Cocktail Reception Etiquette

Q. We’re having a cocktail reception with dinner comprised of food stations and without assigned seating, in fact it’s very likely we will not have a seat for each guest. My concern is that if on the invite we indicate dinner, people will expect a sit-down.

How can I convey on the invite that it will not be a sit-down? Or is this something I should let them know by word of mouth?  Please help!

A. Food station or a cocktail party type wedding is very popular among modern couples.  It provides an opportunity to mix and mingle while enjoying a variety of foods and flavours.

Typically this wedding style follows a ceremony that starts later in the day or into the early evening. It is important to prepare your guests for this alternative to a sit-down dinner.

On the invitation, indicate “cocktail reception to follow” and at the reception itself, ask the MC to explain the format to guests.  Have them explain as soon as guests are in the room that that there are intentionally not enough seats for everyone and that the hosts would encourage you to socialize while enjoying the variety of offerings available.  cocktail reception etiquette

Flow is key to the success of this type of reception as well, avoid lines by provided duplicate stations or double sided grazing tables.  We suggest seating for approximately 60-75% of your guests, this can include tables & chairs, lounge furniture and cruiser tables with stools for additional seating.

To accommodate family as well as the bride and groom during speeches, have a few “reserved” tables available. Enjoy your chic cocktail celebration and with all the fun you’ll be having,  don’t forget to eat!

Here is a link to a recent feature on how to schedule a cocktail reception wedding.

Answer provided by Toronto wedding planner Tara O’Grady of Bliss Events
Photo by: Michelle Yee