June 14, 2023

How to Choose Between a Cocktail Reception vs. Sit Down Dinner

A server pours multiple glasses of sparkling wine for wedding guests

Saying yes to the dress or choosing a tux is tough, but deciding between a cocktail reception or sit-down dinner will truly put your bride and groomzilla temper to the test. 

A sit-down dinner is the more formal option, whereas a cocktail-style wedding reception strays from tradition and encourages you to let your hair down and loosen your bow ties. Which one is your heart leaning towards? 

Let's discuss the pros, the cons, and the best choice for your prelude to forever. 

The Cocktail Reception    

As the times evolve, so do our methods of celebration. From brides opting for colour rather than pure white gowns to grooms dancing down the aisle to pop songs, there is no predicting what surprises a 21st-century wedding holds in store.

The Pros of a Standing Reception 

Mingling Opportunities.

No fixed seating invites guests to stretch their legs. The social butterflies at your soiree will be more than happy to interact with people beyond their assigned seatmates. You also won't have to worry about accidentally placing your feuding relatives at the same table. 

Plus, no one needs to speed through their dinner just to get to the dancefloor. Some might even take their dinner to the dancefloor, who knows!  

Perfect for Smaller Venues

Sit-down dinners usually require larger venues. On the other hand, cocktail receptions work even with more modestly sized event spaces. This could save you money as you look to book your event and create a more intimate atmosphere.

While you may feel the urge to invite absolutely everyone you know, your guests won’t mind having to share the food with fewer people!  

Unleash Your Imagination. 

Cocktail receptions are perfect for creative planners. As far as that aforementioned food goes, think food trucks, grazing stations, dim sum carts, and DIY food booths.

Relaxed gatherings wouldn’t be complete without a bit of late-night entertainment after the food is gone and the speeches are done—and a karaoke booth is the perfect mix between keeping things social and making lasting memories.

A spread of dim sum next to a bottle of soju

The Cons of a Standing Reception

Defying Expectations. 

Cocktail weddings defy preconceptions and expectations. Some of your guests may be accustomed to sit-down dinners and completely foreign to the concept of a cocktail reception. 

This can be a disadvantage for older or physically challenged attendees who may require seating throughout the event—so make sure to plan accordingly for these guests (arrange for seating to be available to them) and also indicate this on the invitations.

Unexpected Expenses.

Cocktail dinners may seem more cost-friendly versus sit-down dinners, but that isn't always the case. The more intimate setting may prompt your guests to indulge in a few additional glasses of wine and other alcoholic beverages. It is a party, after all.

This is, of course, if you don’t opt for an open bar.

No Centre of Attention.

If you were hoping to have all eyes on your significant other during the night, you might be disappointed if you choose a cocktail reception. There is typically limited seating as people wander around, often to obstructed views. 

A Sit-Down Dinner

A sit-down dinner after a formal nuptial ceremony is a seamless transition from elegance to even more elegance. If the vibe you’re going for screams cursive and italicized, then this is probably the way to go. 

The Pros of a Sit-Down Dinner

Arranged Seating.

Cocktail receptions involve a lot of guesswork. Who knows how many seconds or thirds your foodie best friends might want from the banh mi station, right? And how many types of seats do you need to designate for the dining area?

Sit-down dinners are much more straightforward. Seating and meal arrangements are set ahead of time to avoid any confusion on the big night. 

Scheduled Activities.

Spread out toasts, dancing, and other nuptial activities between courses to keep guests engaged and the energy up. Everything will unfold according to the schedule you have set well in advance—your itinerary is your friend. 

While you lose the spontaneity when you go the sit-down dinner route, you gain the peace of mind that comes with planning. 

A table set up for dinner at DASHA

The Cons of a Sit-Down Dinner

More Personnel Required. 

Simply put, a sit-down dinner calls for more staff compared to a cocktail affair. This includes table setup and clean up, plating in the kitchen, and serving in the dining area.

Strict Menus.

Contrary to casual cocktail hour parties, lavish sit-down dinners don't leave room for many options. The bride and groom have a tasting beforehand and build the menu based on their preferences. Picky eaters might be out of luck. 

Timing is Everything.  

Schedules are great when everything goes as planned. However, there’s often a domino effect to hyper-planned events—one thing going wrong can snowball. You’d be wise to give yourself some extra time whenever possible! 

Who Says You Have to Choose?  

So, will you be choosing a cocktail-style wedding reception or a sit-down dinner to commemorate one of the happiest days of your life?

Or, live the best of both worlds at DASHA. 

Our upscale wedding event venue offers a variety of options for newlyweds looking to celebrate their reception, no matter the vibe. Have guests gather in our speakeasy Judy’s for cocktail hour then meander over to to our private dining room or main dining room for a sit-down dinner. And don’t forget about midnight karaoke!

Experience the opulent beauty of Shanghai and Hong Kong—say "I do" to the love of your life and the wedding reception of your dreams!

For venue bookings, give us a call today!

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