Today's Bride

What Type of Reception Menu Should You Have?

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With all the different styles and types of receptions out there, it can be tricky to pick out the right type of food to serve at your wedding reception. But have no fear, as we have the lowdown on some of the most popular menu style choices!

Cocktail and Hors d’oeuvres Only Reception

If you don’t want to have a formal sit-down dinner, we suggest you try a cocktail only reception. A cocktail only reception is usually held in the evening and is slightly less formal than its sit-down counterpart. Typically, these types of receptions offer an open bar with mini food stations scattered or roving waiters around the venue.  However, a cocktail only reception gives you plenty of room to have a lot of variety with your food or drinks.  Most cocktail only receptions are shorter, so you’ll want to make sure you make it all the way around the room to mingle with all your guests.

Photo from a Today's Bride Bridal Show.

Photo from a Today’s Bride Bridal Show.

Photo courtesy of Genevieve Nisly Photography.

Photo courtesy of Genevieve Nisly Photography.

Another twist to a cocktail style reception is a drink and dessert or champagne and cake reception. Typically, reception of this style is held later in the evening, say around 8 p.m., as a way to signal to guests that they should eat dinner before attending. During this type of reception, you can serve up your favorite drink or even a signature cocktail with your wedding cake and yummy sweets. Although having just a dessert reception is excellent for someone on a budget, you may end up paying a little more than you expect as some guests may consume more spirits in this atmosphere than at a formal dinner reception.

Photo courtesy of Carol Malick Photography.

Photo courtesy of Carol Malick Photography.

Sit-Down Dinners

Sit-down dinners are the most formal type of wedding receptions.  You can make it even more formal by adding multiple courses to the meal.  Typically, cocktail hour precedes a sit-down dinner. Because it is a sit-down, you have more of a limited selection of how much and what guests can have.  Table service is a form of a sit-down dinner where waiters bring out plates to each guest. With this type of service, you can offer two proteins on each plate, or you may want to opt to give your guests a choice and have them select a specific entrée in their RSVP.

Photo from a Today's Bride Bridal Show.

Photo from a Today’s Bride Bridal Show.

Photo from a Today's Bride Bridal Show.

Photo from a Today’s Bride Bridal Show.

You also have the choice of having a French service, which is a more refined table service where guests serve themselves from large platters that waiters bring to each table. Another spin on this style is to have waiters bring the platters to each table and then serve each guest. Either form of a sit-down dinner is a great way to serve classic cuisine.

The main difference to keep in mind between the two sit-down options is that a table service with multiple courses will need more plates, silverware, and waiters to prepare and serve the food. With a French service, you’ll need less preparation help but most likely the same number of servers. This difference may help in choosing which way is the most cost-effective for you and your budget.

Photo from a Today's Bride Bridal Show.

Photo from a Today’s Bride Bridal Show.

Photo from a Today's Bride Bridal Show.

Photo from a Today’s Bride Bridal Show.

Another spin on the classic sit-down dinner is to have a family-style dinner. This is a lot less formal than the other two traditional styles of a sit-down dinner. However, you can still add an exquisite touch to a more relaxed atmosphere. A family-style dinner is where the food is set out on each table on big platters, and you let the guests serve themselves. Even though it is more of a casual arrangement, you can serve more expensive types of food here on a smaller budget, such as serving lobster as a family style dinner rather than a lobster tail on each plate as a table service meal. However, the best type of food to use for this style is something that can be served at room temperature. You can also keep costs down with this style because you will most likely need fewer servers.

Photo courtesy of Adam Milliron Photography, All Occasions Party Rental and With The Grains.

Photo courtesy of Adam Milliron Photography, All Occasions Party Rental and With The Grains.

Buffet Dinners

Buffet dinners are less formal than sit-down dinners. However they are more formal than just cocktail only receptions. A buffet style offers guests more options to pick and choose from, as they work best with picky eaters and a crowd that loves to eat. It gives you plenty of food and can almost always offer a little bit of something for everyone.

Photo from a Today's Bride Bridal Show.

Photo from a Today’s Bride Bridal Show.

Photo courtesy of Genevieve Nisly Photography.

Photo courtesy of Genevieve Nisly Photography.

You can spice up a buffet style dinner and add a personal touch by having a reception with multiple stations. A station-style buffet reception is great for when you cannot decide on one type or style of food. This style offers a wide variety, as most receptions should offer four to five different table stations. You can bring out your personality or different cultural aspects of your wedding with this type of reception. The only possible drawback to having multiple station buffets is that it can be the most expensive type of menu.

Photo from a Today's Bride Bridal Show.

Photo from a Today’s Bride Bridal Show.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of Digital Photos by Dale.

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