4 Tips for Planning a Wedding Without a Seated Dinner

Food & Drink, Planning Tips
Wedding Buffet

Photo: Getty Images

Thinking of going down a more non-traditional route for your wedding? You're not alone. "Hosting a dessert reception, cocktail party or wedding brunch is becoming a popular (and cost effective!) alternative to hosting a seated dinner style event," says Christiane Lehman, owner of Truly You Events.

"The key to creating an enjoyable wedding experience that does not follow the traditional seated dinner format is to put yourself in your guests' shoes," Lehman continues. Below, she offers a few planning tips to ensure that your wedding is elegant and fun, regardless of what time of day — or night — it is.

Plan a timeline that's comfortable for everyone.
Whether you choose to have a daytime soiree or an evening dance party, make sure you choose a time that feels appropriate for the kind of event you're having. "For a dessert reception, kick off your event around 8 p.m. so that guests have plenty of time to have dinner and primp beforehand," says Lehman. If you're having a brunch wedding, make sure it's not too early in the morning. "Typically, an event that begins around 11 a.m. or noon works for everyone's schedule."

If dancing is a top priority, Lehman recommends scheduling your event during the evening. "It can be a lot more challenging to fill your dance floor during the day since most wedding guests prefer dancing in low lighting over dancing in the daylight," she explains.

Incorporate whatever traditional wedding elements you want.
Just because you're having an alternative style wedding doesn't mean you have to forgo any traditional elements if they're important to you. "If you would like to have a first dance as a married couple, there's no reason to nix this tradition just because you're opting to skip a plated meal," says Lehman. The same goes for speeches, toasts, and the cake cutting.

See More: The Ultimate Guide To Wedding Catering: Choosing A Delicious Menu

Let your guests know what to expect.
"Never assume that guests can determine an event's format based solely on the event location and timing," says Lehman. "Always use the invitation and your wedding website to let your guests know exactly what to expect. If you're serving sweet treats and cake only, be sure to mention that so they don't show up expecting to have dinner. The more information guests have, the better prepared they will be to enjoy the reception exactly as you have it planned."

Don't forget seating for your reception, even if you're not having a seated dinner.
If you're planning an event without a plated lunch or dinner, it can be easy to forget that having adequate seating is essential to making sure your guests are comfortable. "My best advice is to have more than enough seating to accommodate everyone," says Lehman. "That way, guests can enjoy the passed drinks, small plates and noshing stations without feeling like they need to lay claim on a particular table. Having a mix of high top tables, low cocktail tables, lounges, benches, vignettes and seating pods will create a comfortable atmosphere where guests can mix, mingle and easily find a seat so they can enjoy the culinary delights you've so thoughtfully planned."

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