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There are many couples who are choosing not to serve dinner at their wedding reception and instead are replacing it with a cocktail hour, hors d'oeuvres or serving station. These can be a much more budget friendly options that are easier to afford. But, you may question if this is an acceptable way to hold your wedding reception.
Yes, as long as your reception is not scheduled during expected dinner times, then it is absolutely fine not to serve dinner. You wedding invitation should, however, let it be clear that your guests should not expect a traditional dinner at the reception. If your guests have known the fact in advance, then it is not rude at all. Word your invitation in this way:
“After the ceremony we will be holding a cocktail and hors d'oeuvres reception with dancing at (your reception location)”
Go with what is best for your budget and at a location that is more important to you.
There are many benefits to throwing a wedding that is earlier in the day, this was actually the norm in Europe where guests would celebrate the newlyweds and then they would part early to start their honeymoon. If you choose to go this route, you can save a significant amount of money in a variety of ways. Guests will tend to eat less for breakfast or lunch and will also consume less alcohol. Consider having a Bloody Mary Bar for brunch times or a light fruit bar for breakfast or lunch weddings.
When you are going with a heavy appetizers option for not serving dinner at wedding reception, think about how satisfied you and your spouse would be if you were offered the same options at someone else's wedding. Choose plenty of protein based appetizers like shrimp cocktails, kebabs, wings, meatballs or tuna tartar. You also want to keep in mind that if you are having an open bar, you need to provide adequate food to balance out your guests alcohol consumption.
Cocktail party receptions will either occur in the late afternoon or after the typical dinnertime hours. With a cocktail reception, you will tend to have a variety of appetizers served, but make sure your guests are well aware that there will not be a sit-down dinner option.
A buffet can be a great budget-friendly alternative to a sit-down dinner because you can cut some cost on the catering staff charges. You can more easily give your guests a variety of food options that can be better for your guests who have any dietary restriction or food allergies. If your wedding is more casual, then this is the perfect fit. Buffet- style receptions also encourage more mingling and interacting with your guests.
Food stations are similar to the buffet style alternatives for not serving dinner at wedding reception, but are more spread out in your reception location and offer specific options. You can include a carving station, raw bar, tapas station, sandwich/wrap station and a dessert station. Most of these stations will offer your guest smaller portions with various choices to satisfy them.