A to Z of Wedding Planning R for Receptions

Welcome to this weeks instalment of my A to Z of wedding planning. This week is R I’m talking about wedding receptions and the alternative options you have available.


No time to watch the video, read the transcript below:

Hi and welcome. It’s Andri from Always Andri. I wanted to pick back up today with my A to Z Wedding Planning and talk to you about R for receptions. Obviously, when you’re planning your wedding, the reception’s quite a big deal. Traditionally, you have your typical format, top table and then all of your guests sitting around round tables. But today, I really wanted to talk about what the alternative options are. I love working with couples that really want to mix it up, and they don’t necessarily want to stick to the standard top table and then guests on round table formation. Maybe when you come to the beginning of your wedding planning journey, you think that is the only option. But, actually it’s not, there’s lots and lots of other things that you can do. So I thought we’ll just go through them, and what they are.


First still keeping that similar format, sit down meal, you obviously still want to see to your guests. So the first thing to consider is that you can have long tables now. Long tables are really increasing in popularity, and I’m a big fan of long tables, as you’ll find many wedding planners are, because they give you lots of scope for decorating it. But, I think what’s really nice about a long table is that the guests are quite close together, so it’s quite easy to talk across a trestle table. Their standard widths are normally between two and three feet, and it’s quite a nice way for guests to talk and interact with each other. So that can be really nice, so you can have a selection of long tables. Also, what’s quite good about long tables is you’re not limited by say 10 or 12 people per table, you can actually make your long tables as long as your venue will let you, really.

long dinning table at wedding reception Dulwich College Always Andri wedding planner designer My Heart Skipped Photography

Long tables gives you that lovely flexibility of being able to fill the space in alternative ways, and create the size tables that you want. You’re not tied in to your standard 8 to 10 people on a round table, that can be really nice. I did a wedding once where it was a smallish wedding, it had about 60 guests, in the original plan it was going be a bigger guest list, but then they by the end of it, we only had about 60 guests. So we literally had one big long table and it was amazing. It was just a really lovely setting. Every guest felt they were all sitting together, and the bride and groom sat with them. It’s such an all-encompassing way of having your guests at a table. I really do love that way of doing it.


Also, don’t feel that you have to have a top table. Top table is slightly dated thing I think, it’s very much putting you on show, but maybe you actually want to be more integrated with your guests. Don’t be afraid to consider sitting on your own table, either be that a round or one of the long tables. Don’t be afraid to do that, that works really nicely. It can also be quite a handy tip if some of your family dynamics aren’t traditional. You might have parents that want to host their own tables, and then you sit at the table with your friends. So that works really well.

wedding sweetheart table Always Andri wedding planner designer Anneli Marinovich Photography

Then, the other alternative is to go for a sweetheart table, and that can be quite cute. If you can’t decide who you want to sit with, you can have your own table just for the two of you. I recently did a wedding where we had a half moon table, and that worked really well. So it still felt very much the couple were close to their guests without being too separate from their guests. (Don’t forget to think about the chairs you choose too, there are so many alternative options now, see here for Top ten alternative  wedding chairs)


Then, what if you don’t actually want a sit-down meal, or maybe don’t want the traditional three course sit down meal. I think it’s quite nice to think of different serving options. I think what works really nicely is family style dining. You can have the food all served to the table, and then guests help themselves. That can be quite a nice, again, bringing all your guests together, all digging into the food, sharing wine. It feels less formal, feels a bit more relaxed, and that sort of can be a really nice vibe. You can also do some quite fun things with that. You can have a designated carver for each table. I think family style dining works really beautifully on any kind of style table really, round or square.

Then, maybe you don’t actually want to sit down at all, you may want to make it a lot more relaxed. Another nice option is to do a combination of food stations. So maybe different tables have different types of food. We did a travel themed wedding once, where each food station was a different type of food from around the world. So, we had a Mexican fajita station, a curry station, and an all-American burger bar station, it was really fun.

Food stalls are quite popular now, they’re more of a festival, relaxed vibe at your wedding and a great alternative to a food station. You can actually have a food stall or van come in, and then guests can really help themselves. Then, the seating in that case can be a lot more loose. You can still have your tables, but have guests go up, help themselves, and then bring it down to the table, so they can sit where they want to sit.

bowl food being served at a standing wedding reception party Always Andri wedding planner designer Siobhan H Photogrpahy

One of the beauties of the free seating option is you’ve not got the worry of doing a table plan and then that could be quite tricky one for a lot of people, having to work out who’s going to sit where. If you have a free seating option, quite informal seating, just have combination of different types of seating works quite well. Then, another one that goes hand-in-hand with the food stations, you could do bowl food options. Bowl food options work really well. What I’ve sometimes done before, we have a combination. So, if you are going to have a food station, still serve bowl food, because then that way not everyone rushing to the food station, so they are getting some food served to them. Or, you can completely go down the bowl food route and just have lots of nice bowl food coming out. What you do need with that is lots of regularly different foods coming out for guests, so they don’t feel like they’re not getting as much food.

You really can really mix it up and have lots of different ways of doing your reception. Don’t feel tied to doing it in the very traditional way. You don’t have to have round tables, you could have square tables, rectangle tables. You can even mix up a bit of both, I’ve seen that done really well, when maybe some people are on round, some people are on rectangles. Just make it feel a bit more homely, a bit more comfortable, and I think that can work really well. And yes, you don’t have to be on show, you don’t have to have the top table. You can integrate yourselves in amongst your guests. Hopefully that’s given you some alternative options for your wedding reception, and different ideas to think about, and hope you found that useful. It’s been lovely chatting, and do catch me next time.

Need help planning out your perfect wedding reception? Get in touch today to chat with me aobut how I can you with your wedding planning>

Photo credits: Header image with long tables Paul Joseph Photography Long table My Heart Skipped, Sweetheart table Anneli Marinovich, Bowl Food Siobhan H Photography


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