Etiquette

Etiquette for different type wedding reception

Hi all

This is my first post, but I've been reading for awhile. I was hoping you could give me some feedback to make sure my day will go well and be a good time for all. Since I haven't posted before, this is a little about my day. I'll probably have quite a few questions as my planning goes along (my apologies if this gets really long).

We are getting married on the rooftop of our town farmers market, looking out over the harbour (with a beautiful rain/bad weather backup inside). Ceremony is pretty straight forward - short and sweet.

Our reception is a little out of the ordinary. We are hosting it in the event space of a downtown pub that is near and dear to both our hearts. The pub is in a historic building right on the water. The event space is in three parts, one area with some tables, a dance floor and the bar. A second large room (adjacent to the first and through an open doorway (no door) would have more seating and tables and has a beautiful view of the water. A third space up a set of steps is kind of like a mezzanine. It is open, wraps around the entire space and looks down onto the dance floor. There will also be some seating up here. I recognize this is kind of an unusual set up. The event coordinator for the space says that it encourages mingling and movement of guests. I want to host well, so here are my thoughts:

-We are doing heavy passed apps (~12 pieces per person at least), mostly meat or protein based like chicken, seafood and some hearty appetizer items. We are also going to have a different type of food station in each different section of the space and a dessert bar. It's really important to me that people feel really well fed and enjoy their food, even though it's not a sit down meal. (There will be food circulating the entire length of the reception 8-12PM, heavier at 8 when people will be hungrier). The coordinator has assured me that they release 3 trays of each type at the same time with one server heading to each area, so there has never been an issue with people 'stalking the kitchen' or one space feeling they aren't getting food.

-There will be a seat for every person, between the three spaces. This is where I'm the most concerned. Because of the way we are planning it, I wasn't going to assign these seats but instead let people sit as they please, assuming that people will move around the venue throughout the night. Would it be better to actually have too many seats in this situation so one space doesn't get cramped? There are a few people (grandparents, etc) that we know would prefer to have a space and probably won't move throughout. Is it bad etiquette to reserve a space for them? The event will be private with a door person, so people will hopefully feel as comfortable putting their purses and things down to dance as they would at any other event, despite not having an assigned seat.

-Everyone can fit in the dance area, but because not everyone could have a seat at the same time, we thought it would be best to forego spotlight dances or anything that people would have to gather for. We picked songs special to us for a parent dance that we will know about, and we will announce a bride and groom dance and ask anyone who would like to join us on the dance floor. People would also be able to see from above, if they'd like. It also means no toasts, bouquet toss, cake cutting etc. Would you miss these things at a wedding? Personally I'd rather get dessert from the dessert table when I feel like dessert.
 
- Finally because the space is divided I just want to clarify that there will be NO head table/sweet heart table. We will have nowhere any more set than any other guest and plan to mingle and check out all the spaces/dance/hit the bar and visit with all our guests. Hopefully this means no one feels like they aren't 'in the main area' because we really don't want one space to feel like the main one.

Wow - that was crazy long. Just looking for thoughts on my event from a hosting perspective as I know it's a little different than usual. Thank you if you just got to the end of this!


Re: Etiquette for different type wedding reception

  • adk19adk19
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary 5 Answers
    member


    Hi all

    This is my first post, but I've been reading for awhile. I was hoping you could give me some feedback to make sure my day will go well and be a good time for all. Since I haven't posted before, this is a little about my day. I'll probably have quite a few questions as my planning goes along (my apologies if this gets really long).

    We are getting married on the rooftop of our town farmers market, looking out over the harbour (with a beautiful rain/bad weather backup inside). Ceremony is pretty straight forward - short and sweet.

    Our reception is a little out of the ordinary. We are hosting it in the event space of a downtown pub that is near and dear to both our hearts. The pub is in a historic building right on the water. The event space is in three parts, one area with some tables, a dance floor and the bar. A second large room (adjacent to the first and through an open doorway (no door) would have more seating and tables and has a beautiful view of the water. A third space up a set of steps is kind of like a mezzanine. It is open, wraps around the entire space and looks down onto the dance floor. There will also be some seating up here. I recognize this is kind of an unusual set up. The event coordinator for the space says that it encourages mingling and movement of guests. I want to host well, so here are my thoughts:

    -We are doing heavy passed apps (~12 pieces per person at least), mostly meat or protein based like chicken, seafood and some hearty appetizer items. We are also going to have a different type of food station in each different section of the space and a dessert bar. It's really important to me that people feel really well fed and enjoy their food, even though it's not a sit down meal. (There will be food circulating the entire length of the reception 8-12PM, heavier at 8 when people will be hungrier). The coordinator has assured me that they release 3 trays of each type at the same time with one server heading to each area, so there has never been an issue with people 'stalking the kitchen' or one space feeling they aren't getting food.

    -There will be a seat for every person, between the three spaces. This is where I'm the most concerned. Because of the way we are planning it, I wasn't going to assign these seats but instead let people sit as they please, assuming that people will move around the venue throughout the night. Would it be better to actually have too many seats in this situation so one space doesn't get cramped? There are a few people (grandparents, etc) that we know would prefer to have a space and probably won't move throughout. Is it bad etiquette to reserve a space for them? The event will be private with a door person, so people will hopefully feel as comfortable putting their purses and things down to dance as they would at any other event, despite not having an assigned seat.

    -Everyone can fit in the dance area, but because not everyone could have a seat at the same time, we thought it would be best to forego spotlight dances or anything that people would have to gather for. We picked songs special to us for a parent dance that we will know about, and we will announce a bride and groom dance and ask anyone who would like to join us on the dance floor. People would also be able to see from above, if they'd like. It also means no toasts, bouquet toss, cake cutting etc. Would you miss these things at a wedding? Personally I'd rather get dessert from the dessert table when I feel like dessert.
     
    - Finally because the space is divided I just want to clarify that there will be NO head table/sweet heart table. We will have nowhere any more set than any other guest and plan to mingle and check out all the spaces/dance/hit the bar and visit with all our guests. Hopefully this means no one feels like they aren't 'in the main area' because we really don't want one space to feel like the main one.

    Wow - that was crazy long. Just looking for thoughts on my event from a hosting perspective as I know it's a little different than usual. Thank you if you just got to the end of this!




    I'm going to focus on only one of your questions... if you won't have assigned seating, you definitely need more chairs than people.  I'm actually thinking of doing this same kind of setup, with heavy apps, stations, and encouraging moving around.  We did this at a company party just last Friday.  Sat down with a plate at one table, stood up to give my chair to someone else when they came back with food, walked up to the bar for a drink, came back to a different table but didn't sit down, got another plate of food and came back to yet a third table to sit and chat, etc.  At some point, someone took a chair from our table and pushed it up to a nearby table.  I think this definitely works best if your guests know most if not all of the other guests.  If your guests are kinda already in groups of 6-10 (i.e. your high school friends, his work friends, your cousins), you might as well just assign seating that way since that's how they're going to end up anyway.  But if the group is mostly outgoing family members and friends who all know and like each other, this hardcore mingling would be great.

    InLoveInQueenssparklepants41short+sassyMesmrEwe
  • ILoveBeachMusicILoveBeachMusic Indiana
    1000 Comments 500 Love Its Second Anniversary 5 Answers
    member
    I had two thoughts immediately. 1) even thought there is security I still wouldn't leave my belongings at a seat while I was mingling around. I probably would while dancing. I realize that probably makes no sense but oh well. 2) You will need to have more seating than people since your guests won't have an assigned seat. Brides on here have said that when not doing a seating chart to add extra seats in for the groups that won't fill a table. As for the grandparents just let them park in an area. I'm sure people won't try and kick them out.

    As I continue thinking, you will need to convey to your guests in some way that the heavy apps (which sound great) are dinner so that they eat enough and aren't waiting for the main meal.

    I personally like a cake cutting or some indication that dessert is served. It can also signal to guests that it is ok to leave. That is just my personal preference though. I think it is fine not to have the bouquet toss (haven't seen one in a long time).

    You do need to figure out how you are going to thank all your guests individually. I normally see table visits but since you aren't having assigned tables per se, you would probably be better off doing a receiving line either as the guests exit the ceremony or as they enter the reception.
    SP29InLoveInQueensshort+sassyaurianna
  • SP29SP29
    2500 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
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    Heavy apps for a meal are totally fine.

    No one will miss the spotlight dances, or bouquet/garter toss. Some people like the cake cutting (as above) so they know when it's appropriate to eat dessert, but you could also have your DJ or MC announce "dessert is served".

    If you do not assign seats and are expecting people to move around, yes, you need extra seating. You will have some guests who will form their own groups and park themselves in a section. Other guests need to be able to find seating if there is something going on they would like to participate in that area.

    Can the microphone be heard in all 3 areas? More specifically- does the adjacent room on the main level have speakers? My only concern with a venue that is split up as yours is, is can guests who may be sitting in that back room hear when an announcement is made (such as dessert is served)?

    How accessible will food be? You mention separate food stations in each section- are these all different? I get that you want to encourage mingling and flow, but can all of your guests comfortably travel between all 3 areas in order to eat the foods they like? For example, my grandma can't do stairs, so anything up on the mezz would be off limits to her. Similarly, she can't walk very far, so moving back and forth from the front to adjacent room in order to ensure she got enough food would be cumbersome.

    Make sure you have a secure coat check. Since there is no assigned seating, guest may want to leave more at the coat check versus carrying it around with them (DH and I often bring one of our cameras with us to weddings... we'd have to carry that around, or park ourselves at some tables and make sure someone was always there to watch our stuff).
    InLoveInQueensshort+sassy
  • Sounds fun!
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston
    10000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    member
    I think your plan sounds really neat, provided you have extra seats since you're not doing assigned seating and that people with mobility issues can be accommodated well. I agree that you should let it be known (by word of mouth or a website) that the provisions will not be a seated served meal.

    Best wishes!
  • Heavy apps is the current stylish buzzword for a buffet.  No problems with this, as long as there are enough chairs and tables.  Elderly or handicapped people might need extra help in getting their food.
    httpiimgurcomTCCjW0wjpg
    PrettyGirlLost
  • It sounds really nice.  I enjoy heavy apps and food stations.  Im a passionate eater so I would kind of be craning my neck from one section to see if the passed apps in another station are the same or if I should make my way over there.
    Ditto PP that if you don't have assigned seating there will have to be more seats than butts.
    short+sassy
  • If you expect people to move around a lot, you may want to include plenty of trashcans or bussers clearing plates. It can be difficult to determine whether someone is coming back to a seat soon if there is a partially full cup or plate still on the table.
    "Marriage is so disruptive to one's social circle." - Mr. Woodhouse
    InLoveInQueenscharlotte989875
  • I love heavy apps! You said most of yours are meat-based, do you have any vegetarian guests? Could you add in a heavy veggie app?

    Definitely have more seats than butts if you're not doing a seating chart. I agree that a seating chart wouldn't really work in your situation. You could also do something like more chairs at tables on the lower flower, and make the upstairs part more casual seating, since it sounds like it would be further away from the action. 

    No one usually misses the dances/bouquet toss/etc. We only did the spotlight dances and it was mostly because my dad would have killed me otherwise. I will second PPs that there should be some sort of signal when it's okay to eat dessert. We didn't do a cake cutting and just had our cupcakes out right next to the food, and no one took one until they saw H with one.

    With the split up space, will any announcements or music carry though the venue?

    I also agree that with no assigned seating, a secure coat check may be a nice thing for your guests. You could ask your venue if it's a service they provide or if there's a way they could set it up. Usually there are a few staff members working an event, so they could maybe place someone there. I don't know why it feels different leaving my purse at an assigned table vs a random one, but it appears I'm not the only one!

    Oh! On the roof of the farmer's market....that is an awesome idea! Do you have any guests who may not physically be able to get up there? I would imagine there's not an elevator? 

    Your wedding sounds very cool!
    short+sassyPrettyGirlLostSP29eileenrob
  • Ok, so I am someone who did a strolling dinner with no assigned seats style reception.... but I would not do it for your physical set up. 

    I think you need to guarantee seating for everyone on the ground floor. You will have elderly guests, guests who may be awaiting surgery that you don't know about, someone who may have sprained an ankle the day before... etc. If you have open seating, those people may end up without a seat on the ground floor and have to go up the stairs to find seating (or stand). 

    Here's what I'd do: If you can assign tables in just the big room, do that. If everyone won't fit, assign tables in the big room plus the dance floor room. Have all your food on the ground floor - no stations upstairs. If you need to use the dance floor for stations during dinner time, do it. Only use the mezzanine for an optional lounge area. Maybe add a photo booth. Maybe y'all can find a way to get up there and do intros by walking down the stairs.  

    It sounds like you're trying to squeeze your guest list into a sentimental place, which is fine, but in order to do open seating correctly, you need to have about 15% extra seating in case people leave space between themselves/don't fill a table. That's a lot of wasted space in your case. You may need to scrap a tiny piece of your vision (open seating) and assign tables to ensure it's comfortable for everyone.
    *********************************************************************************

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    InLoveInQueensSP29Casadena
  • PrettyGirlLostPrettyGirlLost A Land Filled with Unicorns and Cat Hair
    5000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary First Answer
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    Your reception sounds awesome!

    You don't need to assign seats or tables, just make sure you have extra seating as PPs are suggesting.

    If you have elderly guests/disabled guests attending you can reserve seats for them- that's what we ended up doing and it worked out fine.

    I also had a reception like yours- inside a historic mansion, seating and tables spread out across 6+ rooms, two floors, and outdoors, tons of passed apps, and 4 food stations for dinner.

    As I mentioned the only reserved seats were for my elderly/disabled guests, which ended up being a single table of 8.



    "Love is the one thing we're capable of perceiving that transcends time and space."


    cupcait927
  • You noted that the reception is 8-12pm. Is there a cocktail hour first? What time is the ceremony? 

    I think your plan sounds great. A few extra seats, making sure any announcements are heard throughout, and you're set. Maybe make sure your elderly relatives know that there won't be the typical spotlight crap so they're not hanging around waiting for it when they otherwise might want to to leave. 

    As others have mentioned, a concern with not having assigned seats is that people will need to leave their stuff somewhere when they're mingling...and you don't want them to be hogging seats with their stuff. If there is any expectation that the weather may require people to wear coats you should really have a coat check. Otherwise, I'd just expect a few seats to get hogged by people's stuff, but most people to just carry their purse around with them. 


  • edited June 16
    Hi everyone

    Thanks for your awesome suggestions and advice. I'm going to try and address all the questions in one post. A lot of the things you guys brought up are in the smaller details, which I didn't put into my original post because I wanted to keep it slightly less War and Peace length (I failed anyway), but it does show how important those little things are.

    Someone made a good point about the food stations. I thought it would encourage mingling to have them all be different but it does create a mobility barrier, so I will plan to do 1/3 of each type of station in each area instead. The bulk of our food will be passed, so hopefully that means everyone will be able to get lots of food. To whomever asked - yes there will be veggie options, and gluten free. What is the best way to convey that heavy apps = dinner?

    The space has speakers in all 3 rooms so announcements will easily be heard throughout.

    As for dessert, we will have cupcakes on display, that people can help themselves to any time. Would a sign to this effect work? We could have an announcement as well, I just wouldn't want someone to miss it and think they can't have dessert. 

    Both spaces (ceremony and reception) are completely accessible by elevator. 

    Regarding the assigned seating, I see the points that were made in favour, but I'm still not sure it would work. There wouldn't be room to fit everyone in the one space, and as soon as you get into assigning people into two different rooms it automatically feels like one room will be seen as 'second fiddle'. I think it's just human nature for people to look at things this way. Plus I wouldn't want to assign bride and groom anywhere, because then it's easier for people to assume one room is better, etc. It's difficult to describe the space exactly, but it feels like a pub atmosphere where you might meet up with a big group of friends, buy a round of drinks and stand around chatting. All the food we are planning is finger food, non-table friendly (though there will be lots of tables), all one or two bites, nothing that needs a fork kind of idea. Even the 'stations' are things like cheese and fruit and veggies that you would grab and pop right into your mouth. The way I'm envisioning it people wouldn't all be 'sat down to eat' at the exact same time, but instead grab food here and there as they mingle and visit. Please don't take this as disregard for people being comfortable, I just don't know if a rigid seating plan is necessary.

    Coat check…ugh. I called the coordinator today and we're a little limited here based of what she called 'the oldness of the building'. There is a closet people can use for actual coats, which has the door attendant standing right beside. She also said anyone with valuables can ask to have her put them away for the evening. Not ideal, I realize. Any suggestions welcome.

    For the poster who asked about my timeline - we are doing ceremony 6:30 to 7. The two venues are about a km apart on the waterfront, so people will either have the option of wandering there on foot, or driving (there's good parking at both). I put 8 above but the space is going to open at 7:15 and the coordinator said they just watch for people to start showing up and then begin food service, so 8 is more when I'm planning for things to be in full swing. Is this an acceptable alternative to cocktail hour?

    Wow - I did it again. Wordiest bride on the web. Thanks for all your help!

  • I'm a bit concerned that this will be enough to constitute a meal now that you have described the stations. Stations when I think of it is more like mashed potatoes or carved meat etc. But you have the right idea with making sure all food is in each room so no one is limited. 

    No one is really pushing strict assigned seating. They are just saying the mingling makes it harder for people to sit together etc. So extra seats will be needed. Do you have room for the extra seats? 
    InLoveInQueensPrettyGirlLostsouthernbelle0915ahoywedding
  • SP29SP29
    2500 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    member



    For the poster who asked about my timeline - we are doing ceremony 6:30 to 7. The two venues are about a km apart on the waterfront, so people will either have the option of wandering there on foot, or driving (there's good parking at both). I put 8 above but the space is going to open at 7:15 and the coordinator said they just watch for people to start showing up and then begin food service, so 8 is more when I'm planning for things to be in full swing. Is this an acceptable alternative to cocktail hour?

    This is fine as long as there are beverages and something to nibble on (like cheese and crackers or fruit) once guests arrive. I think it's fine for guests to wait 15mins or so for something to start (guest often mingle after the ceremony, drive over, park, use the washroom), but there should be something available in that hour of open time.

    Have you printed your invitations yet? I would not put 8pm as your start time. I would put your reception time as 7:15pm and guests will arrive as they do. If I saw 8pm as the start, I would assume I couldn't go until then and I would wonder what to do for 45 mins.
    LadyCatherineDB
  • PrettyGirlLostPrettyGirlLost A Land Filled with Unicorns and Cat Hair
    5000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary First Answer
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    I don't think you need to have redundancy of the food stations in each room; People will move around to go to the different stations in each room. . .which is kind of the point of that style of reception.

    Our food stations were spread out throughout 4 rooms, a different station in each room.  It worked out just fine.

    "Love is the one thing we're capable of perceiving that transcends time and space."


    southernbelle0915
  • I assume your invites will say 6:30pm, and "Reception to follow" or something along those lines?

    You should think of the time from about 5 minutes after the ceremony space until 8pm (or another designated time) as your cocktail hour. Cocktail hour basically means that the space is open and people can have drinks. I'd suggest having some aspect of the food out then, and then starting the rest a little later.  Maybe the stations available right away, and then start passed apps at 8pm (you mentioned the majority is passed). This will also help to clue people into the idea that this IS the meal. 

    Even though you don't need a fork and knife to eat, people will need tables. If you have a drink in one hand and a plate in another, you can't eat unless you have a table. So while not everyone is expected to sit and eat dinner at the same time, likely all of your guests will be eating at roughly the same time, and you don't want anyone awkwardly trying to balance things. I agree that assigned seating doesn't make sense in your situation, but you still need plenty of seats for everyone. And since you're not assigning, this means you need more seats than people, since people won't fill in every empty seat. 
    sparklepants41short+sassy
  • PrettyGirlLostPrettyGirlLost A Land Filled with Unicorns and Cat Hair
    5000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary First Answer
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    I agree with @scribe95 on concern for the menu and whether it is meal-like enough. You describe it as "finger foods" and "nothing that needs a fork" and you cite fruit and cheese as one of the stations.

    For a true heavy apps, strolling dinner type reception, you need heavy foods that are meal-like. Think "pasta station" with a couple different kinds of pasta and garlic bread; taco station with 2 or 3 different kinds of tacos and toppings; build your own salad station; macaroni and cheese station with toppings; carving station with carved meat and mashed potatoes and green beans. Then your passed apps are things like stuffed mushrooms, chicken and goat cheese crostini, tomato soup shooters with 1/4 grilled cheese. Heavy stuff like that. 

    And I also agree with @PrettyGirlLost that there's no need to duplicate stations. Not only will that be costly, but it will discourage people from mingling as they won't need to go into the other room to get whatever is at the station in that room. 


    I forgot to comment on this in my previous reply, but I agree.

    During cocktail hour I had 4 or 5 passed apps going around and an antipasta station.  Then during dinner I had a meat carving/salmon station that included potato options and veggie sides, a made to order pasta station, and we kept the antipasta station open and restocked.

    "Love is the one thing we're capable of perceiving that transcends time and space."


    ahoyweddingSP29
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