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Weddings Redefined

A Cocktail-Reception Style Wedding

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Cocktail party style weddings are very trendy right now, particularly with couples who want to do something nontraditional. While sit down dinners are great, they are not for everyone. This style of wedding can work extremely well - or it can be a disaster. Keep these tips on mind to avoid the pitfalls of such a wedding.

1. Feed your guests - a lot. Just because it's a cocktail party style event doesn't mean you can skimp on food. Whether you have passed hors d'oeuvres all night or some good stations mixed in, keep the food flowing. Your food budget will probably not be less than a typical sit down dinner, so get that idea out of your head!  Your guests may be drinking more of the hard stuff since there's no tableside wine service with dinner so you have to keep them well fed. The last thing you want is guests bad-mouthing you because they had to go out for pizza on the way home from the wedding.

2. Provide enough seating. I suggest seats for at least 50% of your guests. These seats can be lounge seats, small cocktail tables, bar seating, picnic benches or whatever floats your boat - but at some point each guest will want to sit so don't leave them hunting for a chair.  If you have many guests over the age of 60, then provide even more seating.

3. Provide adequate flow. Just because it's a cocktail party doesn't mean there shouldn't be a first dance, toasts, a cake cutting or other forms of entertainment. You may have some wallflowers in your group who need conversation starters and those elements do just that. Don't let anyone get bored or the party will end early. I promise.

4. Be aware of time. Most wedding venues rent for a 5 hour reception.  Your guests will start to lose steam at the 3-4 hour mark unless there is dancing - but many cocktail party style weddings don't have dancing.  Don't tell the guests this, but plan for a 4 hour reception and make a game day decision to keep the party going if guests are still having a blast. Tell your vendors that this could be a last minute decision and assign your wedding planner or friend to make the call so you don't have to worry about a thing.

5. Communicate with your guests. Let them know it's a cocktail party rather than a sit down dinner by using the term 'cocktail reception' on your wedding invitation. This sends a signal that they may get less food and that they may want to wear more sensible shoes because of all the standing around. Help everybody by managing their expectations.

Are you planning to host a cocktail reception instead a formal dinner?

(photo by Kate McElwee)

Bernadette Smith