Wedding Reception Forum

Non-alcoholic "cocktail" reception - what to include in the invitation

Due to the number of guests and limited space for formal seating at our venue, our reception will be a standing reception with heavy hors d'ouvres either being passed or setup as a buffet for guests to help themselves. Should I include something in our invitations to indicate that this won't be the formal / seated reception?  Simply include something on our wedding website?  I've read that you could write "Please join us for a cocktail reception to celebrate directly after the ceremony" or similar; however, to me "cocktail" indicates alcoholic beverages (cocktails) will be served. Our venue is on a dry university campus and so no alcohol allowed.  Should I just say something on our wedding website instead?  Any advice appreciated!

Re: Non-alcoholic "cocktail" reception - what to include in the invitation

  • mikenbergermikenberger In a f'n cornfield member
    1000 Comments 500 Love Its First Anniversary First Answer
    edited April 2015

    Due to the number of guests and limited space for formal seating at our venue, our reception will be a standing reception with heavy hors d'ouvres either being passed or setup as a buffet for guests to help themselves. Should I include something in our invitations to indicate that this won't be the formal / seated reception?  Simply include something on our wedding website?  I've read that you could write "Please join us for a cocktail reception to celebrate directly after the ceremony" or similar; however, to me "cocktail" indicates alcoholic beverages (cocktails) will be served. Our venue is on a dry university campus and so no alcohol allowed.  Should I just say something on our wedding website instead?  Any advice appreciated!

    1 - You must have seats for every butt at the ceremony AND the reception. It gives people a place to put their things, kind of like a home base and it gives them a place to sit and converse and creates a better atmosphere then juggling your mocktail in one hand and your food in the other. How are you guests supposed to eat? If they are carrying a large purse, do you expect them to keep that on their shoulder and then a drink in one hand and a plate of food in the other? Think this one through VERY carefully. And then reconsider your choice.

    2- I agree. Cocktail reception implies booze - to me as well. You don't have to indicate however that it's a dry reception. You can just put "reception to follow". And maybe at the reception, have a "Mocktail Menu" for your nonalcoholic beverages.

    But please, reconsider the standing room only.

    ETA: Not sure what this has to do with Photo/Video?? Wrong board?

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  • Maggie0829Maggie0829 Ravens & Bohs & Crabs & O's member
    Eighth Anniversary 10000 Comments 500 Love Its 25 Answers

    Due to the number of guests and limited space for formal seating at our venue, our reception will be a standing reception with heavy hors d'ouvres either being passed or setup as a buffet for guests to help themselves. Should I include something in our invitations to indicate that this won't be the formal / seated reception?  Simply include something on our wedding website?  I've read that you could write "Please join us for a cocktail reception to celebrate directly after the ceremony" or similar; however, to me "cocktail" indicates alcoholic beverages (cocktails) will be served. Our venue is on a dry university campus and so no alcohol allowed.  Should I just say something on our wedding website instead?  Any advice appreciated!

    You have to have seats for everyone.  When I go to a wedding I am typically in heels and carrying a clutch and possibly a wrap.  Now please tell me how I am supposed to hold onto my clutch, a drink and eat food all at once while cringing because my feet are starting to hurt from having to stand for a few hours?  Chairs and tables are necessary items, not just fun things to include.

    As for your reception just call it that.  I am assuming that your reception is at a different location then your ceremony here, so if that is the case then you include a reception card in your invite that states "Reception to follow at Venue, Address"

  • For the comfort of your guests, please put it on your website a description of what your reception plans are and try to pass the word around too as you see people. You should have chairs for all your guests. But since it doesn't sound like you will, as a guest, if I know that there won't be a chair for every butt, it's going to make a huge difference in the outfit that I pick out because I'm going to pick one out that I can wear flats too & skip my evening purse because like PP, how I am suppose to hold my purse, pick out food & drink all at the same time? Because no matter how wonderful your food is, the music is great & you look beautiful, what I'm going to probably remember is, I had this great outfit & shoes on but had to walk around in pain or barefoot because there were no place or limited places to sit. How was the food? I guess it was ok, I didn't grab much because since I didn't have a place to put my purse down, I had a hard time juggling my purse, food & drink so I didn't grab much food, we left early & went out to eat. Just being honest from a guest point of view.
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  • KatWAGKatWAG Chicago member
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    You need to budget for a chair for every butt. No exceptions.
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    mikenberger
  • If this reception is at a meal time, this is absolutely unacceptable. You cannot serve enough food for a meal (a necessity if the reception is a meal time) and not have a seat for everyone.

    If the reception is not at a meal time, a cocktail reception (whether for a wedding or a work event or something else) often has limited or no seating, and it's fine. Other people on these boards often freak out about that, and it makes me wonder if you've ever been to a cocktail event before? Seriously, the whole point is standing and mingling and having a drink and maybe a little bite.  You should expect the reception to be much shorter (2-3 hours, I'd expect) and also not have any spotlight anything (no cake cutting, no spotlight dances), and also not have a dance floor for other to dance. If you want an audience (i.e. for a spotlight something) people need to be able to go sit down. And if you want people to dance, they should have a place to put their stuff....this isn't a bar/club where people want to pile their crap in a corner. I'd also reconsider the food to have only passed hors d'oeurves so people don't need to stand around with a plate, which is damn near impossible, and you don't want your guests fighting each other to stand around a limited amount of high-top tables. 
    SP29
  • Maggie0829Maggie0829 Ravens & Bohs & Crabs & O's member
    Eighth Anniversary 10000 Comments 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    MandyMost said:

    If this reception is at a meal time, this is absolutely unacceptable. You cannot serve enough food for a meal (a necessity if the reception is a meal time) and not have a seat for everyone.


    If the reception is not at a meal time, a cocktail reception (whether for a wedding or a work event or something else) often has limited or no seating, and it's fine. Other people on these boards often freak out about that, and it makes me wonder if you've ever been to a cocktail event before? Seriously, the whole point is standing and mingling and having a drink and maybe a little bite.  You should expect the reception to be much shorter (2-3 hours, I'd expect) and also not have any spotlight anything (no cake cutting, no spotlight dances), and also not have a dance floor for other to dance. If you want an audience (i.e. for a spotlight something) people need to be able to go sit down. And if you want people to dance, they should have a place to put their stuff....this isn't a bar/club where people want to pile their crap in a corner. I'd also reconsider the food to have only passed hors d'oeurves so people don't need to stand around with a plate, which is damn near impossible, and you don't want your guests fighting each other to stand around a limited amount of high-top tables. 
    I actually have been to a cocktail event before that lasted about 2 hours and had no chairs. Guess what?  I hated it.  My feet were killing me and I was tired of constantly having to carry around all my shit with me.  If you want your guests to stick around for more then 15 minutes you need to have chairs and tables where people can make a home base and put their crap down.

    Viczaesar[Deleted User]
  • MyNameIsNotMyNameIsNot Atlanta member
    Tenth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    You need a seat for every butt. Limited seating is rude and will ensure that guests will leave very quickly. 

    As long as the amount of food you are serving is appropriate for the time of day, you don't need to warn people that it won't be a meal. (If you're planning on doing this spanning a mealtime, you need to change the time.) You don't need to notify guests that there won't be alcohol. Your invitation should just say "Reception to follow." 
    [Deleted User]SP29
  • "Standing appetizer & punch reception to follow" ...  Don't mince words...  Let them know they're expected to not be able to sit down for dinner and a beer... 

    I've been to many cocktail/App receptions and would agree that there usually isn't enough seating for everyone especially the more expensive the event/venue gets, however there is SOME seating usually available.  IMO, as long as people know ahead of time that it's not a seated reception you'll be fine. 

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  • ShesSoColdShesSoCold bend over and I'll show ya mod
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    I agree with PPs. There needs to be seats. Enough seats for everyone. 

    I had a 3 hour cocktail style reception with passed and displayed apps. We also had a mix of regular 4-top tables and high-tops. At more than one point, every single person was sitting down eating. Not for the entire three hours, but here and there everyone was seated. 
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  • Seats for everyone. If they want to stand and mingle, they will. Just have a bunch of cocktail tables and big open area so they're encouraged. But absolutely do not encourage people by leaving them no choice.

    I went to a wedding in this style last December. They ran out of food and didn't have seats for everyone (only select "reserved" tables for certain guests). It was awful and everyone left early. Don't be "that" wedding.
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  • MandyMost said:

    If this reception is at a meal time, this is absolutely unacceptable. You cannot serve enough food for a meal (a necessity if the reception is a meal time) and not have a seat for everyone.


    If the reception is not at a meal time, a cocktail reception (whether for a wedding or a work event or something else) often has limited or no seating, and it's fine. Other people on these boards often freak out about that, and it makes me wonder if you've ever been to a cocktail event before? Seriously, the whole point is standing and mingling and having a drink and maybe a little bite.  You should expect the reception to be much shorter (2-3 hours, I'd expect) and also not have any spotlight anything (no cake cutting, no spotlight dances), and also not have a dance floor for other to dance. If you want an audience (i.e. for a spotlight something) people need to be able to go sit down. And if you want people to dance, they should have a place to put their stuff....this isn't a bar/club where people want to pile their crap in a corner. I'd also reconsider the food to have only passed hors d'oeurves so people don't need to stand around with a plate, which is damn near impossible, and you don't want your guests fighting each other to stand around a limited amount of high-top tables. 
    Yep I have, even event planned several. Never been to one for a wedding. I have been to a few cocktail hours at weddings where I was dying for a chair though. 

    OP, if you would like to have people stay at your reception, please reconsider chairs. Even chaises, anything. Enough for everyone. Even picnic tables. The lack of alcohol may not make me leave on it's own but for sure that with no chairs, a quick hi/bye and I'm out of there.
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  • JoanE2012JoanE2012 Exit 21 (Jersey!) member
    5000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 5 Answers
    MesmrEwe said:

    "Standing appetizer & punch reception to follow" ...  Don't mince words...  Let them know they're expected to not be able to sit down for dinner and a beer... 

    I've been to many cocktail/App receptions and would agree that there usually isn't enough seating for everyone especially the more expensive the event/venue gets, however there is SOME seating usually available.  IMO, as long as people know ahead of time that it's not a seated reception you'll be fine. 

    This just sounds awful.  Though why con your guests into thinking they're going to have a comfortable experience.  And with all the declines you get, you'll have enough room to properly host the few people that remain with chairs and tables.

    Seriously, OP, why in the world did you book a venue that couldn't properly accommodate all of your guests?  Either the guest list needs to be cut back or you find a venue that fits everyone you want to invite (with tables and chairs).  It's not that difficult!
  • amelishaamelisha Canadian Texas member
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    MandyMost said:

    If this reception is at a meal time, this is absolutely unacceptable. You cannot serve enough food for a meal (a necessity if the reception is a meal time) and not have a seat for everyone.


    If the reception is not at a meal time, a cocktail reception (whether for a wedding or a work event or something else) often has limited or no seating, and it's fine. Other people on these boards often freak out about that, and it makes me wonder if you've ever been to a cocktail event before? Seriously, the whole point is standing and mingling and having a drink and maybe a little bite.  You should expect the reception to be much shorter (2-3 hours, I'd expect) and also not have any spotlight anything (no cake cutting, no spotlight dances), and also not have a dance floor for other to dance. If you want an audience (i.e. for a spotlight something) people need to be able to go sit down. And if you want people to dance, they should have a place to put their stuff....this isn't a bar/club where people want to pile their crap in a corner. I'd also reconsider the food to have only passed hors d'oeurves so people don't need to stand around with a plate, which is damn near impossible, and you don't want your guests fighting each other to stand around a limited amount of high-top tables. 
    If I walked into a reception and saw no seats, I'd be there for 20 minutes tops. That's what usually happens with cocktail receptions for business and organizations and such - THAT'S where the point is that you come in and leave when you need, you mingle for a bit and maybe have a bite, and then leave. Those receptions are either an open house (which doesn't work for a wedding, since everyone will go right after the ceremony) or it lasts for maybe an hour. Even 2-3 hours will not happen.
    This, exactly. I attend these kind of functions for work and they're fine, but they're not really the kind of thing I want to spend more than half an hour or so at unless I really get talking to someone and there are lots of those tall tables you stand at so I can put down my purse and my drink on something. Standing around in heels trying to juggle my drink, purse, and a plate of food is not super comfortable. Even when I attend a cocktail party in someone's home, they don't expect me to stand the whole time, and if you're going to considerably more time and expense and effort to organize an event like a wedding, the least you can do is give people a place to sit/put their things.

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  • PrettyGirlLostPrettyGirlLost A Land Filled with Unicorns and Cat Hair member
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    MandyMost said:

    If this reception is at a meal time, this is absolutely unacceptable. You cannot serve enough food for a meal (a necessity if the reception is a meal time) and not have a seat for everyone.


    If the reception is not at a meal time, a cocktail reception (whether for a wedding or a work event or something else) often has limited or no seating, and it's fine. Other people on these boards often freak out about that, and it makes me wonder if you've ever been to a cocktail event before? Seriously, the whole point is standing and mingling and having a drink and maybe a little bite.  You should expect the reception to be much shorter (2-3 hours, I'd expect) and also not have any spotlight anything (no cake cutting, no spotlight dances), and also not have a dance floor for other to dance. If you want an audience (i.e. for a spotlight something) people need to be able to go sit down. And if you want people to dance, they should have a place to put their stuff....this isn't a bar/club where people want to pile their crap in a corner. I'd also reconsider the food to have only passed hors d'oeurves so people don't need to stand around with a plate, which is damn near impossible, and you don't want your guests fighting each other to stand around a limited amount of high-top tables. 
    This isn't exactly true.

    I had a cocktail style reception.  I had 3 gourmet food stations and 5 different passed apps during the actual cocktail hour.  So we didn't have a formal, sit down plated meal, BUT I had seating for everyone and I rented extra chairs, based on feedback from these forums, just to be sure there was seating at all times for anyone who wished to sit.

    My guests did in fact mingle all night, but they also sat down to eat and talk with other guests they were mingling with.

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  • Without seats, people aren't going to stay very long. Unless I get deeply involved in a conversation with someone I haven't seen in ages, I may stay an hour, tops.

  • Without seats, people aren't going to stay very long. Unless I get deeply involved in a conversation with someone I haven't seen in ages, I may stay an hour, tops.

    Even then, I'm pretty sure I'd ask this person I haven't seen in ages if they wanted to go somewhere to sit down and grab a drink and continue the conversation.
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