Sit-Down Dinner or Buffet?
A Real Bride Plans Her Perfect
Wedding Reception

Food & Drink, Real Weddings
cocktail party wedding reception ideas

Photo: Jessica Craig-Martin

What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Newlywed Courtney Kern is the owner of Events Beyond, a wedding and event design company. Engaged since 2007—yes, she's heard every Five Year Engagement joke—she knew exactly how her dream day would unfold, but that doesn't mean the process was always a cake walk.

Ben and I, veterans of many weddings, laugh when we attend a reception where the table bonds over how awful the food was, how cold the meal was, or how tiny the portions were. There is always at least one guest who starts hatching a plan to abandon the festivities and drive twenty minutes to the nearest White Castle—so it was hardly a surprise that when we were deciding which direction we wanted to take our big day, Ben and I concluded that a formal, sit-down dinner might prove a little disappointing.

From my time as a wedding planner, I've learned that venue managers will work hard to ensure that the bride, groom, wedding party, and both sides of the immediate family are well taken care of, but can end up neglecting the rest of the room. Buffets can be difficult, too. Guests stand in line waiting for food and then sit uncomfortably wondering whether or not it's appropriate to go back for seconds. Personally, I find that by the time I make my way back to the table with the plate full of food I've tried so carefully not to dump on myself, I realize I've forgotten the salad dressing, butter, or other essentials. Chatting up your fellow guests can also prove problematic when everyone is in line or eating at different times.

We are a social couple, always looking for opportunities to mix and mingle. And just like that, we decided that we would throw a lavish cocktail party wedding reception. To clarify, "cocktail" does not imply less food or fewer options overall. Cocktails, appetizers, dinner, and dessert were served, just on a barrage of small plates. Rather than choosing the chicken or fish, guests had the chance to sample from an incredible selection. (And let's face it—everything tastes better served mini!)

To keep the atmosphere fun and encourage epicurean adventurousness, we also offered interactive food stations including Mexican cuisine (make your own tacos!), Italian (featuring a chef-manned pasta station), and Fall comfort foods—but more on the tasty specifics in my next post! Tables were scattered throughout the venue sans place cards and table numbers, so guests were free to mingle and make new friends. And to our knowledge, no one even thought about making a run for White Castle.

—Courtney Kern

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