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6 Types of Wedding Receptions – Your Ultimate Guide

Wedding reception at evening

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A wedding reception is a celebration that takes place with your family and friends after your wedding ceremony.  In case you’re wondering why it’s called a ‘reception’, it’s because the couple ‘receives’ their friends and family for the first time as a newlywed couple. Likewise, their friends and family receive them as a married couple for the first time.

Up until World War II, wedding celebrations were held in the home of the bride and the financial standing of the family determined the style of the reception. If the family was wealthy, they would most likely host a fancy ball whereas a middle-class family might host an afternoon lunch and tea.

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Wherever the reception was held, the guests were greeted with a ‘receiving line’ in which the newly married couple, the hosts and the parents would greet each and every guest. Nowadays, the popularity of the receiving line has begun to fade and instead the wedding parties are introduced with grand entrance which is presented by a DJ or the wedding band.

If you’re planning your wedding and wondering what type of reception you should have, we’ve got a list of 6 different types of wedding receptions and the pros and cons of each for you to check out!

1- Champagne and Cake Reception

This is probably the most budget friendly type of reception that you could go for. This reception is held between the traditional meal times so that your guests won’t be expecting to have a full meal. The best timing for a champagne and cake reception is either later in the afternoon or late in the evening.

The main food item served at this reception is cake (as the name states!) which is usually served with fresh fruits and a variety of mini pastries. The main beverage is champagne, but you can also serve soft drinks, tea and coffee. If you’d like, you can always serve cordials and other non-alcoholic drinks as well.  


This type of reception is excellent for couples who wish to celebrate their wedding with the family and friends but also need to keep their budget low.


You won’t get as much time to spend with your guests as you would if you held another type of reception. Since you’re only offering them desert, it would be a much shorter reception than others.

2- Cocktail Reception

cocktail reception

Celebrate your wedding in a fun and relaxed atmosphere with a cocktail wedding reception, a type of wedding reception that’s becoming increasingly popular over the years. This type of reception is more economical than a dinner reception but just as, if not more, enjoyable! Your guests will be able to mingle while being served cocktails and hors d’oeuvres from servers who circulate amongst them. Cocktail receptions are held in the evenings and usually last about four hours. However, this depends on your party and the number of guests.


This type of reception allows you more time to mingle with your guests and you will be offering them food while at the same time cutting down on the cost of a dinner or lunch reception.


The cost-cutting could backfire if your guests end up drinking more than they would at a dinner reception. If you prefer a traditional wedding reception, then this might not be the best option for you since it can be harder to include traditional elements of a wedding reception while everyone is standing and mingling.

3- Breakfast or Brunch Reception

Breakfast wedding reception

Treat your guests to a traditional brunch menu with items such as French toast and mimosas and drinks like Bloody Marys and Bellinis but you may want to avoid serving heavy foods to your guests since it may be too early in the morning. 

If you’re having a brunch reception, it would take place between 11 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. If you want it to be more of a breakfast style one, then the earliest time you should ideally go for is 9 in the morning. Many couples prefer this option since it’s more cost-effective than most other types of receptions. Breakfast receptions are also quite short since they last about 2 to 2 and a half hours but the time can vary depending on the number of guests especially if you’re having a receiving line.


This is a great way for you to save on your reception budget and you can leave for your honeymoon on the same day!


Having a reception in the morning means an earlier ceremony. This may not leave you with much time to get ready and may be a problem if you or your guests are not early risers!

4- Lunch Wedding Reception

lunch wedding reception

This type of wedding reception follows a late-morning ceremony and is usually held between 12 and 2 p.m. The meal can be served either as a buffet-style meal or as a sit-down meal and can include salads, cheeses, cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, soups and champagne. This reception can be quiet costly since you will be offering a full course meal to your guests so if you’re trying to keep to a very low budget, this may not be the right type of reception for you.


There is a possibility that the venue might cost less during the day than it would at night and travelling might be easier for your guests as well. They would still have time to get home rather than having to spend the night at a hotel.


You may find that a luncheon reception doesn’t have the same party vibe as an evening one would.

5- Tea Reception

Tea time reception

A tea reception is a sweet way to celebrate your wedding with your guests in an extremely budget friendly way. This is usually held between 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. and can include tea, coffee or punch along with wine or champagne. Tea sandwiches and other finger foods are also served and the last food item is the wedding cake. This type of reception works well if you have a small budget and a large number of guests on your list.


It’s easy on the budget and you’d have a lot of time for a dance or an after-party.


Although this reception offers an indulgent fun time, not all your guests may enjoy it. Some of your guests may not be enthusiastic about sipping tea from dainty teacups and having mini sandwiches.

6- Dinner Wedding Reception

Couple dancing at their wedding

This type of reception is the most classic, formal and popular type of reception nowadays giving you and your guests the enjoyment of the traditional aspects of a wedding reception. The meal can be served buffet-style or as a sit-down dinner and it gives you enough time to celebrate your marriage, treat your guests and still have a good dance afterward. It usually begins between 6:00 and 9:00 pm and hors d’oeuvres and cocktails can be served during the cocktail hour.


If you’re going for a traditional reception, you will love this, and your guests will be well fed with no complaints!


This is the most expensive type of wedding reception so if your budget is low, it might be a good idea to try a more economical option. 

To wrap up…

When deciding on the best type of wedding reception for you, you might want to talk to your wedding planner (if you have one) or your caterer and try to determine whether the venue will suit your guest count.

Make a budget and stick to it! The time of day of the reception and even the day you plan to get married can change according to your budget and venue availability, so you need to be careful when considering this. Buffet wedding receptions are generally less expensive because they require a fewer number of servers. They are also a great way for the guests to mingle more and they make the atmosphere less formal.

If many of your guests are travelling a long way to be at your wedding, consider an afternoon or morning reception which would be convenient for them and give them enough time to travel back home without having to stay overnight. Your guests will thank you for it.

Spice things up, get creative and have fun planning your wedding reception!