First off, we decided to go with an hors d'oeuvres reception. It seemed more appropriate for our time of day and it eliminated the stress of "oh god, who should I sit where?" (his father's side of the family absolutely hates his mother's side, and if they were put anywhere near each other we'd probably wind up with a fist fight.)
But now for the dumb question. If guests are sitting wherever they want at the reception, are table cards necessary? I always kind of got the impression table cards were mainly used for catering purposes so servers know what belongs on what table. I can't imagine my guests needing table cards, especially considering there will only be about 5 tables. What do you think?
No table cards are not necessary. However, you may want to "reserve" some tables for your bridal party and immediate family that may not get in there right away if you're doing pics before the reception.
Where I'm from, hardly anyone does sit-down dinners, so I did the same thing. You can also use a lot less tables since for most appetizers, people won't need to sit down. That will save on the number of arrangements and table linens etc. We did a few sit-down tables of 8 or 6 seats, and lots of bar tables that people could stand out. The bar tables were beautiful, draped in linen and gathered around the base with ribbon, candles and rose petals on top. We did have one table reserved for the two of us (although we only got to sit down once!)