Alternative Wedding Reception Ideas

Updated 09/24/10

The Dessert Reception

More than just wedding cake and punch—this is an opportunity to serve a variety of treats, from childhood favorites to gourmet confections.


"A dessert reception is best held later in the evening," says event planner Jen Stiebel, of SoCo Events, in Washington, D.C. "You want to be sure that you have given your guests ample time to eat dinner beforehand." A reception start time of 8 p.m. is ideal, but keep the length of your ceremony in mind—your service should not take place during typical dinner hours (5 to 6:30 p.m.).

What to Serve Offer an array of desserts that appeal to all palates. Think passion fruit parfaits alongside classic candies. Desserts should be bite-sized to encourage grazing. "Your guests will want to taste several different options," says Jen. "They don't want to have just one helping of chocolate mousse all evening."

Wedding cake is still welcome and expected, but keep the portions small—guests will want a sliver, not a full slice. And to balance out the sugar fest, offer a variety of cheeses, nuts, and fruit as well. Also serve several different dessert wines, cordials, and champagne (bruts pair nicely with sweets) along with coffee and tea.

The setup

Desserts should be served buffet-style; this encourages guests to both mingle and sample. To avoid long lines, arrange for stations to be set up around the room, featuring different types of treats—one table for several types of cookies, and another for a selection of chocolates and truffles.

Because your guests will be moving around from station to station, assigned seating isn't necessary. Instead, set up high and low cocktail tables around the room, and add sofas and benches to create a more relaxed, homey feel. Plan to have enough seating for about 65 percent of your guests.


If you're planning to hold a reception that lasts longer than two hours, dancing is in order for the last hour or so. But even without dancing, you will want some lively background music.

Informing Guests

Your guests are sure to get a kick out of a sweets-only reception, however, to ensure that they don't arrive expecting a full meal, your invitation should make the nature of the event clear with something like: "Dessert reception immediately following the ceremony."

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