How to Arrange a Wedding Cocktail Reception
Mix things up by hosting a formal but fun reception
By Michelle Bolyn
If you don't want to worry about creating a seating chart, escort cards and place cards, then a cocktail reception in lieu of a sit-down dinner is a more casual way to celebrate your marriage with close family and friends. A wedding cocktail reception is a wonderful option for couples who want guests to enjoy drinks, dance all night and eat when they're hungry without the strictures of convention.
- What You Need to Know
- Offer a variety of drink and appetizer options for guests.
- Make sure guests are aware that there is not a sit-down dinner.
If opt to do a wedding cocktail reception instead of a formal dinner, make sure you spread the word. Inform your guests that you're not having a full meal at your reception -- most guests expect it. Do this by simply stating, "Cocktail and Appetizer Reception to Follow" on your wedding invitations.
Once you have a guest list finalized, determine how much wine, beer and liquor you'll need by finalizing your guest list. You know your guests best so order based on what you think their consumption will be and what their preferences are. A basic rule of thumb is 1 liter each of gin, tequila, bourbon and light rum for 100 people. Add 6 liters of vodka to this list. For wine, you'll need two dozen bottles of red and white (each). For beer, buy at least 24 bottles each of light and dark beer. If your attendees are heavy drinkers, you'll need to up the quantity by 20 percent. Mixers are also a factor.
Discuss what mixers will be available with your caterer or bartender. You definitely need the basics such as orange juice, club soda, regular sodas, tonic and cranberry juice. Once again, you know your crowd so cover your bases, but also add a few selections based on your guests preferences.
Make your cocktail reception stand out by having at least one signature cocktail. A signature cocktail can be your favorite drink, a cocktail that matches your wedding colors or a drink that matches your theme. For example, if you're having a fall wedding decorated with apples, fall colors and pumpkins, consider serving a signature cocktail of warm apple cider spiked with your alcohol of choice when your guests first arrive.
Plan for guests who won't be indulging by offering your signature cocktail in a nonalcoholic form. If you're serving warm apple cider, you could have one option with a kick of bourbon and one option without. This will also help your guests under the age of 21 feel included.
Definitely plan on having a variety of appetizers to be either passed around or situated at a table or tables throughout the reception area. Mix things up with lighter fare and more substantial appetizers such as crab cakes or chicken skewers. You can have vegetable trays and cheese plates at tables. You'll save money by passing around a predetermined number of appetizers, while allowing your guests to nibble on food whenever they get the urge.
Decorate your cocktail reception as you would any other reception. A fun favor idea is to give everyone wine charms. Send guests off with a thank-you note that includes the recipe for your signature cocktail.
About the Author
Michelle Bolyn regularly writes on weddings and relationships.
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