4 Wedding Reception Alternatives to Break from Tradition


Planning your wedding can be one of the most exciting, but also stressful times of your life! So many decisions to make! What to wear, colour schemes, themes, venue, who to invite – the list goes on. An important topic: traditions. Which ones will you embrace and what will you exchange for something a little modern or just…different? One such tradition is the wedding reception. Are there wedding reception alternatives to consider?

Also, where does the wedding reception tradition come from? Is it rude not to have one? Can you opt for something contemporary and perhaps more budget-friendly?

It’s interesting how wedding traditions have stood the test of time. Many brides, no matter how modern their weddings, still incorporate a certain element of tradition. But how can you make your approach to the wedding reception, a unique one?

Wedding sign Lets Party

Wedding Reception Origins

Until the 1950s, wedding receptions were typically held at the bride’s home. In the mid-50s though, hiring dance halls became increasingly popular. Since wedding receptions were no longer limited to the size of a bride’s or her parents’ home, guest lists grew considerably!

Current Day Wedding Receptions

These days, wedding receptions generally take place in specialised wedding venues, ballrooms or banquet halls. The main purpose of a wedding reception is for loved ones to celebrate the occasion with you. In essence, it’s a gathering to share in your happiness and wish you well on the next chapter of your journey.

Modern receptions can be a little stifling for some couples, not to mention expensive! There’s the renting of the venue, the décor, and of course the food to consider. Often, couples present a very extensive menu to cater to all guests’ palates and dietary requirements. But let’s ask the question many couples often ask…

Is it Rude Not to Have an Elaborate Reception?

The answer to this question depends largely on who you ask. Your mom or future mother-in-law might not understand your desire to have an alternative type of reception. Truth be told – it’s your choice! And something small and unique can be as memorable, if not more so, than a big elaborate affair that’s going to cost you a ton of money!

Sign eat, drink and be married

How do you go about getting your way?

Simply be upfront with everyone before the time, when you start planning the wedding. Let the family get used to the idea and show them how it can still be special. Pick your battles and make small compromises so everyone can feel they’re being considered. This is especially important if family members are helping to pay for the wedding. You don’t want a ‘vibe’ from anyone on your special day.

It will also help guests to know how to dress for the type of reception you opt for. So, be clear about what they can expect.


Wedding Reception Alternatives

Luckily, modern brides and grooms have a lot more say in the wedding traditions they choose to embrace. For some couples, it’s all about doing something “different” to make the wedding more memorable. Others have chosen to forego the traditional wedding reception altogether and replace it with an event or activity that resonates with their personalities or their budgets!

Let’s explore a few wedding reception alternatives you may want to use instead of the traditional options.

Wedding Brunch

Wedding brunches are becoming one of the more popular wedding reception alternatives with nuptials taking place in the early morning. Brunches can take place anywhere between 11 am and 2 pm.

Ideally, heavy buffet meals are swapped out for brunch classics such as:

  • French toast
  • Various flavoured omelettes
  • Salads
  • Pancakes or waffles

For drinks, you can have a self-help bar, where guests can make their favourite mimosa drink with Champagne and a fruit juice of their choice.

Daytime celebrations are usually more casual than evening ones, so the dress code doesn’t have to be formal. Another benefit of hosting a brunch is having enough daylight for your gorgeous photos!


Wedding reception food with fruit


Afternoon Tea

Having the wedding in the morning creates the perfect opportunity to have the ultimate English garden tea party. Instead of having a big buffet meal, offer your guests an assortment of teas, cakes, muffins and scones. Décor ideas can include different styled tea-pots and teacups.

If you’re not big on the traditional wedding cake idea, here’s your opportunity to replace it with uber-modern cupcakes in an assortment of flavours and colours to match your theme. Adding a coffee station with a variety of hot drinks, including Rooibos tea, will add a true South African flair.

Wedding reception high tea


Cocktail Reception Party

For wedding reception alternatives that move away from desserts and cakes altogether, consider having a cocktail party. Once again, no need for heavy buffet meals and over-the-top—expensive—table décor. Instead, offer an assortment of mini snacks. Female guests will enjoy the opportunity to dress in elegant cocktail dresses!

Here the happy couple can create a signature cocktail that’s all about them. Consider presenting it in funky cocktail glasses or little take-home bottles as a wedding favour. A great way to get a cocktail party started is to set up a Champagne tower which you and your partner pour from the top until it cascades to the bottom. This surely does make for an interesting alternative to cutting the cake!

Picnic in the Park

If you’re having a garden wedding, you might want to move away from having traditional tables and linen with exaggerated décor. Some couples prefer something a little simpler that doesn’t seem overpowering against nature’s backdrop.

Wedding picnic with teacups and fruit

Think outside the box on this one:

  • Picnic blankets
  • Individual picnic baskets for each family, filled with ingredients to make their own snacks
  • Cushions to sit on
  • A bottle of wine or your favourite bubbly with each basket

If you’re going for this type of wedding reception alternatives, change the dress code to something a little less formal so guests can pick comfortable outfits that are practical for the picnic. Also, it allows you to get out of your dress and shoes and into something more comfortable as soon as the ceremony is over! Then you’re ready for the party of the year!

Choose a private park close to the ceremony’s venue and be sure to arrange two or three portable toilets for your guests. You can place these out of sight so they’re not in the photos! Alternatively, pick a venue with a large garden that has existing restroom facilities.

Tip: remember to allocate a parking area away from where people will be sitting, so cars don’t spoil photos or kick up dust while guests are mingling.

Mr & Mrs lights

And Finally…

Opting for wedding reception alternatives that are slightly different from the usual sit-down meal in a banquet hall will result in a ton of awesome memories. Not to mention the photo opportunities! All it takes is a little out-of-the-box thinking combined with the quirky aspects that make you and your partner unique!




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