Anyone have a cocktail style reception?

posted 3 months ago in Reception
Post # 2
8247 posts
Bumble Beekeeper

aliencereal :  I did! We had a mix of couches, a few large tables, cafe tables, and hightops scattered around the space (it was in an old building so there were a couple rooms and none of them were rectangular/open space). For 125 person wedding I think we could have about 60% of people sitting at the same time but even then there was always open seating. No one who wanted/needed a seat was stuck standing. 

This style wedding is very “know your crowd” though. I would say 90% of our guests were between 20-45 and we didn’t have any significant health or mobility issues among our guests. I would say at least 85% of our guests are super outgoing too which meant they didn’t care about having “their spot” and also had no problem grabbing a seat at a table of strangers and making friends. We had a super amazing band that kept everyone dancing all night – the seats were really there for a quick dance break and chatting. Seating was very fluid and it actually fostered a lot more mingling. My MOH’s parents were chatting with my cousins, different friend groups were hanging out (and are now still friends separate from us!), etc. 

As for the food, make it mostly stuff that can be eaten while milling about and chatting. Most of our foods were single bites or could easily be eaten with one hand. Also keep it going all night! We started with some simple stations (raw bar, cheese/crudite, shots of chowder) as guests walked in. Then the passed bites started a little bit later. Then cake. Then late night drunky-bar food. The biggest gap between “courses” was 30 minutes. Cocktail style is just that…a style. You still need to have food in large enough quantities to count as a real meal. 

Post # 3
211 posts
Helper bee

aliencereal :  I did, we had about 70 ish guests? We had light and heavy Hors d’oeuvres, light ones were passed and the rest were set up on a table. I believe the passed apps started as people were arriving, and then throughout the night the staff would add to the table as people ate so it was always full of food.

We did not have seating for 80% of our guests, but most of our guests were young and just wanted to party, mingle and dance so it worked out for us. 


Post # 4
12292 posts
Sugar Beekeeper

How long is your event?  Unless you are talking about a homogenous gtoup of young, healthy people, a reception of no more than one and a half to two hours, with people coming and going as is typical at a cocktail party, my personal opinion is you need the option of seating for every person whenever they want or need it. 

I’ve been to a couple of cocktail reception weddings that were lovely and beautiful and a few that were nightmares, with people who sat down at the tables and saved their seats or never got up. The ones that worked had more than enough seating for everyone. The ones that didn’t, did not. 

Post # 5
135 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: June 2020

Maximizing seating is the way to go. If you have 75/100 seats I feel like that’s pretty good. Seating isn’t just for the elderly – I went to a cocktail reception last year and my heels were killing me. People who got seats didn’t get up the entire night and by the time I got home my feet were deceased. I also felt like people left a bit earlier than usual because by the time dancing had started, most people were already kinda tired from standing :/ 

Post # 6
8247 posts
Bumble Beekeeper

weddingmaven :   beginningless :  your experiences are why it is SO important to know your crowd! Our reception was 5 hours and very few people left early (and I wasn’t expecting my 92 year old uncle to stay all night anyways, but he did bust a move in his tux before heading out!). Cocktail style doesn’t work for all groups, but ours went swimmingly.  Honestly the biggest hiccup was that the caterer didn’t listen to me about the bar selections – I flat out told her she needed to have mostly gin but she insisted more people drank vodka. I told her I know my crowd. She had to send a waiter to the packie down the street 45 minutes into the reception because they were already almost out of gin….

Post # 7
1246 posts
Bumble bee

We had cocktail style reception. We had couches, high tables and an outside area with more seating. Pretty much everyone (approx 60 people) sat down lol… don’t get me wrong a lot of them also moved around and talked to people, but eventually everyone wanted a seat at least for a while.

Post # 9
2889 posts
Sugar bee

For the most part, I like these styles of weddings. 


Just make sure you have enough food and at least enough high tops/tables for 100% of your guests.  Everyone will be eating at the same time and they don’t want to have to juggle a drink and a plate, while in heels.  

I went to one where they definitely didn’t have enough food and no one had anywhere to go during the cocktail type dinner.  We were resting our plates on anything we could find and sitting on the ground in our formal attire because our feet were killing us (the ceremony started an hour late….so it was over 2 hours on our feet).

But they can be done well.



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