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wedding reception alternatives

Alternative Wedding Reception Ideas to Skip the Traditional Sit-Down Dinner

Traditional weddings usually stick to the classic sit-down dinner, with set meal options chosen by guests when they RSVP. There’s nothing wrong with an individually plated and served meal at a wedding reception, but many couples now opt for alternative catering options instead.

Formal dinners can be expensive, so choosing a less traditional food option can help cut costs in your budget without leaving guests hungry. Cutting out the formal dinner can also lead to a more relaxed atmosphere, allowing guests to mingle freely away from their tables for more of the night. Whatever your reason to move away from a seated formal dinner, these alternative catering options will be a hit at any wedding.

Food Stations

Food stations have become a popular alternative to seated, formal dinners at weddings. This option gives guests the freedom to eat what and when they want, and allows for more movement and mingling since no one is tethered to their assigned seats. Food stations with different cuisine can be set up around the reception so that guests can wander and try food as they please.

chef station

For more upscale food stations, you can have chefs cooking and serving at each station. A unique option that many couples opt for is international food stations, with featured food from countries around the world. Food stations can be what you make them, however, so you can choose to go casual with comfort food stations or chic with high-end tapas and small plates.


Many receptions have a cocktail hour to begin, but choosing to serve all the food and snacks cocktail-style instead of serving a sit-down dinner is a great alternative. This method allows for guests to mingle freely and eat on their own time, with extra time for dancing or other activities.

cocktail hour

Some worry that guests will not be satisfied without a full meal, but as long as you provide enough food throughout the night this should not be an issue. Smaller hors d’oeuvres can lead to more filling snacks offered by servers depending on what food you decide on. Be sure to have enough seating still, as people will choose to sit, but a cocktail-style reception allows the guests to wander and sit as they please.

Food Trucks

Food trucks are a trendy new theme for wedding catering. These work well for outdoor receptions, as the trucks can pull right up to your venue. Food trucks make for a fun, interactive wedding option where you can feature a variety of interesting foods.

food trucks

Food trucks serve everything from crepes to burgers, so you can offer guests different food options depending on the style of your wedding and your tastes. This option also allows for guests to eat and mingle on their own schedule. Keep in mind that guests will not be able to be served simultaneously or as quickly.


wedding buffet

Buffet-style is a cheaper alternative to individual meals at a formal dinner and gives guests more options in terms of what food they want to eat, when to eat, and how much they want to eat. With buffet style, you can still assign seats at tables and have a sit-down dinner, although the serving process is slower since each table has to get up and wait at the buffet.


Family-style catering works just like sitting around your family table at dinner – enough food is served on a platter for the whole table, and guests help themselves. This option also allows for assigned seating and a sit-down dinner without the formality of individually plated and served meals.

family style

Guests can serve themselves quickly since they are already seated and the food is right in front of them, making for an efficient meal and time for other activities.

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