Food & Drink

Everything You Need To Know: Food And Drink At The Reception

by Nicole Haase

When you get married, you’re usually inviting guests to a full day of activities, so feeding them is the very least you can do. The reception not only brings everyone in your collective lives together in one convenient spot but also gives your personalities a place to shine through your choices in food and drink. The cocktail hour serves the purpose of killing some time while pictures are being taken, as well as provides some social lubricant to encourage mingling. The main meal makes sure no one gets hangry and your seating chart makes sure like-minded folks are seated together. You’ll be the center of attention all day, but the spotlight is just a little bit dimmer when everyone is looking to fuel up for all the dancing and to make sure they aren’t too hungover the next day.

Elementary, Dear Watson

It’s important to think of the logistics of your reception. If you’re rented a location, they’ve probably got a lot of that covered, but if you’re in a non-traditional spot, thinking about seating, tables, cocktail tables, and the other “hows” of a reception makes a huge impact on your guests’ experience. If everyone is standing during cocktail hour and they have a plate in one hand and a glass in the other, how are they supposed to enjoy the food? You might really love quinoa salad, but that’s going to be difficult to eat. A tartlet filled with salad that be a lot easier to consume in one or two bites and won’t necessitate a fork.

Get A Venue That Works For You

Non-traditional venues may not have all the electricity you need or an alcohol license either. Can the venue accommodate guests with special needs or dietary restrictions? If you’ve been dreaming of a full band to play, is there room for them to load in and out as well as set up? It won’t matter how great the food or cake or cocktails are if you’re in an unairconditioned location on a 95-degree day. Much like buying a home or a car, you may fall in love with the look, but if the specs aren’t correct, you (and your guests) are going to be miserable.

This Isn’t An Open House

There may be situations where you keep the number of guests invited to the ceremony limited, so usually the biggest gathering of the day is at the reception, which mean it’s also usually the biggest cost incurred when having a wedding. A smaller gathering likely means you can choose more elevated food choices, as well as an open bar. The larger the guest list, the more thought must be put into the budget (pending how deep your pockets go).

Happy Father In Law, Happy Life

Traditionally, it is the bride’s family that incurs the full cost of the reception, though some more modern takes on it show the bride’s family taking care of the venue, food and decorations while the groom’s family covers the cost of music and the bar. The groom’s family is traditionally tasked with paying for the rehearsal dinner the night before the ceremony, so make sure to take that into account if trying to ensure that you’re fairly distributing costs. Again, do what works for you and your respective bank accounts.

Water, Water, Everywhere

Cocktail hour will typically start right after the ceremony. It will last about an hour (hence its clever name). Keep the food during cocktail hour bite-sized and easy to eat, as well as easy to serve. Guests may initially eat, but the food can also sit for a while after the initial rush, so options that will keep are the smart play here (don’t leave that guac out too long!)

If your location and bartending staff are up for it, consider creating a “personal” cocktail or two to be served during the cocktail hour. It’s a conversation starter and a way to put yourselves in the room even though you’re off taking care of other duties. It’s also a good way to narrow down the bar offerings during this part of the night if a full open bar isn’t viable.

As the cocktail hour comes to a close. and the couple will make their grand entrance and have their first dance. After the dance is traditionally when speeches and toasts occur, but they don’t necessarily have to. This is where your personal preference comes in.

Gear Up For Your Speech

If you and your significant other are going to speak and feel you need some time, you may want to schedule dinner next. But take into account the attention span of your guests. If you move the speeches until after the meal, know that it can be hard to get a focused audience after the guests are already chatting and mingling. Plus, doing speeches first encourages the speakers not to go on and on, as everyone will be hungry again by this point (you hope). From there, your guests will follow your lead. When you get up to dance, they’ll know the dinner part of the evening is over and it’s time for the party to start.

The Hostesses With The Mostesses

The meal is a time to rest and relax, unless, of course, you’re the bride and groom. It gives your guests a chance to meet and talk and, though you’ll still be bombarded with 1,000 things. It’s also a chance for the couple to sit for a moment, as well. Knowing you’ll be interrupted, make sure you choose an option that will still be good after it’s been sitting for a while. You’ll need nourishment and no one wants to eat cold steak. This time is much more about the company than what’s on the plate, so don’t stress it too much but try to get in a few bites, you’ve earned it.

Let Them Eat Cake

In general, the cutting of the cake is the symbolic end of official duties for the evening. Once the cake is cut, you’ll notice some folks start heading for the door, so you’ll want to consider the timing of this part of your reception. Often, you’ll see older and extended family head out around this time and it can signify that the party part of the evening is about to get a bit more serious.

Last Licks

A newer wedding tradition is to serve another round of food near the end of the night. It’s often rather simple (pizza or sliders) and served an hour or so before the end of the reception. Your guests have been boogying for hours since the meal and many may have a commute home ahead of them. This small additional food station lifts spirits, lines stomachs, and adds a little extra bit of fun to the end of the night.

Planning a reception sounds like it could be enough to make you want to elope, but if you think carefully through the details and put yourselves in your guests’ shoes as you consider all the aspects of a venue, you’re sure to pull off the greatest party you’ve ever thrown.

Bottom Line

Planning your reception means carefully coordinating what food you’ll be having, when to have it, and finding a venue that can support the kind of party you’re going for.

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