When wedding receptions are in order, most couples opt to have the traditional sit-down dinner. Then, there are some couples who would rather schmooze with their ambling guests rather than sit at a sweetheart table for the majority of the night and would like to enjoy a wider variety of nibbles rather than a heavy, one-note meal with a slice of cake. If you fit this description, then a cocktail reception is right up your alley.
The cocktail party reception has gained popularity lately as opposed to the cocktail hour before the main meal where the bride and groom are traditionally absent. Although this style reception has quite a few advantages, there are some hidden snags that must be taken into account. With that, let’s begin:
Face Time with the Guests: The cocktail party reception will cut out the need for the long and sometimes tedious receiving line after the ceremony or speeding from table to table for a rushed hello at the reception. Instead, you and your brand-new spouse can strike up spontaneous, genuine conversations with your guests while sipping some bubbly or take a one-two bite out of an appetizer. Just make sure you don’t get stuck spending too much time with one set group. The point of this party is to mingle.
More Variety, Cut Costs: Oftentimes, a traditional sit-down dinner limits your options to a meat, starch, and vegetable. Multiple course meals can get expensive, and the need for triple servings at a buffet can really eat at your wallet. With a cocktail reception, you can have a wide selection of hors d’oeuvres with a wide variety of cuisines represented and still come out on top when it comes to your meal budget. Also, inexpensive ingredients can be turned into posh incarnations, such as vegetable spring rolls or macaroni and cheese on soup ladle spoons. Timing is of the essence: meal time cocktail parties means more servings per guest, so be mindful. Also, having a large guest count (say, 300 guests versus 75-100) could cancel out the money-saving factor. In terms of dessert, the traditional wedding cake can be included with a dessert bar-or, the dessert bar can replace the wedding cake. It’s your call!
Time and Circumstance: To continue on the subject of time, cocktail parties are usually shorter in length (two to three hours), so quite a few of the traditional customs (introduction of the wedding party, father-daughter dance, bouquet toss, etc.) are out of the window, so skip this format if these customs are important to you. Toasts, however, are still in order. Furthermore, the time in which you have your cocktail party determines the food selection and how much must be available. A lunchtime reception or one held between meals (3:00 or 4:00 p.m., for example) may consist of six to eight choices with two to three servings each while a dinner time reception could contain ten choices with three to four (even five) servings each. In any case, make sure that you note that your reception is a cocktail party on the invitations, as some guests with larger appetites may want to grab a bite beforehand to avoid hunger pains.
Drinks on me: The cocktail party has gained such popularity due to it’s central focus: the cocktail. There are a few ways to go about stocking the bar. A full bar offers the option of having the widest variety of drinks, but doing this could drive up your liquor costs because much more drinking will be done. If you can afford this, more power to you. Your best bet to keep costs down is to go for either a themed bar or a signature drink bar. A themed bar is when a certain liquor generates the pantheon of cocktails being served (say, rum is the focus so mojitos, rum punch, rum runners, etc. are available along with sodas and wine) while a signature drink bar may have three focal drinks from different liquors, along with sodas and wine for non-cocktail drinkers.
Rental Reminders: Cocktail receptions are made for mingling, so renting 10 tables and 100 chairs won’t be necessary. Naturally, do have a some tables and chairs available so guests can take a load-off for a few minutes. Another possibility: the money that would have been used to rent traditional reception seating could be used to rent lounge furniture to give the reception a very modern, plush feel.
For more in-depth dissertations on how to throw a successful cocktail reception, take a look at the following articles:
Epicurious.com presents: How to Throw a Cocktail Party.
Brides.com’s guide to throwing a cocktail reception.
The Cocktail Wedding Reception according to HamptonsWeddings.com.