Meals & Drinks

Alternative Wedding Reception Ideas

Dinner is so overrated. Who hasn't feasted upon so many delicious appetizers that the entrée became unappealing? And even a six-year-old knows to rush through dinner to get at dessert. Before you plan a reception that includes dinner, consider one of these stylish, and value-packed, alternatives.

The Lunch Reception

Since most weddings take place in the evening, better rates are available for events held in the afternoon—making lunch receptions a more affordable option. While it may not sound as elegant as a three-course dinner, a lunch reception is a very sophisticated choice. And no, we're not talking about a selection of cold sandwiches.

Timing

The ceremony should start around noon, with the reception following immediately after. "Ceremonies should start no later than 2 p.m.," says Samantha Darr, of Houston based Soiréebliss! "Any later and 'lunch' becomes an early cocktail-type reception." Guests will expect heartier fare later in the day, and are likely to drink more—which ups your bar bill.

What to serve

"Keep the meal components light, but filling," says Samantha. "Consider serving classic lunch options with a creative twist." Instead of an open bar, offer a limited menu of beer, wine, and, if you like, a signature drink. Steer clear of cocktails made primarily of alcohol—like martinis. Lighter drinks, like raspberry sangria, are more appropriate for a midday meal. Serve different types of nonalcoholic drinks as well—like hibiscus-infused lemonade or peach iced tea.

The setup

Lunch receptions are ideal for intimate gatherings. It's best to keep the guest list under 75. And since events of this size are more low-key, you can keep décor to a minimum. You won't want dramatic lighting or extravagant floral arrangements. Create a relaxed, family-style feel by using long banquet tables; top them with low centerpieces to brighten up the room.

Entertainment

"Guests are less likely to dance in the afternoon," says Samantha. If you'd prefer live music, have a solo guitarist play during the meal. But the earlier hour and reduced alcohol flow also allow a more activities-based approach. In this case, hire a caricaturist to create sketches of your guests for them to take home. If you have access to an outdoor area, organize some lawn games, like croquet.

Informing Guests

Though the time of day should indicate that lunch will be served, it's always helpful to include this information on your invitation or reception card. Try: "Join us for a light lunch and lawn games following the ceremony."

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