Alternative Reception Ideas

Updated July 20, 2017

Wedding receptions have evolved to include a wide variety of reception starting times, styles and food offerings. A large range of alternative reception ideas exist that introduce fun and innovative ways to celebrate a wedding. These ideas often incorporate games, themes and laid-back atmospheres that give couples a chance to infuse their wedding celebrations with individual twists on traditional receptions.

Outdoor Barbecue

Outdoor barbecue receptions can take place in various locations. Using a casual setting -- such as a relative's backyard, a public park or a church lawn -- will provide a nontraditional atmosphere that will not cost a lot. Holding a barbecue in a public location or at a church will often require permission from the community or board. Popular outdoor games -- such as horseshoes or croquet -- can be added to the festivities; that will give guests a true barbecue atmosphere.


Brunch receptions provide a relaxed atmosphere with less formality than a typical reception. These receptions typically supply guests with light breakfast and lunch items. There is usually no DJ, and typically wine and champagne are the only alcoholic beverages served. The brunch reception is also one of the cheapest receptions to hold, which makes it very appealing when cost is a concern.


Lunch receptions, also known as midday receptions, typically offer afternoon snack-type foods and light desserts; food is often served buffet-style. This reception type can have a theme incorporated throughout the festivities, such as a casino, Hawaiian or board game theme. This type of reception is a fun get-together that brings the newly married couple and their guests together for a memorable afternoon, and the theme possibilities are almost unlimited.


Dessert receptions are typically held in the afternoon after lunch or in the evening after dinner; they consist of desserts that appeal to a large variety of people, such as cake, cookies, candy and fruit tarts. It is also suggested that cheeses, fruits and nuts be offered to offset the sweetness of the desserts. Place desserts all around the reception venue to encourage socialising among guests, especially if there is no DJ at the reception.


Cocktail receptions are formal events that usually offer some hors d'oeuvres with various cocktails. This kind of reception encourages mingling among guests and typically does not offer any formal table arrangements. Cocktail receptions are perfect for dancing the night away and having fun with guests.

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About the Author

Jen Johns is a freelance writer and proofreader based in Pennsylvania. She has worked as a proofreader for publishing companies since 2007, editing books and professional journals. Johns holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and is pursuing a master's degree in communication studies at Shippensburg University.