Stressing about a seated reception? Worried about a boring buffet? Just skip it and opt for a trendy cocktail-style reception instead! Not only are they super hot for weddings right now, but they create a more exciting environment for your guests! Here are the four elements that you need to pull off a successful cocktail-style reception.

Encourage interaction.

Oyster Bar, Junebug Weddings, Laurel McConnell Photography
Oyster Bar, Junebug Weddings, Laurel McConnell Photography

Guests love to be entertained and they want to be active. A cocktail-style reception encourages guests to move around the room and experience different exotic bites of full flavored dishes. The set-up itself is a great conversation starter among attendees.

This atmosphere of interaction can be set up in two different ways. One is to establish multiple food stations spread out throughout the room attended by their own chef. Guests can mingle with the chefs, ask questions, or just watch them working away at their craft. The other way is to hire wait staff that circulate various dishes around the room for you. Food stations create the greatest potential for interaction out of the two options as it forces the guests to rotate around the room.

Present a variety.

Variety needs to be kept in mind, not only in reference to the number of dishes you serve, but also when it comes to the selections made for the dish itself. With each small plate served, try to include a combination of a protein, starch, and veggie. The hors d’oeuvres that get passed around can remain simpler.

Though some sources may differ, I recommend estimating around 10-15 pieces per person for a 2-4 hour event, at least for events in the United States. Consider the demographics of your attendees as well when making these estimates – is this a foodie group that loves to eat or is this a crowd that care more about socializing and dancing?

Consider seasonal and local choices.

Passed Appetizers at InterContinental Boston, Bizbash, Michael Blanchard Photography
Passed Appetizers at InterContinental Boston, Bizbash, Michael Blanchard Photography

If you want your cocktail-style reception to be a memorable one, opt for seasonal dishes sourced locally. As people gravitate increasingly toward eco-friendly and good health movements, providing fresh, pure, and natural cuisine is essential. Work with your caterer or chef to develop a menu that is not only organic and sustainable but also speaks to the theme of the event, the location of the event, or the host’s/wedding couple’s  personal food preferences. Don’t forget about considering dietary restrictions as well. Be mindful to offer sufficient food options for people with special dietary needs, including vegan and vegetarian.

It’s all in the presentation.

Your food should be as beautiful as the décor itself. Present your cuisine on small plates or tapas-style plates. Single spoon presentations are popular as well. Allow your caterer to tap into their creativity. Encourage them to highlight their personal fortes in the dishes.

Insider Tip: A cocktail-style reception is not necessarily a cheaper option. Depending on the number of dishes served and the amount of foods sourced, the price could actually exceed that of a buffet or sit down dinner reception. Savings can be seen in other areas however when opting for a cocktail-style reception. Generally it requires a smaller room as well as less tables, linens, chairs, and centerpieces. Plus it creates a whole new and fun experience for guests!



4 Secrets for a Successful Cocktail Reception
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