How to Plan a Lunch Wedding Reception

What's not to love about this stylish (and value-packed) alternative?

daytime wedding reception

While at a glance a midday wedding reception may not sound as elegant as a three-course dinner that's followed by dancing into the wee hours of the morning, a lunch wedding reception can still be a very sophisticated choice. (And no, we're not talking about serving your guests a selection of cold sandwiches.) Here's how to plan a stylish daytime soirée that's bound to be just as memorable as any evening affair—at a fraction of the cost.

A value-packed alternative

Typically, most wedding ceremonies take place in the afternoon, followed by a wedding reception that kicks off with cocktail hour and continues with dinner and dancing. Wedding venues consider the evening hours to be the most desired time slot and rates are going to be at their highest. Plus, guests will expect heartier fare later in the day, and are likely to drink more—which means higher food costs and a larger bar bill.

So it only makes sense that significant savings can be had for events held earlier in the day, which could be either a brunch wedding reception or a lunch wedding reception. If a 10 a.m. wedding is just a little too early for your liking, then a midday wedding, followed by a leisurely lunch and plenty of time to mingle and socialize with your guests, might just be the budget-savvy solution you're looking for.

Adjust your wedding day timeline

An earlier ceremony and reception means all pre-wedding events on the typical wedding day timeline—from hair and makeup appointments to pre-wedding photos—will have to be moved up in the day. Ideally, your ceremony should start around noon, with the reception following immediately after. A 12:30 p.m. or 1 p.m ceremony is fine as well, but as a general rule, "ceremonies should start no later than 2 p.m.," says Samantha Darr of Soiréebliss! Events, "Any later and 'lunch' becomes an early cocktail-type reception."

Meet the Expert

Samantha Darr is an award-winning Houston-based wedding planner and founder of Soiréebliss! Events.

What to serve

"Keep the meal components light, but filling," notes Darr. "Consider serving classic lunch options with a creative twist." Instead of an open bar, offer a limited menu of beer, wine and, if you'd like, a signature drink. And don't forget about your nonalcoholic beverage choices, too—up the ante with infusions such as a hibiscus lemonade or peach iced tea.

Steer clear of cocktails made primarily of alcohol (like martinis). Refreshing options that are lower in alcohol, such as a raspberry or peach sangria, are more appropriate for a midday meal.

The setup

Lunch wedding receptions are ideal for more intimate gatherings; it's best to keep the guest list under 75. And since events of this size are generally 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 or floral table runners to brighten up the room.

The entertainment

"Guests are less likely to dance in the afternoon," notes Darr. If you'd prefer live music, Darr recommends having a solo guitarist play during the meal. Given the daytime hours and reduced alcohol flow, you may want to consider a more activities-based approach: Hire a caricaturist to create sketches of your guests for them to take home or, if you have access to an outdoor area, organize a few lawn games, such as croquet or giant Jenga.

Inform your guests

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

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