Dessert Reception? HELP!?

posted 2 years ago in Etiquette
Post # 2
9949 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2013

I think you need to consider what you’re planning.  You’re essentially asking people to either eat dinner at 4:30 or so, to give them enough time to get ready for the wedding and get there…or to eat AFTER the wedding, which would be, what?  8 or 9, or later?  How late are you planning to have your reception go?

Post # 3
2069 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: September 2014

2bkingman:  In general I don’t think there is anything wrong with a dessert reception, but if people are traveling from out of state to attend your wedding, I think common courtesy would be to provide them with some sort of a meal. I assum budgetary constraints are the reason you are going dry and just doing dessert? If so, I would urge you to consider some sort of a modest meal…it doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but I would be peeved if I traveled for hours to attend a wedding, which fell during dinner time, and wasn’t offered a meal or a beer/glass of wine

Post # 4
1043 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2015

I like the idea of a dessert reception but not at a meal time. If you’re going to go this route, I’d start your ceremony after dinner time at 7:30 or 8:00. if you want to keep the time the same I’d consider adding in more substantial foods like veggies, dips, cheese, crackers, meats, and substantial hors d’oeuvres. 

Post # 5
1715 posts
Bumble bee

I think a dessert reception is a risky idea. I do think it is inconsiderate to the out of town guests. 

Offering only desserts could leave your guests feeling hungry, and even leave some of them with stomachaches. 

I think the best thing to do is offer savory foods — sandwiches, wraps, salads, hors d’oeuvres, etc. — so that people have more than just sugar to eat, but keep the focus on the desserts. The savory foods will fill your guests up so they’re not hungry, provide people who don’t like desserts with something to eat, and act as a palate cleanser for those who do eat the desserts. 

Having only sweet things to eat for hours can really suck the fun out of a wedding for guests. It’s just not enough to keep them energized and feeling well. 

Post # 6
1466 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2014

2bkingman:  If you have your ceremony at a non-meal time that helps (think 2PM or 7PM or later; your dessert reception won’t be 5 hours either so a 7PM ceremony would be fine! depending what time of day you get married, you could have a sunset wedding! so cool!) People will be less likely to expect a meal. I think on the invitation, you could say “dessert reception to follow.” My invitation said “reception to follow immediately” at the bottom, instead of including a reception card, and that wording would work just as well for a dessert reception. I don’t think you need to say whether alcohol will be served. If your venue is capable, it would be nice for you to have a cash bar but cover guests’ non-alcoholic drinks. 

I do think it could be possible to do a heavy appetizer reception to give your guests some food but not spend as much as you would on a meal. Or do something inexpensive, like a barbecue buffet or renting a food truck to come by and everyone can order from them. Not sure how that fits into your vision/budget, but there are ways to feed your guests, who are probably spending hundreds to be able to be there for you. 

Post # 7
1902 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: April 2012

I agree that if you’re having a dessert reception it should be in the afternoon.  Even if I attended a 7 pm wedding I would expect to be served a dinner of some sort.

Your timing doesn’t really allow for people to eat dinner beforehand.

Post # 8
357 posts
Helper bee

I think the dessert reception could work at 1 or 2 in the afternoon, but I don’t think it’s a good idea for an evening wedding.  I think horderves/appetizers would be much more appropriate.

Also, IMHO: if I was traveling from out of town to come to a wedding, I would expect there to be some sort of food and beverage.  I would be pretty upset if I was only getting ice cream. 

  • This reply was modified 2 years, 3 months ago by  GG_Vega.
Post # 9
3661 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: August 2013

You should move the ceremony/reception time either earlier or later — not over a meal time.

Post # 10
8680 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: October 2014

Go earlier or later. This would leave a sour taste in your guests mouths for years to come.

Post # 11
805 posts
Busy bee

Your wedding is during a meal time so if possible I would try and provide something a little more substantial (maybe hire in a hot dog stand or something?!), or make the wedding a between meal event e.g. 2-5pm.

Post # 12
564 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2016

I agree with PPs, dessert reception is fine, as long as you are upfront on the invites AND you change it to a time that isn’t a meal time- think mid-afternoon (ceremony at 1 or 2pm), or start the ceremony after 7pm.

On the invite specify that you invite your guests to join you for “light refreshments” or “cake & punch reception” or a “dessert buffet” or “coffee and dessert” etcetera.


Post # 13
3217 posts
Sugar bee

2bkingman:  A dessert reception is wonderful.  A dessert reception over a meal time sounds not so great.  If you want to start before 7-7:30 you need to serve a full meal.  As 5-7 is the traditional north american dinner time.

If you don’t want to feed your guests dinner you need to allow them time to feed themselves. 

I would expect that having a very brief reception may limit how many guests who accept your invitation, but I wouldn’t let that stop you. 

Post # 14
455 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: August 2014

It is your responsibility as a host to provide refreshments appropriate to the time of day. For a 6pm wedding, that means dinner. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it needs to be a full meal.

It is perfectly appropriate to have a dessert-only reception, but it cannot be held during a meal time. So if you want to stick with the dessert-only idea, you will need to move the time of your wedding to early afternoon (2 or 3pm) or late evening (after 8pm).

You asked how to convey it on the invitation. Technically, it isn’t necessary, as the time of day should dictate what you serve. Guests wouldn’t expect a full meal at a 3pm or 9pm wedding.

It is also technically fine to invite out of town guests to a dessert-only reception. I would just expect fewer people to accept. Many couples don’t feel comfortable inviting out of town guests to anything less than a full meal, but it isn’t rude unless you lead them to believe they’ll be getting a full meal only to serve dessert (e.g. by having desserts only at dinnertime).

Oh, and please consider providing some fruit and cheese for guests who can’t eat processed sugar. 🙂

Post # 15
1627 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2010

Check out Jay’s Catering for dessert ideas. On their website they have a list of different menus. Their “Social 2015” has an ice cream sundae bar and tons of sweets options.

I agree with everyone else that a 6 pm ceremony start time is not conducive to only providing dessert. Start your ceremony at 8 pmfor an evening wedding. Or earlier at 2 or 3 pm and then you and your new hubby can enjoy a romantic dinner later.

The invite you can list: Dessert Reception or Cake & Punch or Sweets & Sips (although some may interpret that as alcohol) to indicate the limited scope of what you are serving. A cheese plate is a filling, not sugar-sweet, dessert. 

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