The wedding reception has a rich and varied history. And the good news is that the large variation in options means that you get free reign to plan for reception dining options that suit your tastes. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you get started with wedding dining, menu planning and considering wedding caterers.

1. Casual or formal wedding reception dining?

Prior to World War II, wedding receptions were often held in the bride’s home. If you’d like to do a casual get-together like this too, you should go for it! If the guest list is large, then make it easy and consider an appetizer-only cocktail party. That way, you won’t have to worry about accommodating everyone in space you don’t have for a proper sit-down meal.

If you prefer something a bit more formal, then there are lots of wedding caterers. A common choice for Canadian brides these days is to rent a large room at a hotel – this means the hotel takes care of all of the prep work for you – the only thing you need to do is choose the meals, and let them know how many guests to expect.

2. What food is “appropriate” for your wedding reception?

Weddings bring the opinionated people out of the woodwork – and there will be no shortage of ‘advisors’ telling you what you ought to serve at your wedding. But remember, it’s your day, not theirs. The food you choose to have served at your wedding should reflect your tastes – don’t be pressured into serving food that you won’t enjoy, just to please others.

3. What will your guests enjoy?

Try to choose food options that your guests will enjoy as much as you do. Say you adore insanely spicy food – if the majority of your guests can’t handle that kind of heat, then do them a favour and choose something easier on the palate. You definitely don’t want to have a wedding where everyone rushes out of the reception early to hit up McDonalds because they couldn’t stand the food you served.

4. Full meal courses, cocktail reception?

Anything goes for wedding reception catering these days, so whether you want a full meal, or a cocktail and appetizer reception, it’s likely to go over well. If you want a full meal, you’ll have a choice of a sit-down meal where guests are served at their seats, or a buffet (which will usually be less expensive).

TIP: Search for Reviews of the Wedding Venue

If you choose to go with a catered meal in a hotel or rented hall for example, before you put down a deposit, be sure to check their reviews. Nowadays almost everyone is reviewed online, so it’s easier than ever to avoid the duds, and choose only from the most qualified food providers in your area.

5. Open Bar? Or Not?

It’s scary to think of going the traditional open bar route. You worry that your bill at the end of the night will be outrageous. However, if you are expecting most guests to gift you with money, then odds are high that the costs of the open bar will more than be covered by the money you receive in gifts. Also remember that many older guests expect an open bar and would be offended by being asked to pay for their drinks.

On the other hand, if you have the misfortune of knowing that a bunch of ridiculously heavy drinkers are on the guest list, the consider a drink ticket system. Give everyone 2-4 drink tickets each – that way, only the heaviest drinkers will actually have to pay for their drinks, and the other, more restrained drinkers, are not likely to drink more than the amount covered by their complimentary drink tickets, and therefore won’t be offended by needing to pay for their own.

It’s Your Wedding Reception!

Taking the time to think about your answers to these 5 questions when considering the wedding reception menu will be time well spent. Food and drinks are a huge part of any wedding celebration, and it’s crucial that you plan a menu that both you and your guests will enjoy.


Photo credit:  © Fedor Kondratenko |