How do you envision your wedding reception? Do you want everyone to stand up and mingle? Or perhaps you’ve always dreamed of a sit-down affair with a long, head table for the wedding party? Something casual or something more formal? Your reception is a chance to relax and enjoy your wedding day with family and friends… we want to help you plan a reception that fits your style AND your budget. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

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Is breakfast your favorite meal of the day? If you dream of Mimosas, a donut-tiered cake and a Belgian waffle bar, a brunch reception might just be your style! Typically held in the late morning or early afternoon, brunch can be just as elegant and festive as an evening reception, without the heavy cost of a full dinner and open bar. Brunch receptions are ideal for smaller wedding budgets and instances where you can’t easily schedule an afternoon or evening event at the venue of your dreams.

Pros: Because food is usually simpler, and venues occasionally cut deals for off-peak time slots, this type of reception is often less expensive. Additionally, guests typically drink less than they would at an evening reception.

Cons: A tighter period between the wedding and reception shortens the available window for post-wedding photos; a morning wedding also means less time for the wedding party to get ready before the ceremony.


If you’re a super fan of ‘Mad Men’ or ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’, this throwback-style reception is an elegant option when money or schedules are tight. Typically planned for the late morning or early afternoon, a champagne and cake reception allows you to mix and mingle with guests without the stress of planning a huge party. Perfect for your parents’ backyard or a friend’s garden, this style echoes a simpler time (weddings in the ‘40s and ‘50s) and is a great choice for eco-conscious couples.

Pros: This is the least expensive reception option; introverts—rejoice, champagne and cake is often the shortest type of reception (~2 hours).

Cons: If you’re an extrovert and really want to make the day last, this might not be the best alternative for you. Guests tend to leave early more often than during a brunch, buffet or sit-down event.


Looking for something laid-back, yet elegant? This is a fun option for couples wanting to entertain their guests with an outside-the-box idea. Think signature cocktails, passed appetizers, lawn games, photo booth and more! This can give your guests a chance to mingle freely—no numbered tables or seating charts required. Before planning a cocktail reception, it’s important to consider your guest demographic (older guests generally prefer table seating for dining). In your invitation, let guests know the reception will be cocktail style so they can plan accordingly. Additionally, consider creating a lounge feel at your venue—comfy couches, poufs and other non-traditional seating options.

Pros: Without a table-filled venue, you can accommodate more guests; for a younger crowd, more movement and less sitting during the reception can foster a fun atmosphere.

Cons: Despite not serving a full meal, costs may actually rise due to increased alcohol consumed and a potentially higher guest count. Additionally, it can be tricky to find a time during the day to adequately feed the wedding party!


If providing a full lunch or dinner for your guests is important and you don’t want the hassle of asking them to pre-select their meal choices, a buffet style reception may be perfect for you. Self-served meals are typically more laid-back and your food choices can be equally as easy-going. Here’s your chance to enjoy BBQ and mac and cheese while dressed in your finest!

Pros: This style of reception is often more relaxed since people can move and mingle as they please; guests choose to eat and drink what they like and when.

Cons: Buffet lines can back up if you have a large guest list (even with a two-sided buffet). Because guests can return for multiple servings, you may need a higher food budget than if you are offering a sit-down meal.


Similar to a buffet, this kind of reception allows guests to choose their own food. However, guests aren’t required to wait in a single line—they can move between multiple stations, reducing overall wait times. Food stations create a lively vibe, too: guests can mingle freely with each other while moving between stations.

Pros: All the benefits of a buffet-style reception without the downside of (potentially) long waits in line.

Cons: Extra space is required for multiple stations and waiting areas; this might reduce the size of table or dance floor areas. Similar to a buffet, you might spend more on food than if guests were served a sit-down meal.


A seated (formal) meal is the most traditional and ceremonial type of reception. It includes servers and pre-selected meal choices (including family-style platters) and is more structured and typically longer-lasting than other types of receptions. It’s a wonderful choice for couples who want to go all out and minimize confusion. If you would like to organize your guests by table, a seating chart is a must to avoid confusion.

Pros: Since guests pre-select their meal preference, you pay for exactly the amount of guests served, reducing food waste.

Cons: This can be the most expensive type of reception since food selections and beverage pairings are often more elaborate. If this sounds a little too stuffy and subdued for your personalities, you might prefer a buffet or cocktail-style reception.



Eisenhauer’s Catering & Events coordinators are available

Monday through Friday,
9:00am to 5:00pm.