Reception Ideas

Dinner only reception for a 100+ person wedding

I'm brainstorming wedding ideas to try and keep my budget low but still have a lot of boozy fun. My FH and I are from opposite sides of our state and are meeting in the middle for our wedding, which means all of our guests have to drive about 3 hours to get there. The venue is in a hotel downtown in our college town with a lot of walkable bars. He has a lot of aunts and uncles who would totally party the night away with us in a drunken haze, but my family is a lot more laid back. We had been thinking about doing a late night ceremony with a cocktail reception (hors d'oeuvre's out the wazoo to fill everyone up) with an open bar. I think my FH's family will be fine with this, but I don't think my side will enjoy it. I was considering doing a simple dinner instead, with no open bar and no dancing/DJ (probably put someone in charge of an iPod for just background acoustics during dinner and our first dance song) and then inviting anyone who wants to go out to go bar hopping with us after, on their own dime. What I'm afraid of here is that people are going to think 3 hours is way too far to drive to have such a short, calm reception and have to pay for their own booze. What are your thoughts?

Re: Dinner only reception for a 100+ person wedding

  • MobKazMobKaz Chicago suburbs member
    Tenth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    I'm brainstorming wedding ideas to try and keep my budget low but still have a lot of boozy fun. My FH and I are from opposite sides of our state and are meeting in the middle for our wedding, which means all of our guests have to drive about 3 hours to get there. The venue is in a hotel downtown in our college town with a lot of walkable bars. He has a lot of aunts and uncles who would totally party the night away with us in a drunken haze, but my family is a lot more laid back. We had been thinking about doing a late night ceremony with a cocktail reception (hors d'oeuvre's out the wazoo to fill everyone up) with an open bar. I think my FH's family will be fine with this, but I don't think my side will enjoy it. I was considering doing a simple dinner instead, with no open bar and no dancing/DJ (probably put someone in charge of an iPod for just background acoustics during dinner and our first dance song) and then inviting anyone who wants to go out to go bar hopping with us after, on their own dime. What I'm afraid of here is that people are going to think 3 hours is way too far to drive to have such a short, calm reception and have to pay for their own booze. What are your thoughts?
    As long as you host properly, the decision as to whether a guest accepts your invitation is up to them.  It is also the responsibility of your guests to accept your hospitality graciously.  No one should ever have to pay for anything attached to a wedding reception.  If you want to go "bar hopping" after your reception, then you need to make that a separate event. 
    There is ZERO obligation to provide alcohol.  That  detail may impact the decision of some guests.  However, there is nothing stating you need to inform your guests you intend to have a dry wedding.  For guests that may have to make a 6 hour round trip, I do think you need to give them some details regarding the timing.  I would absolutely want to know if the ceremony and dinner would take a combined time of (say) 3 hours.  The other issue is how "late" of a start you are considering.  I personally would have NO issue driving 3 hours for a 5 PM ceremony, followed by a short reception ending by 8 PM.  I would readily make the return trip.  However, if you are considering a ceremony that starts as late as 8 PM, then that might force my hand to consider a hotel.
    short+sassyMesmrEwecharlotte989875
  • You could also do a hybrid of your idea.  A longer reception with lots of apps and either no alcohol or limited alcohol (open bar).  Like just beer/wine or beer/wine/1-2 signature cocktails.

    However, a simple dinner and dry reception with an Ipod for music is fine also.  The bar hopping afterward is a separate event and is usually something that happens more naturally.

    And, as the bride and groom, I think you all should be staying at the reception until it at least starts winding down.  Not saying you weren't going to do that anyway!  But, as a guest, I would find it a little off-putting if the wedding couple was within the first half of people to leave the reception in order to go bar-hopping.  Though, if the reception time on the invite is over at 9PM and most people are still there near that time, then it's okay to start making your good-byes and spreading the word that you all will be cruising down Main St. for anyone who wants to join.
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  • A dry wedding is fine, but don't announce at the reception that there will be bar hopping later. This would appear rude and cheap. If you don't serve booze, have a dinner hour ceremony and let it wind down naturally. You can then casually mention to those remaining that you and your husband are headed to a bar for a nightcap. 
    MesmrEwe
  • I wholeheartedly agree about the timing.  An 8PM ceremony basically forces most guests to get a hotel room meanwhile, consider if there are any events going on in the college town that weekend and all of the hotels book up.  Summer isn't a "free" because orientation and registrations take place during that time.  

    A short and simple event that wraps up around 8-9PM is plenty.  Ceremony, dinner and wrapped up is great!  Host your guests properly.  If you're having a "bar hopping" event tied to your wedding, pay for it.  Otherwise, have a simple nice hosted dinner (all reception halls offer a budget friendly meal option) that wraps up between 8 & 9, then on with the rest of the evening as unscheduled...  
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  • Why don't you just have a dinner with an open bar reception? If you think having enough appetizers to fill everyone else will be cheaper, you are probably wrong. A ton of individual appetizers could be a lot more expensive than a dinner. Is it the bar or the appetizers that you think your family won't enjoy?  IMO, you should plan the reception you want (with proper hosting of course) and let your guests decide if they are "comfortable" attending or not.
    MesmrEwecharlotte989875
  • Why don't you just have a dinner with an open bar reception? If you think having enough appetizers to fill everyone else will be cheaper, you are probably wrong. A ton of individual appetizers could be a lot more expensive than a dinner. Is it the bar or the appetizers that you think your family won't enjoy?  IMO, you should plan the reception you want (with proper hosting of course) and let your guests decide if they are "comfortable" attending or not.
    I agree with all of this! Host the reception you want; if that’s dinner/drinks/dancing then work with the venue to figure out how to do that and stay within your budget. If you’d rather start your ceremony after dinner time and do apps/drinks then that’s fine too! Blame PP said it might be the same/more expensive if you’re doing tons of apps, so I’d contact the venue now and see what their packages are priced at. 
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Seventh Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    I agree that announcing a bar-hopping afterparty at a dry wedding reception is going to make you look cheap at your guests' expense, so don't do it. Nor should you have a cash bar.

    If you want there to be dinner, drinks and dancing, it's something you need to budget and plan for. If you prefer to serve appetizers instead of dinner, that's fine. But as PPs have indicated, plan the reception that you want and properly host your guests.
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