St. Simons Wedding Planner :: Island Destination Weddings | How to Have an Awesome Cocktail Style Reception
8570
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-8570,single-format-standard,edgt-core-1.0,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,hudson-ver-1.8, vertical_menu_with_scroll,smooth_scroll,blog_installed,hide_inital_sticky,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.0.1,vc_responsive
do you need to seat everyone for your wedding? Cocktail wedding reception event party
Feb 26 2013

How to Have an Awesome Cocktail Style Reception

 

 

I’ve been talking to a few colleagues about this growing trend of brides wanting to do a cocktail style reception, yet having very heavy “buffets” that could be classified as a full meal instead of great hors d’oeuvres known as small plates.  We all came to the agreement that some couples unknowingly do their guests a disservice and  “if they have feet, they need a seat

Cocktail Style Reception ideas Photo by Harwell Photography

Photo by Harwell Photography

While I know there are differing opinions on this, but let’s consider the following:

•  If your food requires heavy dinner plates, it’s not necessarily a cocktail style reception, and a table should be offered to accommodate your guests.

•  It is absolutely horrid for guests to arrive at a reception without a seating chart or enough seating.  From someone who sees this a lot– they are very confused and at times frustrated.  From guests who want to sit together may find a table that lacks enough chairs to accommodate their party to being stuck  in an undesirable area that is far away from all the action.  Confusion grows deeper as it is not clearly communicated as to exactly whom is entitled to have one of the coveted tables. People get up and lose their seats which can be even more frustrating.

•  A lot of brides say, “We don’t need seating for every one because… my friends are young” or “they’ll be too busy dancing!” or “I don’t want it to be too formal”.  No one stands the entire time while drinking and dancing at some of the hottest clubs in Hollywood.  Why would you expect them to at your wedding, where they are expected to be treated as guests.  Expecting guests to stand for four hours is unrealistic.

•  It is extremely hard for some guests to juggle a plate of food, drinks, purse and whatever else they are trying to carry and enjoy themselves.  If most of the seated tables and cocktail tables are full, you have guests standing in open spaces trying to find a respite.  With non-wedding cocktail parties, this can work to an advantage, because not everyone is eating at the same time. People may be mingling, dancing, or participating in some other activity. With a wedding, most of your guests will be doing the same thing at the same time.  Be prepared for some guests to leave early.

Wedding Planning Advice Tips Ideas

To be clear, I’m not against cocktail receptions– I think they’re gorgeous, fun and allow for more mingling.  Most cocktail receptions, while lacking formal seating, does offer rest/lounge areas for their guests.  Brides believe that if their venue is small and they overinvite, they can switch to this style seating, under the premise of “not everyone needs a seat”.  A formal seat, no– not necessarily.  Somewhere to sit, absolutely. Here’s how to make it fabulous, but still with the vibrant cocktail party type atmosphere you want:

• You should have tables for at least 75% of your guest list.  You are not just limited full five and six foot tables. Incorporate a mix of different table sizes like cocktail tables, bistro tables  and even a banquet table or two to mix it up.  Offer a few with chairs and stools to give those a break if they need it.

Cocktail Style Reception Ideas

Cocktail Style Reception Seating Ideas

• If you don’t offer seating for everyone, then offer a lounge area where people can still relax, regroup and enjoy a cocktail and food.  Rent lounge furniture or incorporate furniture from your venue.  Make it your own by bringing in your own cushions and centerpieces to complement their furniture.

Wedding Lounge for Cocktail Style Reception

Wedding Lounge for Cocktail Style Reception

Outdoor Wedding Lounge for Cocktail Style Reception Ideas

• Don’t let this become a money issue.  Your guests would probably enjoy being comfortable more than a welcome bag or favor.  When we ask most of our couples what is most important to them on their wedding day, they say, “good food, good music and for everyone to have a good time”.  It can be hard to enjoy the good food from the five star caterer you hired or enjoy the smooth crooning of your 10 piece band if your guests are uncomfortable and frustrated.

•  Have a cocktail style reception because you want to. Not because you have to.  If your space dictates that only a certain amount of people can fit in your venue, be prepared to make the sacrifice.  With cocktail receptions, space and food are major issues.  You need enough room for people to flow in and out of the space comfortably, not spilling out and displaced.  You may have to sacrifice on the full dinner you wanted or cut your guest list down.  If you make the sacrifice, you still have many hearty options available to serve to your guests without them going away hungry.

Mini Burger Mini Grilled Cheese Mini Beer for Cocktail Hour Reception

Mini Fried Chicken and Coke Hors D'oeuvres Cocktail Hour Reception Corn and Crab Salad Hors D'oeuvres Cocktail Hour Reception

• Be sure there is something to do to keep people active and happy.  Naturally, you have your dance floor and your bar.  Some sort of table or seat will keep them busy and give them a place to keep their belongings, but get them to be interactive with games, a photo or video booth, a dessert or popcorn bar  or even a tour of your venue.  The more people have to do, the less they are standing in one spot.

Custom Cornhole for Weddings

Photo by Anna Pociask Photography

Chocolate Dessert Bar for Wedding

Photobooth for Weddings

7 Comments
Share Post

7 Comments

  • Great advice! I’m pondering this type of reception and your post provided food for thought. Thanks!

    December 24, 2013 at 9:43 pm
  • Maggie

    Reply

    I am having a cocktail reception and I’m very concerned about the seating. It is being held on a private yacht…but it is very large, capacity for 400 people. It has 3 levels, we will have about 260 guests attending. After attending my tour and walking around the ship for a while, I decided to have seating at tables for everyone- PLUS the lounge level of the ship has couches and arm chairs and high-top cocktail tables. Do you think I should have a seating arrangement for the main deck that has all the tables?

    February 10, 2014 at 9:32 am
  • Jennifer Norris

    Reply

    i live in a very large apartment with a living room and dining room that are adjacent to one another. The square footage of the two combined is 745 sq. feet.The reception is rather casual and everyone knows we are working on a budget. Is it necessary to remove all of furniture and just have tables and chairs or can I just add them to the decor (tastefully of course)?

    December 11, 2016 at 10:32 pm
    • Hi Jennifer!

      If the goal is not to incur any additional expense, I would leave large portions of the furniture in the room, but rearrange them. This may entail moving some coffee tables into an inaccessible bedroom, pushing a dining room table against the wall to serve as a buffet or bar, moving the sofa / chair combinations into lounge settings, etc. While you want the intimacy and personality of your space, you also want it to be (for lack of a better term) “a functional function”. If you can incorporate cocktail tables and linens (even if only two), definitely go for it. Spring for great accent lighting through candles and containers with some throw pillows that suit your tastes for a styled touch. Pair with your favorite cocktail and Spotify play list, and you my friend, have a party 🙂

      December 14, 2016 at 8:49 pm
  • Kerri

    Reply

    We are having a cocktail style reception in Atlantic City. We are inviting 100 people and are expecting around 75 including my fiancé and I. We want to make sure we have enough food and seating, and that the space will flow and be conducive to mingling and dancing.

    The ceremony will be from 5-6pm followed by a cocktail hour from 6-7pm and reception from 7-10pm.

    During the cocktail hour we will be serving 8 butler passed hors d’oeuvres and there will be 3 food stations (crudite, cheese, and pasta). For the reception there will be 3 small butler passed dishes and 2 food stations (salad and pasta). After that there will be a sweets table for our cupcakes in lieu of a cake and 3 butler passed desserts. There will be open bar all night including a signature drink.

    We were thinking of adding an additional food station during the reception portion. Either a carving station or something with a protein. Do you think this will be too much or not enough?

    There is seating for 80 people; a mixture of 6 small cocktail tables (4 seats each), 2 large tables (8 seats each), 8 bar top tables (4 with 4 stools each and 4 without stools), 2 couches (7 seats each), 1 large couch (8 seats). There is also a sweetheart table next to the bar for my fiancé and I. I was considering adding more bar tables or possibly removing one of the couches and adding more cocktail tables. Any thoughts on this?

    I would love any input, advice, criticism, suggestion. Thanks!!

    August 2, 2017 at 10:35 pm

Let's Talk About It!