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What Type of Wedding Reception is Right For You?

The Pros and Cons of a Variety of Wedding Receptions

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When envisioning your wedding reception, do you see the beauty of early morning light dancing through the trees or an all night, all-out party? There are so many different types of wedding receptions, there's going to be one right for your style, AND your budget.

  • Breakfast or Brunch Reception
  • If you're having a sunrise wedding, or just envision getting married bright and early in the morning, then you'll want to have a breakfast or brunch reception. Traditionally, menus include breakfast classics like quiche, frittata, and eggs benedict. It's great to have stations where guests can get food like omelets, and French toast made to order. For a touch of luxury, consider adding smoked salmon, caviar, or a carving station with ham, turkey or roast beef. Spice things up with Bloody Mary's, Bellinis, and Mimosas. And don't forget the coffee!

    Pros: It's inexpensive; people will drink considerably less alcohol, and the types of food served are typically cheaper as well. If you want to get a jump-start on your honeymoon, a brunch reception perfectly allows you to leave the same day.

    Cons: Consider your guests, especially those who live two hours away. They'll have to get up very early to make it to your wedding. Also, you won't have as long to get ready in the morning.

    A New Twist: A cocktail-style brunch. Have your caterer reinvent breakfast classics into hors d'oeuvres such as mini-eggs benedict, bite sized French toast, and scrambled egg bites topped with caviar. Keep those Mimosas and Bellini's flowing!

  • A Lunch Reception
  • If you want a morning wedding, but need a little bit more time to get ready than a breakfast reception would allow, consider a lunch reception.

    Pros: It allows you to serve some of the same favorite dishes that you would at a dinner reception, for a cheaper price. You still may be able to leave for your honeymoon the same day.

    Cons: If you don't leave for your honeymoon that same day, you'll have to figure out what else to do with the rest of your wedding day! Your reception might also be more staid than it would be later in the evening.

    A New Twist: A picnic reception! Have your caterer (or a favorite restaurant) package individual meals in disposable cardboard picnic boxes. Spread out big pieces of colorful cloth and offer pitchers of basil lemonade and raspberry iced tea. Be sure to have some tables and chairs available for those who prefer not to sit on the ground.

  • Afternoon Tea
  • If you've ever been to an old-fashioned high tea, you know that it's an indulgent fun time. It's not every day that we get to gobble tea sandwiches and cute desserts in the middle of the afternoon. Serve a variety of hot teas, champagne, finger sandwiches, tartlets, petit fours, éclairs, and of course, wedding cake. Be sure to plan your reception for the middle of the afternoon so that guests aren't expecting a full meal.

    Pros: Again, it's cheaper than having a dinner reception. It's also a little different, and it's perfect for adding hand-crafted and vintage touches.

    Cons: Afternoon tea is a little girly, and so your male guests may not feel entirely comfortable.

    A New Twist Be a bit cheeky, and serve Long Island Iced Teas (a potent cocktail) along with the other tea offerings.

  • Champagne and Cake Reception
  • This is probably the least expensive type of reception, and it's what was once the norm for most weddings. Gather everyone after the ceremony for a bit of cake and a few toasts. But don't ask your guests to get in their cars again. Have your reception in the garden of your ceremony venue, or even right in the same room. I also suggest that you put on your invitation "champagne and cake to follow" so that guests will know there isn't a meal.

    Pros: Did I mention already that it's cheap? If you're not a fan of big crowds or lots of mingling, a champagne and cake reception is often short and sweet.

    Cons: Some guests might expect more. You might find that it's over far too fast for your liking! And you'll have to skip out on some of the traditional aspects of a wedding reception.

  • Cocktail Wedding Reception
  • Cocktail receptions can be elegant and stylish, and allow your guests to really mingle and meet each other. They tend to be a bit more relaxed than a sit-down meal, and often feel like a great party.

    Pros: If your venue is small, cocktail receptions allow you to have more people. They're typically shorter than a sit-down meal, and they allow you to really circulate and enjoy the party.

    Cons: While you might anticipate that a cocktail reception would be cheaper, your guests will likely drink more than at a dinner reception. Since most people won't be seated, some guests will have trouble seeing events like the first dance.

  • Dinner Wedding Reception
  • The most classic and formal type of wedding reception, a sit-down or buffet dinner allows you time to really celebrate your wedding, treat your guests, and still have everyone up on the dance floor afterwards. You'll start with a cocktail hour, then proceed into an adjoining room for dinner, followed by dancing, cake cutting, bouquet tossing and more.

    Pros: Your guests will feel like you really went all out, and feel special. You won't feel rushed or hurried.

    Cons: Typically, this is the most expensive type of wedding reception. You might also feel a little sad that your wedding night in the hotel room is starting so late! (wink).

    A New Twist: After an hour or two of dancing, your guests might have worked up an appetite again. Serve a "surprise" treat at midnight of packages of donuts, an early breakfast, or even fast food.
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