Wedding Etiquette Forum

What to serve at 3pm reception?

We're getting married at 2pm and figure guests will be at the reception site between 3:00 - 3:30pm and they will start with a 1 - 1 1/2 hour cocktail party.  Once our pictures are done and the bridal party enters, the regular reception begins.  During the cocktail hour there will be a lot of passed foods, about 12 pieces per person, and now I don't know what to do about a meal.  We want to keep it traditional, but is a sit down dinner at 4pm or 4:30 too much?  I keep thinking its going to look tacky or cheap if one is not provided, but I would hate to have a lot of food go to waste.  Any suggestions? Is anyone else dealing with the same issue that could offer help?  I am open to any and all ideas!

Re: What to serve at 3pm reception?

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    I don't think it looks cheap to not have a meal at that hour. Just mix it up to keep people interested.

    Perhaps after the passed appetizers you could have some action stations with pastas or carved meats, or a mashed potato bar, or something like that. Or you could just open up a big spread of different types of sweets after the cake is cut.
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    How about a buffet? That way it's still cocktail party-y and you're not serving a plated meal at an odd time of day, but there's food available. Hell, I had my reception at a meal time, and I had a buffet. Obviously it was the type of food you can make a meal on.
    Whatever you hatters be hattin. -Tay Prince
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    A 1.5 hour cocktail party starting at 3:30 would have you getting ready to eat dinner at 5.  I think that's fine and most guests won't have eaten since around noon so they should be getting hungry.
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    I think it depends on your social circle.   Full meals (or enough food for a full meal) is always served regardless of what time the wedding is.   It's just the way we do weddings.

    4pm is not too early for me.  Do I eat dinner at that time normally?  No, normally it's after 8.  But I've had Thanksgiving at 4pm before or attended backyard bbq that start in late afternoon.  Sunday dinners at grandma's were late afternoons also.   

    While it's not people's normally dinner time, most of us make adjustment for special occasions.

    What differentiates an average host and a great host is anticipating unexpressed needs and wants of their guests.  Just because the want/need is not expressed, doesn't mean it wouldn't be appreciated. 
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    We are having a late lunch/early dinner after our 1 pm ceremony (FI likes to think of it as Thanksgiving dinner timing).  We are having a Sunday wedding for religious reasons, so we wanted to have it a bit earlier in the day (and then we ended up with a holiday weekend anyway, but then we had officiant troubles, so we just left it for an earlier start).  We are having a buffet meal, although we're not serving meat, just fish/vegetarian. 

    I was also concerned about food going to waste, but I think that people will expect a meal (at least my family will, given how past events have been) and since it's a Sunday, people may be eating a heavier, later brunch anyway so it'll be a more natural lunch time.  I am thinking about putting a note on our wedding website that we are serving a full meal (in nicer wording), but I am leaning away from doing so at the moment. 
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    If you are doing tosses, speeches or special dances, you can also do those before "dinner" which will take up some time.
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    The timing you are listing will take you close to dinner time.  What time will you be done?  I think I'd probalby expect a bit more than appetizers.  I'd do either stations or a buffet.  While it is early for dinner, as PP mentioned, people will be with you from like 1:30 to at least 5 PM.  I'd expect a meal of some sort during that time.  I mean, you don't leave a wedding and then go home and have dinner right?
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    Have cocktail hour start at 3pm for your guests - once you arrive, have your first dance, do the toasts, father/daughter & mother/son dance then serve a buffet style or stations type meal... Serve around 5:45ish. That should work out beautifully. I'm sure people will have a nibble prior to the ceremony & the little nosh between ceremony & reception will be enough to tide them over.
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