It’s no secret that planning a wedding can be an overwhelming experience. In between selecting a date, booking a venue and creating a guest list, you’ll also need to find the time to plan your wedding reception. Sounds easy enough, right? Announce the location. Tell your guests when to arrive. Serve some cocktails. Then, let everyone scatter to their assigned seats, to settle in for what is typically a very long, and often unappetizing, sit down dinner.

Just be warned that some guests wont like their seats, others won’t like the food selection, and most will just be counting down the minutes until they can get up and dance (or grab another drink)! As you might imagine, this is where the celebratory mood of your big day can quickly fade away. After all, how many weddings have you attended where dinner stood out as a highlight of the event?

The cocktail hour/dinner/dancing reception model is still the age old standard. But if, you and your fiancée are looking for ways to break the traditional wedding reception mold, you may want to consider one these alternatives to the typical boring sit down dinner.


Go heavy on the hors d’oeuvres. Your guests will probably be expecting some sort of food to be served at this glorious occasion. But that doesn’t mean you have to present a five-course meal. Catering your reception with a hearty selection of appetizers and hors d’oeuvres will both quell your guests’ hunger and allow them a greater say in choosing what they want to eat. Instead of being limited to a choice of the chicken, beef, or vegetarian dinner, your guests can sample all the shrimp cocktail, mini quiches, canapés, chicken satay, spring rolls and spanakopita their hearts desire. And as a hidden benefit, because they won’t be forced to sit down and eat, your guests will instead be free to move around the room and interact with each other.

“Believe it or not, many newlywed couples quickly get swept away mingling with guests right after they arrive at their receptions and never have a chance to sit down and eat. I highly recommend sitting down for a bite to eat right after you’ve arrived so you both have a chance to enjoy the fruits of your labor.”
– Chris Easter, editor-in-chief of and author of “Be The Man”

Go big at the bar! What’s more important to your guests, food or drink? You might be surprised by the answer to that question. Truth be told, when attending a wedding, most people would probably rather drink than eat. So why not save yourself some time, money and effort and nix those dinner plans in favor of a bigger bar tab? Of course the success of this option will again depend on the atmosphere you’re trying to create. But as long as you give your guests a heads up that the booze will be flowing but dinner won’t be served, chances are they won’t mind a bit. Think about it. How many times have you seen the waiting staff at a wedding clear away plates of food that were barely touched? On the other hand, have you ever seen a waiter clear away a full cocktail? Probably not!

Let the location set the tone. Another easy way to avoid having a boring sit down dinner is to book your wedding reception at a venue where a full sit down dinner isn’t even possible. Again, the feasibility of this option will depend greatly on the atmosphere you and your bride are trying to achieve. But many a couple has chosen to have their wedding reception at a less than traditional venue. Among the many options for this type of setting are a yacht or boat deck, hotel suite, nightclub, bar or pub, pool or beach, outdoor garden, sporting event, concert or theatrical performance. The possibilities are seemingly endless! Plus you’ll still be able to serve food and drinks, without having to shell out a ton of extra money to reserve tables, chairs, place settings, linens, center pieces, name cards etc. etc. etc.


Join us for brunch, or lunch. Who ever said the meal your serving has to be dinner? Yes, that may be what wedding tradition calls for. But remember, you want your special day to be unique. Depending on the time of day your ceremony is being held, a late morning brunch or mid-afternoon lunch reception could make sense. Though your guests may still have to sit down during the meal, a buffet style brunch or lunch will also give them a variety of different foods to sample and enjoy. And, depending on the atmosphere you’re trying to create, a daytime reception may also help save some money on your bar tab, as most people wont be as eager to drink so early in the day. Of course there will be exceptions to the rule!

— J. Morgan