Reception Ideas

Lounge Reception

We aren't having a typical buffet or plated dinner, we are going with a lounge feel with passed hors d'oevres, three stations and an open bar. We are inviting 120 people and are planning on having tables/chairs for 78 plus tall boy cocktail tables and lounge seating throughout our venue (mansion). There will be no assigned seating as we are trying to encourage mixing and mingling which doesn't often happen at weddings. We aren't having a cocktail hour, the food and liquor will be available immediately following the ceremony which will take place on site 100 yards away in a wooded grove.

I'm starting to worry that we should have more seating. We will be renting several large ottomans, lounge benches etc. but we want people to move around, talk and drink and not feel confined to one table or area.

Opinions please.


Re: Lounge Reception

  • zyanya67 said:
    We aren't having a typical buffet or plated dinner, we are going with a lounge feel with passed hors d'oevres, three stations and an open bar. We are inviting 120 people and are planning on having tables/chairs for 78 plus tall boy cocktail tables and lounge seating throughout our venue (mansion). There will be no assigned seating as we are trying to encourage mixing and mingling which doesn't often happen at weddings. We aren't having a cocktail hour, the food and liquor will be available immediately following the ceremony which will take place on site 100 yards away in a wooded grove.

    I'm starting to worry that we should have more seating. We will be renting several large ottomans, lounge benches etc. but we want people to move around, talk and drink and not feel confined to one table or area.

    Opinions please.


    You'll need to make sure that you have enough seating for the 120.   That doesn't need to be tables with chairs for all but there needs to be the option for someone to grab a seat somewhere. 

    Also whether or not you need to increase the number of tables is dependent on the portion sizes.  If the food is on small plates and doesn't need a knife then I'd say you're probably OK on tables.  If you have a prime rib station or something else with a knife required then I think you need to increase the quantity of tables available. 

    Also, how well this works can be based on your guest group.  FWIW, I found that at our wedding, any of the guests in our grandparents generation were far more likely to remain seated at the reception.  
    ILoveBeachMusicOurWildKingdomcharlotte989875SP29
  • With the lounge furniture, there will be enough seating for everyone. We understand the elders will probably remain seated but there will only be a dozen or so of them and the rest will be a mix with close to twenty children (all over the age of six). The hors d'oevres will be passed and the three stations set up strategically for easy access and not huddled together to draw a long line. We are having a carving station, the other two stations will not need knives. The flow of this place is great, the rooms are easily accessible by more than one entrance by the waitstaff.
  • Definitely a chair for every butt.  I'm kind of feeling that you want MORE than 120 seats, since you're not doing assigned seating, because people will seat themselves in "odd" configurations, and you may end up with someone desperately hunting down a seat so they can sit next to their SO at a table with only 1 chair left.  
    I agree with climbingwife, that people are either going to mingle or they aren't, and it depends on their personalities and not the venue/atmosphere.  If your families and friends are very social and like meeting new people, they'll do that regardless of where you put them.  But if they are more comfortable interacting with already established social circles, they'll continue to do so at your wedding.  As the bride, you get to mingle with everyone!
    OurWildKingdomSP29MairePoppy
  • climbingwifeclimbingwife NYC 'burbs member
    10000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    zyanya67 said:
    With the lounge furniture, there will be enough seating for everyone. We understand the elders will probably remain seated but there will only be a dozen or so of them and the rest will be a mix with close to twenty children (all over the age of six). The hors d'oevres will be passed and the three stations set up strategically for easy access and not huddled together to draw a long line. We are having a carving station, the other two stations will not need knives. The flow of this place is great, the rooms are easily accessible by more than one entrance by the waitstaff.
    Have to been to an event in this space before? 

    Technically you'll want more seating than the amount of people you're inviting. Personally I'd hate to have to intrude on a group of people I didn't know just because they were the only area that had an open seat. 

    OurWildKingdomInLoveInQueenscharlotte989875
  • Will your venue have a coat check/secured place for ladies to place their bags?  I have never been to a true "longue" style wedding but I have been to weddings without assigned seating/seen cocktail hours were seating was limited and it always turned into a game were people would be "saving seats" and many people didn't get up in fear of not having a seat when they returned.  I'm not saying that it can't work out, but there is no way I want to be balancing my bag, drink, and food from a carving station on my lap while perched on a couch...it just isn't all that comfortable or practical. 

    Without assigned tables, you will actually need MORE seating/table space than your invite list because not everyone will fully utilize the spaces provided (ie 5 people sit at a 6 person table).

    As far as people mingling this is very crowd dependent.  At my wedding most people stayed amongst the people they already knew.  Sure they got up and danced, but in circles of their own friends and family.  Not having assigned seating will not necessarily encourage the mingling effect you desire...this all comes down to the people invited.

    OurWildKingdomInLoveInQueensSP29
  • If you are having unassigned seating for a dinner reception, then you need more seats than guests. But for this type of reception, I don't think that really applies. The expectation is that people will be up walking around, and there will be seats available if they want to sit down for a bit. 

    I'd definitely have a coat check if it's a time of year that people will be wearing coats. Otherwise people will leave them on their seats and it will ruin the flow of people moving around throughout the event. 

    Also, I'd make sure the waitstaff was really good at clearing empty plates, as these can hog seats as well that people would otherwise sit in. 


    My concern with this type of event would be that some people would sit at the tables and stay their the entire event, and others would mingle around but not eat much because they didn't have a good table to eat at, and everyone would leave early. You have tables/chairs for 65% of the guests, which means a full 50% of your guest list may just sit down and stay there for the night, while the other people try to eat roast beef on their laps sitting on benches. 
  • I am really appreciating all of the feedback! We won't have a coat check as it will still be warm/hot here on the first of September. We live in Maryland.
  • You also need enough food to constitute a meal. The wedding I mentioned above that did this style of reception ran out of food because people eventually realized there wouldn't be a dinner service (the reception was at dinner time) and they rushed the app stations. It was an overall mess. You can avoid that by ensuring your apps are heavy and that you have A LOT of them.
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    OurWildKingdomJen4948SP29cowgirl8238
  • You also need enough food to constitute a meal. The wedding I mentioned above that did this style of reception ran out of food because people eventually realized there wouldn't be a dinner service (the reception was at dinner time) and they rushed the app stations. It was an overall mess. You can avoid that by ensuring your apps are heavy and that you have A LOT of them.

    To second this, also make sure that people know the apps / stations ARE dinner. Idk the best way to do this, maybe a sign? I seem to have the opposite problems as a lot of knotties where I feel like I am constantly overfed at weddings and make a conscious effort to pace myself. So if I saw a really heavy cocktail hour I would probably only eat a little bit to save room for dinner, but if I knew it was dinner I would go crazy. 

    I am taking all of this seriously into consideration because I attended a reception like this and it was my absolute fav. I usually kind of hate the dinner portion of a wedding and want it to be over as fast as possible, so definitely would consider this kind of reception in the future.
    OurWildKingdomei34InLoveInQueens
  • OurWildKingdomOurWildKingdom in the 216 member
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary 5 Answers
    Usually the rule is if you don't have assigned seating, aim for at least 20% more seats than guests. 

    Nothing discourages mingling less than limited seating/ tables- people hoard their seats for fear of losing them if one gets up. 
    This is a good rule to follow.
  • Ok so I'm the token person here who did unassigned seating, so I'll tell you what works and what doesn't. It worked at our wedding, but I wouldn't recommend it for everyone. Unassigned seating only works if: 1) your crowd "gets it" and 2) if you have 15-20% MORE seating than you have guests. 

    Point 1 - If your crowd is used to walking into social events and being told where to sit, they're going to walk into an unassigned seating situation like a deer in the headlights. It just throws off the "good vibe". On the flip side, if they're used to this, you're good.

    Point 2 - People leave chairs between them and don't fill tables. For this reason, you need MORE seating than you would if you assigned tables. People need a place to set their stuff and eat dinner. If you can afford the extra space and cost to provide that, you're good. If not, assign tables.

    You can encourage mingling by maintaining your high top tables and lounge areas, absolutely! Just add actual tables and chairs for everyone.

    DO NOT SKIMP ON SEATING. I went to a wedding that did this a few years ago. Literally every single person complained how rude it was. The crowd thinned out much earlier than expected. Very, very nice couple, but they just made a bad choice. Don't be that couple.
    I also did not have assigned seating and was surprised to hear the majority of people hear recommend it. I guess it is a know-your-crowd thing, because I've also never been to a wedding with assigned seating or tables. It worked fine for us, but we had seating for 200 and probably only had 160-180 show up, which allowed room for people to sit with friends and not completely fill tables.

    A different venue tried to sell me on "80 percent seating" (their capacity was 180, which I think would have been crammed with a dance floor and buffet) and I'm glad I didn't listen after hearing horror stories on TK. Your setup sounds different from a traditional venue, but I'd still think you'd want more than enough seating since people will be in different areas throughout the night.

    And for what it's worth, if I saw a carving station I would assume that was dinner.
    charlotte989875ernursejSP29PrettyGirlLost
  • The invites will say Lounge reception to follow but I am confident we will have more than enough food. The carving station also includes a mashed potato bar and grilled vegetables, the second station has crab cakes and country biscuits stuffed with ham, the third station will be southern grits with assorted toppings and chicken and biscuits. All of that is in addition to several passed hot hors d'oevres. We are also having two open bars, full coffee service and a Viennese table. Based on all of the comments, I think we will get more seating.
    SP29southernbelle0915cowgirl8238PrettyGirlLost
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Seventh Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    I've been to receptions that had passed hors d'oeuvres and cocktails, but only a few seats and tables, and everyone spent their time hunting for some place to sit and put their things down.

    Cocktail tables are smaller than regular tables, but I think everyone needs a seat at a table. Some hors d'oeuvres, even passed ones, can be messy, and having to juggle a plate, a glass or cup, utensils, a napkin, and whatever personal property you have to carry with you, like a handbag, can be a pain if you don't have a surface to put something down. It definitely doesn't do much for the mood of the occasion!
  • thisismynickname2thisismynickname2 City By The Lake member
    5000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its First Answer
    I don't think I saw what time of day this reception is at. I went to one "lounge" type reception where there wasn't enough seating, and there were food stations/buffets. It was at an art gallery. It worked (or at least, I thought it worked) because the ceremony itself was at 7pm- I'd already eaten dinner (that's how I roll!) so the buffet and passed apps were supplemental. Reception started about 7:30 if memory serves and dancing was immediate. So some people were dancing, others sat around eating, some went to lounge outside (thank God for nice weather), some viewed the art. In other words, the party got started right away but older people were free to leave earlier as the cake was also cut right away along with a couple toasts and a first dance. 
    To me, this is more of a style of a corporate event. 

    By contrast, if you had the ceremony around 5pm and reception by 5:30 or six, with the expectation that the party is going to extend all night, having a dinner time event without enough chairs is probably a disaster waiting to happen. 

    TL/DR- I think the style of reception you're going for works better at a non-meal time. I might not have cared about the lack of seating because I was in party/mingle mood, but I cannot speak for all the guests there. 


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  • zyanya67 said:
    The invites will say Lounge reception to follow but I am confident we will have more than enough food. The carving station also includes a mashed potato bar and grilled vegetables, the second station has crab cakes and country biscuits stuffed with ham, the third station will be southern grits with assorted toppings and chicken and biscuits. All of that is in addition to several passed hot hors d'oevres. We are also having two open bars, full coffee service and a Viennese table. Based on all of the comments, I think we will get more seating.
    That sounds yummy! Glad you will be getting more seating.
  • The food you are serving suggests dinner vs. the vibe I'm getting from your posts is a cocktail reception. What time of day is your reception? With the type of food you are having, I would absolutely want a table to eat at.
    OurWildKingdomgeebee908cowgirl8238
  • lyndausvilyndausvi Western Slope, Colorado mod
    Moderator Knottie Warrior 10000 Comments 500 Love Its
    ernursej said:
    The food you are serving suggests dinner vs. the vibe I'm getting from your posts is a cocktail reception. What time of day is your reception? With the type of food you are having, I would absolutely want a table to eat at.
    I think the food can be lounge like, but I agree more tables with chairs is needed.   My SIL had 30 different apps just for the cocktail hour part of her reception (NYC metro area wedding).   Some were bit size, most required a fork.   Most people tried to sit down while eating because there was too much on the plate, some requiring a fork to eat standing up.  This was just for cocktail hour.   If it was for dinner I would think more people would want to sit.



    FWIW - I had a cocktail hour with 10 different passed apps plus 4 different stations, including a full raw bar.  A lot of people sat just for that hour.  Then I had a sit down meal.       After dinner our bars and dance floor were packed.  Outside of the older people, hardly anyone sat down after dinner.  

    My point being that making it lounge like doesn't necessarily means people will mingle, anymore than a sit down makes people not leave their seat all night. Some people mingle, others stay put.  It's a know your crowd thing more than anything.   Most people at weddings stick within their own group.    Your side of the family will more than likely hangout with other people from the family.  A lot of the times because it's the rare time they can get together.  It's just what people do.  

    I'm very social and do the same thing.  If given a choice to meet my cousin's new husband's extended family or spending time with my own family, I will pick my family first. The chances of me seeing my cousin's husband's extended family might be slim.  Especially if OOT.   Would rather spend my time catching up with my own family. Doesn't mean I not going to be social towards the other side.  I always introduce myself to people. Ask how they know the couple,  but I'm more likely to mingle within my own crowd.      








    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. 
    sparklepants41OurWildKingdomcharlotte989875PrettyGirlLost
  • With the food you are serving, I think you should look into more tables. They don't have to be traditional tables (such as a coffee table in front of a few couches), but if you are having items like a carving station, I'd want to be able to put my plate down and cut and eat it properly without having to balance a plate of meat and vegetables on my lap and possibly make a mess of my dress. 
    OurWildKingdomcharlotte989875cowgirl8238PrettyGirlLost
  • zyanya67 said:
    I am really appreciating all of the feedback! We won't have a coat check as it will still be warm/hot here on the first of September. We live in Maryland.

    I'd rethink this, as well as the number of tables. As a lady at a wedding, I have a clutch which may or may not have a wrist strap. Let's say it doesn't because I went for the fancier one that I thought I could leave at my table.

    I also have a drink in one hand. Let's say something in a stemmed glass, which is harder to hold. 

    I also have a small plate of appetizers, a fork, possibly a knife, and hopefully a napkin.

    I only have 2 hands.

    Even if I have a seat, if there's no table I'm now precariously balancing my clutch and plate on my lap, hoping I don't get anything on my nice dress. My glass in one hand and fork in the other.

    Or maybe FI and I take turns eating while the other one holds our drinks? That only helps if I'm there with him - not all your guests will be part of a couple.

    All of this will certainly discourage me from mingling, because I'm thinking too hard about eating. And God forbid I have to make sure a kid (or kids) get fed this way in what is probably their nicest clothes!

    Please make sure that not only does everyone have a seat, but everyone has a table. As PPs said above, it doesn't have to be traditional tables (high tops, coffee tables, bars, etc.), but everyone at least needs to be able to manage their plate, an eating utensil and a drink at the same time, and none of your guests are likely to have 3 arms. 
    sparklepants41InLoveInQueenscowgirl8238
  • zyanya67 said:
    The invites will say Lounge reception to follow but I am confident we will have more than enough food. The carving station also includes a mashed potato bar and grilled vegetables, the second station has crab cakes and country biscuits stuffed with ham, the third station will be southern grits with assorted toppings and chicken and biscuits. All of that is in addition to several passed hot hors d'oevres. We are also having two open bars, full coffee service and a Viennese table. Based on all of the comments, I think we will get more seating.
    Your menu sounds awesome! I would be posting up at your second station all night. 

    You may have meant this in the bolded, but to be sure, in addition to seating, definitely get enough tables so everyone can sit down at a table at eat. 
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    PrettyGirlLost
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