The Cocktail Reception – Is It Right For You?

Through my experience as a wedding planner a theme that seems to be a common thread with a lot of couples is that they want a beautiful wedding (who doesn’t) but they want something a little less traditional, while not sacrificing elegance and a good time.  So one day, while looking for ideas, I read about the latest trend in wedding receptions called a Cocktail Reception.


Cocktail Reception at The Mauch Chunk Ballroom features three larger round tables and smaller cocktail high top tables with chiavari high top chairs.

A Cocktail Reception is a 3 or 4 hour party with heavy passed hors’dourves for at least 2 hours.  Rather than traditional sit down areas for guests, a cocktail reception can feature either small (32″ round tables) with some seating, or high top cocktail tables for people to gather around.  Some have even included a lounge area (one bride utilized vintage furniture rentals to create a living room in one section of The Mauch Chunk Ballroom) .  You can feature just passed finger foods or have stations like a slider station, taco station, pasta station, etc. for your guests to nibble throughout the first two hours.

Some have worried that their guests may go hungry, and while it’s not a full meal, I can assure you that between the stations and the passed hors’douerves your guests will not go hungry.  Then, of course, you have your cake and you may even elect to add a candy buffet, ice cream bar or smores station for a little extra “flair”.

Here are a few pointers for a cocktail reception:

  • Rather than 5 hours, your reception should be limited to 3 or 4 hoursCocktail
  • Time of the day should be between the two biggest meals of the day, or after dinner; say mid afternoon at 2 or after 6pm.
  • Your invitiations shoud read: Join us for Cocktails after the ceremony with lite fair.  It should be clear that a meal will not be served. You don’t want your guests to show up hungry
  • This isn’t a sit down affair, so seating is arranged to accommodate for 70% of the guests attending.  This allows for less costs associated with dressing the tables with linens, etc.


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