Reception Ideas

Lunch Reception Feedback

We're getting married in a church about 15 min from the park where the reception will be. The park is ours the whole weekend, though the wedding is on a Saturday in June 2018. We have our hearts set on a morning wedding and afternoon reception with lunch. Could we get some feedback on the details? (I know it's a lot, but it's a DIY-heavy wedding so we're making things up as we go.)

First, what would be a reasonable timeline? Our idea is a noon ceremony and 1pm-5pm reception fair. We want to have the buffet lunch first, do cake and open the dessert tables, then play lawn games and enjoy some mingling. After the send-off, we'd go back to the church for pictures. Once the reception is cleared of people, we'd go back for pictures at the park. Problem is, how long will the guests need to eat? Will they want to be eating dessert an hour before 5pm, or are we interfering with dinnertime? Any timeline suggestions?

Secondly, since our families are helping to self cater most of the food, what would make for a good, reasonable lunch for 150? (Our vibe is, as my mom summed up, Sunday-best at a family picnic.) However, we want to mix it up from burgers and chicken. Pinterest (and our fave restaurant that's sadly 5k miles from the wedding) has inspired a taco bar. We were thinking turkey, pork and shrimp with a variety of sauces and toppings. Additionally, an aunt has volunteered to make her family-famous meatballs (literally said she would make 500, and I believe her!). Would a taco bar with meatball subs be a weird mix? I know our families would eat both, and the result could be delicious. I just find "a casual lunch of tacos and meatballs" funny to say, read and write! Should we revert to basic picnic fare and play it safe? Suggestions on food options?

Thirdly, we are definitely doing a first dance (we swing dance). However, we aren't sure if having an open dance floor in the middle of the afternoon would be awkward for guests. My mother wants to hire a DJ for background music, announcements, and dancing. My family loves to party, but... Do daytime receptions usually have dancing? Should we anticipate having a "dance floor"?

Fourth and finally... My fiance's mom has offered to make our cake (she's fantastic with baking and decorating). We're thinking more like a small 2 tier with reserve sheet cakes. My mom is adamant that everyone get a piece of cake... though my MIL will be the one actually making all that cake... (I can tell my MIL is a little nervous at the prospect, and I don't want to take advantage of her generosity). Luckily, as per family tradition (Pittsburgh, PA!) we will be having a dessert bar full of (family-sourced) cookies and other goodies. Do we really need to supply a piece of cake for everyone? Can we lowball the cake and rely on the other sweets to supplement?

Whew! There sure is a lot to consider! We're pretty flexible and eager to hear what has worked for other couples. Any little piece of wisdom or experience is appreciated! 

Re: Lunch Reception Feedback

  • My sister's wedding was very much like this, minus the dancing.  I think you have a good plan.  DJ not necessary.  Just use an IPOD with pre-selected music.
    httpiimgurcomTCCjW0wjpg
    SP29
  • Thanks for the tips! I do like the sound of 11am better than noon :)

    What would you suggest instead? We have a small team (12 people so far) who will be doing a bulk of the cooking ahead of time. Two of them plus four others have volunteered to man the food and do all the prep/serving/cleanup the day of. (My family does a LOT of self catering for events, and I can only remember two weddings ever on my mom's huge side that had pros do the cooking. I feel pretty safe in their hands. Plus, our venue has two full kitchens, one commercial and one "home" that we will use. ) I really just need to come up with something beyond burgers and chicken. And again, it'll be a buffet.

    Okay! Any thoughts on what to use as a dance floor? We don't have the budget to rent one. 

    I'm definitely having her make the main cake no matter what. It'll be small. Would it be tacky to serve store bought sheet cake as the supplement?  

    Our venue is at a private historic estate/park. There's a massive beautiful 1700s mansion that we will have free range of, a large picnic pavilion, a large covered bridge, and there's a small cottage we'll be using as a base for the food. Of course, we'll have a big tent as well. If it rains, there will be plenty of cover for everyone, and we're already planning to do a special display in the foyer and grand room of the mansion for guests to tour through. Oh, and our tent company can put up walls so the rain won't blow in. The tent and structures will be close enough together that people could easily move between (with umbrellas).

    The rental package for the venue includes porta potties and hand washing stations. They'll essentially magically appear :) This is a supplement to the brick and mortar restrooms in the buildings. 

    Chairs and tables are being borrowed from a local church. Plates, napkins and utensils will all be disposable (not plastic, but compostable). My brother will haul the trash in his truck to the local county waste center. Yay no dishes! (A big plus of not having a pro caterer, as every local company in my budget wanted us to return their dishes washed! No thanks.)

    I'm very, very lucky we both have big, generous, helpful families. They just can't help me plan, since their weddings are almost exclusively evening affairs. 
  • I honestly don't see anything wrong with hamburgers and chicken. Maybe add grilled brats or kabobs. Those could be assembled the day before and you can make 100s of different combinations. The meatballs I think would be fine but tacos can be messy. Just make sure you have enough variety and quantity in the sides and salads.

    I don't think dance floors are a necessity but I will also kick off my shoes and dance in grass no problem so maybe someone else will have a better suggestions.

    Everyone should be able to eat the same kind of cake you cut and eat. So if you cut a homemade vanilla cake with raspberry filling they should also get homemade vanilla cake with raspberry filling. It can totally be a sheet cake but who ever makes yours should make your guests.


     Will everyone have a seat at a table to eat at? 
    STARMOON44SP29
  • ILoveBeachMusicILoveBeachMusic Indiana
    1000 Comments 500 Love Its Second Anniversary 5 Answers
    member
    Agree with PPs about tables, bathroom facilities, rain plans and safety of food - sounds like you have those covered. You definitely have to have the same quality of cake for your guests as you and your new H will have. So either have your FMIL do the cake for all or buy it from a bakery or grocery. If she really wants to bake a cake for you and not all guests, maybe have it for a one month (or whatever) anniversary.
    SP29
  • climbingwifeclimbingwife NYC 'burbs
    10000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 5 Answers
    member
    I think all of this sounds great. 

    I had an afternoon wedding (ceremony started at 12), and I did have a DJ and dancing. I'm sure it depends on your crowd, but the dance floor was packed for the majority of the time after lunch. 

    I would factor in a slice of cake for each guest. 

  • This sounds lovely. 

    For food; burgers/chicken, you could still do the meatballs as that seems to fit. I would just throw in a salad and some veggies, too. And easy stuff like chips, cheese and crackers. 

    My husband is from Pittsburgh and the cookie table is the best! But every Pittsburgh wedding I've been to still has enough cake for everyone. A sheet cake supplement is totally fine. 
  • If you're looking for something besides chicken and burgers. . . . maybe some trays of mac and cheese, baked beans, a garden salad, a pasta salad, coleslaw or macaroni salad, corn on the cob.
    charlotte989875STARMOON44ahoyweddingSP29
  • I had a self-catered luncheon wedding this past June. PP's have covered a lot, but here's a few tips:

    -If there are going to be children, try to avoid any "assembly required" foods. We had basically no children and so we had deli trays and pulled pork, etc. Adults trying to assemble tacos for themselves and kids is a recipe for frustration. Make buffet as "grab and go" as possible. 

    - I wouldn't bother with any kind of dance floor. We rented one and not a single person used it (except us for our first dance). We had a DJ as well. Everyone was just visiting and catching up, and even though a lot of people had a lot to drink, nobody was inclined to bust a move.  @climbingwife had a very different experience so it's definitely know your crowd (I should have known but I was foolishly optimistic LOL)

    - We had way too much dessert (mini pies, cupcakes, and cookies). If you are going to do cake, I wouldn't bother with too many other options truthfully.  If you want to, maybe have take home containers so you can send leftovers home with people (we did this and it was a huge hit, plus H and I took a bunch of treats back to our room with us that night and ate them for breakfast in the morning)

    -You didn't mention alcohol but people will drink way less at an afternoon wedding. We served wine, beer, and some prosecco and people mostly stuck to wine (again, know your crowd) which was fine because we bought plenty (less than 2 cases left over) but there was TONS of beer left. Cases of it. So find a deal where you can return anything unopened.

    -Lawn games are great. Also my bridesmaids put together an informal photo booth with a bunch of props (I was "meh" about the whole thing) and people LOVED it, much to my surprise. Very popular entertainment for the afternoon.   
    SP29
  • MyNameIsNotMyNameIsNot Atlanta
    Eighth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
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    For the lunch, I would be thinking of something more along the lines of chicken salad and cold cuts. It's easier to prepare in advance (I assume your self-catering relatives want to see the ceremony), and it's easier to keep cold food cold than hot food hot safely. 

    For cake, I would have MIL do a "show" cake to cut and maybe save for your anniversary, and then serve sheet cake to everyone. Then you avoid running the risk of different cake for different guests. 

    Our reception was 3-9, so bridging the gap between afternoon and evening. The dance floor was packed. In my family, if the booze flows, people will dance not matter what time it is. 

    I share PP's concerns with photos after the reception. I, for one, was not in top photo condition at the end of the reception. I was exhausted, sweating from dancing in a 700 lb dress, and I had cried during the ceremony. Plus, I wanted to go to the after party and enjoy all the people. Are you sure you don't want to try to get some of your photos done before the ceremony while you're still fresh?  
  • MairePoppyMairePoppy Connecticut
    Moderator Eighth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its
    mod
    edited September 23
    Your'e timeline is fine, whether you start at 11 or noon. 

    I have been to many afternoon weddings that had dancing and drinking - they probably go hand in hand. But that's my family. If your family usually dances at weddings, they will probably dance at an afternoon wedding. Does the pavilion have a floor? That might work as a dance floor. 

    I hate the idea of self catering, but you say your family has experience and proper equipment. I love tacos but they're messy and I'm thinking about what that buffet might look like after the first 20 guests go through it. 

    This stuff is easier than making hamburgers and bbq chicken for 150 people:

    Sliced watermelon or fruit salad
    Cheese platters
    Garden salad
    Corn on the cob
    Mac 'n cheese 
    Baked beans
    Virginia ham 
    Your aunt's meatballs
    Rolls

    Wedding cake - If you and your groom have a small display cake to cut and feed each other and no other guests have cake, I won't think anything of it. But if half the guests have cake and I don't, I'm going to feel sad. I don't suppose your FMIL would want to make 150 cupcakes? 

                
    SP29
  • ViczaesarViczaesar Central Coast, CA
    Eighth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
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    Logistically, safely cooking and serving food is difficult and a lot of work.  150 people is a LOT of people.  That is a ton of food that has to all be handled safely at every point from purchasing ingredients to final clean up.  If you're cooking food ahead of time to reheat later then it needs to be safely prepped and cooked and then rapidly cooled so that it doesn't spend any more time in the danger zone (basically between 40 and 140 degrees F) than absolutely necessary.  They have to be reheated to above 140 degrees and kept at that temperature as long as possible.  It requires specialized knowledge and tools to do this safely and effectively.

    Let's say you're making meatballs.  How many meatballs per person, 3?  That's 450 meatballs.  How much space do you think that is going to take up?  How are you going to reheat 450 meatballs so that they're all equally hot?  What other food are you going to have to heat at the same time, and how are you going to accomplish that, timing and space wise?

    I strongly suggest you hire a caterer.



    sparklepants41ahoywedding
  • Viczaesar said:
    Logistically, safely cooking and serving food is difficult and a lot of work.  150 people is a LOT of people.  That is a ton of food that has to all be handled safely at every point from purchasing ingredients to final clean up.  If you're cooking food ahead of time to reheat later then it needs to be safely prepped and cooked and then rapidly cooled so that it doesn't spend any more time in the danger zone (basically between 40 and 140 degrees F) than absolutely necessary.  They have to be reheated to above 140 degrees and kept at that temperature as long as possible.  It requires specialized knowledge and tools to do this safely and effectively.

    Let's say you're making meatballs.  How many meatballs per person, 3?  That's 450 meatballs.  How much space do you think that is going to take up?  How are you going to reheat 450 meatballs so that they're all equally hot?  What other food are you going to have to heat at the same time, and how are you going to accomplish that, timing and space wise?

    I strongly suggest you hire a caterer.
    This would be my biggest suggestion too. And not waiting to take pictures until after the reception. If it was a short lunch, you might be okay, but several hours in the middle of the day & you might feel (and look) pretty spent. I was definitely not photo-ready after our reception!
    InLoveInQueens
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