might even find items that you will use in your home after the wedding, noted Jarrett. On the other hand, “You do not have to rent furniture, look around your reception area. Do they have benches in the foyer than you could bring into the dining area and accent them with purchased cushions?” said Shutt. It helps you save some extra money.
Along with all your different hors d’oeuvres, incorporate different floral arrangements as your centerpieces. “Don’t be afraid to change it up! Work with your florist to come up with three to four different designs, said Jarrett. Also, try using tall arrangements on tall tables, “It is unexpected and adds another level of excitement to the room. When guests sit down to eat they can still see and talk to one another,” said Shutt.
A cocktail reception is nothing without a signature cocktail of your choice. Having “his and her cocktails” make it personal for your guests to enjoy one of your favorite drinks. (Consider exploring a few of the Bayside Cocktails for inspiration or create something all your own!)
Last but not least, dessert can mean more than a wedding cake. Your favors can be desserts to go. Have grandma’s homemade chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes, or even a candy bar that your guests can fill a gift bag with. The options are endless.
“The secret to making this type of event work is to have the proper seating and agenda to keep the flow of the evening on the go,” said Shutt. With all these details and ideas, it is bound to be amazing. Your guests will be talking about your cocktail reception for many years to come.
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*Both Wedding Savvy, Inc. and Charlotte Jarrett Events are Chesapeake Area Wedding Planners in the Bayside Bride Vendor Guide! For more information on becoming a member of our Vendor Guide, submit an application!