Save money with a cake and punch reception

Guest post by Kelli Bielema

We've been getting a lot of questions about how to cut back on reception costs, and here's a retro low-budget wedding trend that needs to come back: CAKE & PUNCH!

cake and punch reception
Photo by Carly Bish

The question a wedding planner gets asked the most from couples is something along the lines of “how can we do this whole thing for less money?” And I usually return with another question which is something akin to “what are the top three things you want out of your wedding day memories?”

Never at the top of this list is “we want to spend lots of money to impress people on our really good taste in choosing entrees and votives!” Almost always numero uno is “We want to share our day with our friends and family and have a really kick ass time.” And if you think you can only do that from 6pm on, well, that's just nutters!

Once upon a time (okay, mostly in the '40s and '50s, before weddings became huge social events) weddings were typically held in a church with a cake and punch reception directly followed in the basement. So, the idea of a $20,000 affair has been brought to you courtesy of the wedding industry!

So, let's talk about this concept of a cake reception and how it can save you a ton of money. (And how NO, it's not tacky. Or rather, everything's tacky so nothing is.)

Cake & Punch: doesn't necessarily mean cake or punch

Really, the concept of a Cake & Punch reception is this: instead of serving your guests a full meal or even a buffet, you provide light snacks and dessert with a few beverages. Historically, that meant cake and punch… but things have changed.

First, let's talk about the idea of “punch.” Good gravy, I am not suggesting you have to throw a dry wedding (unless you want one, in which case DO IT, I SAY!). Nothing goes better with cake than, um, just about any alcoholic beverage: champagne, Prosecco, White Russians, Irish Coffee, and for crying out loud, there is cake-flavored vodka, people! And if Aunt Sally is just crying to participate in wedding day activities, tell her to whip up one of these booze cakes and wash it down with a latte (rent a percolator or hire a coffee cart).

Second, cake doesn't have to mean CAKE, of course. You can do this donut thingy from Shelley and Wayne's wedding or a whole bunch of different cookies and brownies. And if you do cake, there are certainly five million options out there. Spend your cash on a pretty cutting cake if you want a picture, and then get a sheet cake to serve your peeps. I have had plenty of grody wedding desserts, but if you want the most bang for your buck, Costco does some REALLY GOOD SHIT in their bakery. Plus, you know one cake will serve at least 750 cousins.

And can we talk pie? One of my couples this past summer had the best idea. They gave about 12 wedding guests two pie tins each and said, “Here. Make two pies for our reception. That is all the gift we need.” It cost them the price of two Pyrex pie dishes times 12. And at the party, the bride and groom welcomed guests to the dessert table and topped their slices with whipped cream. It gave the couple an opportunity to say hello to everyone, much like a receiving line. This was likely one of the most well-attended dessert tables I had ever seen! And I still need to get at least three of the pie recipes.

Whatever you do, just make sure you're very VERY clear on your wedding invitations that the celebration will include a wedding ceremony and light refreshments. You can use language like:

  • finger foods
  • small bites
  • sandwiches
  • cheese tray
  • cocktail reception
  • champagne

You just want to make sure you don't commit the faux pas of misleading your guests into thinking they're getting a full meal. It's not just about etiquette — it's about not having hangry guests!

Monica & Phil57
Photo by Wild About You Photography

Cake and punch wedding timeline: Logistics & Scheduling

Some other logistics to consider when considering a cake and punch reception is time of day and season. Naturally, weekdays before 6pm in the winter will get you discounts on venues. You know what it will also get you? Attendees! Okay, given that the weather isn't craptastic, you will have fewer people going on family vacations, kids are still in school, and you have fewer competition with other couples who are getting married during the other busy months. There should be NO EXCUSE for missing your 2pm party!

So, what would all of this look like in money and time? Consider cake and punch wedding timeline below for about 100 guests, with Seattle-area rates. Costs don't include your venue, clothes, decor, or cab fare for drunkies (but really, most people aren't going to get totally hosed on a Thursday afternoon, which also saves you several bones as well!).

2:00pm: Ceremony!

2:30pm: Bites and music playing

  • Passed desserts (petit fours, small Mexican wedding cookies in little baking cups), or put them in stations. If these are purchased, you could spend up to $300 for quality items from a bakery.
  • Coffee (with booze mixers like Irish Crème). If you rent a percolator, get some decent coffee, creamer, stir sticks, et al., plus booze to spike coffee, probably all for around $300. If you want to rent cups, figure another 75 cents per cup/saucer set. Otherwise, get compostable paper cups for around $30 for 200.
  • Wine/sparkling wine station. Consider your crowd and their preferences for any wine/booze situation. You can almost always return unused bottles (so long as they have not been chilled in ice and suffered condensation on the label). For 100 people, I would suggest three cases of various wines so there's a red, a white, and a sparkling. Go heavy on the sparkling. It's lighter and more folks will indulge. You could also add a juice mixer, like pomegranate, that will cut back alcohol expense. $10-ish bottles of wine = around $360. Rented glassware around 50 cents per stem. Plastic compostable cups around $5 per 50 (get around 300+).
  • Sodas/Water. Just get a few varieties including fizzy water. $50
  • Punch. Yeah, you can make punch. Get a big ol' Thermos (the kind like football players throw on each other at the end of winning games) and fill ‘er up. Have some on reserve. Mix vodka with just about any few juice concentrates (pineapple, orange, mango) and some Sprite, and you're done. All of those ingredients (if you use the cheap stuff) will run you around $50.
  • You'll need to rent or purchase glassware (see wine recommendations).

3:30pm: Cake cutting (if you wanna)
(This includes other traditional wedding elements or anything requiring people to “do stuff.”)

  • Serve cake to guests (Consider plate and utensil rental costs = 60 cents per plate, 40 cents per fork)
  • A small cutting cake will serve about 10 people, usually. Nobody ever wants a restaurant-sized slice. (I'm looking at you, Claim Jumper!)
  • Fancy cakes will typically cost you around $500 to start, then another $150 or so for additional sheet cakes.

3:45pm: Dancing!
iPod DJ, anyone?

6:00 pm: Party's over
Or order pizza if your venue allows it! And, you can always take the gang to a second location where you aren't footing the bill.

princess bride cake
Photo by Wild About You Photography

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Comments on Save money with a cake and punch reception

  1. My grandparents and parents did this, so I did it too! We had an “afternoon tea party” with a 1:30 pm wedding and a 2:15 tea party reception with drinks, tea sandwiches, cookies, fruit and veggie platters and such and then for “cake cutting” we had cupcakes. It was great and inexpensive.

    • Anka, got any pictures? Wanna share your full menu? We’d love to see!

      • We did basically this exact same thing: church basement and all. If I ever get around to doing anything with my wedding photos, I’ll submit ’em. I was worried that people were going to be bored, but everyone had a nice time and got out the door in time to have some fun in the sun. We got married at 2 and we were home by 5pm.

  2. Weddings are awesome! I’ve been to weddings as small as fifteen people to two hundred, big money, no money, each one has been special, maybe even the ones with less money tend to be more original.

    One wedding was held in a warehouse church, they served coffee and frozen yogurt. The bride tried on a bridesmaid dress and ordered it in ivory! She was not playing around. The photographer (me) was their biggest expense and I’m budget too! They loved their wedding!

    Another great budget idea is get married early, have brunch, mimosa and bloody marys!

      • Argh, last night I made a last-ditch effort to convince my fiance to have a brunch wedding instead of a Saturday night affair and he was open to it but skeptical (he’s of the “we owe them a big meal” belief since most of them are traveling). But looking at those pictures and reading these comments, I’m sort of wanting to keep the discussion going.

        Maybe a compromise: a breakfast for dinner wedding?

        • We do this tea party too. For the out of town guest, we treat them on rehearsal dinner (nice full meal with booze) together with bridal party.

        • We have this too. My fiance’s idea is to treat out of town guests on rehearsal dinner together with bridal party (nice full meal with booze). Maybe this will help you.

        • Or….heavy apps is a good way to go in lieu of a meal. I had a couple this summer who did just that & the caterers brought food out ALL NIGHT LONG (cue Lionel Richie). People were satisfied (and we had food leftover, even!) and eating while drinking slows down on people getting too sloshed!

  3. My favorite wedding as a kid was a BYO-Burger the groom rented a big grill and we all brought stuff to put on it. My dad and a groomsman kept things from burning and a boom box kept us grovin’

  4. We had breakfast at our wedding! Since we got married at a bed and breakfast (And breakfast is my favorite meal to have anytime of the day) I thought it would be super easy and cute. It was, after we convinced the vendor to go for it. He swore people would not want breakfast twice in one day. So wrong. It was definitely a cheaper option but I felt good about still giving my guests a full meal since quite a few of them had 2-3 hour drives.

    • Awesome!! Breakfast is THE BEST. I would love to do a wedding with a waffle bar. Think of ALL THOSE TOPPINGS!

      • I think you can serve breakfast at ANYtime, but if you do a brunch-hour wedding, you can serve anytime between 11-1, really!

      • We basically did breakfast for dinner. Granted, it was an early dinner at 5.

        We did add this ham carving station, mostly cause D (the husband) loves ham.

  5. Love this! This is exactly what we are doing for our wedding and I like seeing articles about simpler weddings.

  6. I would love to go to a wedding with any of the above!! My grandparents had a cake and punch reception in a backyard, and the first thing my grandmother said to me when I got engaged was, “Well, just don’t do anything too elaborate!”.

  7. This is what I am planning for my wedding in November 2013!!!! My only conundrum is how to word the invites…. I can’t say ‘cake and punch’ if there won’t be any of either… help?

      • AHA! Thank you… I just needed something that people would understand to mean ‘food and drink, but not a meal’. I have been describing it as ‘Cake and Canapes’, ‘Cake and Punch’, ‘Heavy Afternoon Tea’…. for some reason was struggling to come up with a succinct wording 🙂

      • We went with “snacks and merriment” because we didn’t have booze or dancing. Also, timing is important. No one expects a full meal at 2:30, but if you plan your reception at lunchtime…people will expect lunch.

    • You can also call it a Dessert Reception. That implies yummy sweets without attaching you to cake and punch.

  8. This post helped me zero in on just what I really wanted, and linking it to my FH was all it took for us to have a major thing checked off our decision list.

  9. Thank you for the validation that this is still a good option. There is nothing wrong with a simple reception. Guests are not “owed” a full meal.

    • It comes down to a matter of priorities: if you only have $X, you can feed maybe 25 people a full meal… or you can do light refreshments for 100. Do you want more people/less food, or more food/less people?

      Used to be, Cake & Punch was the “acceptable” way to deal with a large guestlist and a small budget. Of course now there are all sorts of ways (have it in the backyard! Do a potluck! Have a cash bar! Whatever!), but I think it’s good to remember that you can still have a big guestlist with a low-budget wedding…. just feed ’em less! 🙂

    • TOTALLY, Karen. I tell couples this a lot…like, A LOT. And I concur Ariel’s statements…..any way you want to celebrate, your guests will enjoy…even if you need to explain some crap to them! ; )

      • I know this is an older post but Ive been struggling with this. Is not the need to ‘explain some crap’ key? A few of us had attended a wedding we had to leave at 8am for to drive to a lovely beach in time for a noon wedding. Then no food! No one had eaten in the morning. We expected SOMEthing. Then we were told it was time to cut the cake. Huh? Its 2pm. Sluggish and starving. We were also only offered punch or water. The bride asked us why we werent dancing. Hmm. I was appalled. But it wasnt just me. After having a bite of cake for bkfst/lunch we decided when we were informed it was over to go to Burger King. So okay. If they cant afford to feed us fine. Though we did receive fancy Godiva favors to leave with. But shouldnt they have needed to inform us so we would be prepared?

  10. Cake and punch is cool, but here’s the reason I think it doesn’t work for many, many weddings nowadays:

    Nowadays guests are traveling. Whereas in the past (1950’s and prior, let’s say) it was much more common for people to live close to where they had grown up, get married in the church they might have been a member of, surrounded by local family friends. Many couples met in the same hometown even, so it was even closer for all parties attending. Nowadays, not so much.

    Let’s say that in an average wedding 60% of your guests are from out of town (college friends, extended family. his or her family.) Could you imagine just inviting them for a few hours of afternoon fun, and then turning them out to go and fend for themselves for dinner and return to their hotel rooms?

    I guess I feel strongly about this because 99% of my friends and family are going to travel long distances for my wedding. We all live so far apart. There’s no “hometown”. So a meal is the least I can do to feed the people who left their homes for a weekend and schlepped all the way to be at this wedding. Right?

    If travel were not a factor, then I think cake and punch sounds lovely.

    • I worry about this too, I’m not engaged but I know we’re going to want to save money. Our situation is similar, only about five family members are nearby.

      Are traveling guests owed a meal or a “big” event?

      • We had about 100 people, total, at our wedding. About 25 of them were from out of town (primarily my husband’s family, or his close friends). We had our cake n’ punch reception, and we made it really clear on the invitations.

        We did want a little more time to see his family/friends (and for them to meet me…how much personal time to you really get with the bride and groom at the wedding anyway), so we hosted a sit-down rehearsal dinner the night before, and invited our families and “honorary attendants”. It still ended up cheaper than a huge reception, we got nice time with our out-of-townies, we didn’t gab about it to everyone who wasn’t invited, and in the end, our out-of-town guests loved that they got to be tourists together in downtown Seattle for the night. It was a win-win.

        Ultimately, your guests are grown-ass people*, “your wedding is not an imposition”, and as long as you don’t schedule your wedding over a meal and not feed them or promise them a meal and not come through, they’ll be able to have a great time. They are there for you.

        One of my husband’s friends flew in the day before the wedding, went straight to the venue, eagerly helped us set up, did a lot of heavy lifting, was a huge help during our totally DIY reception, and thanked us hearily that he got to be involved on our big day.

        Your people, they love you. And if they don’t and they are only there for the meal, then it’s their loss.

        • how did you word it on your invitations that you were doing a cake and punch reception only and did u do it right there at the church?

    • I think it’s about letting your guests decide. As long as your invitation is clear that you’re only doing “light refreshments,” ultimately it’s up to each guest to decide whether they want to travel for that.

      I know for me, there are some couple-friends I’d be willing to travel around the world to see get married, even if they were just serving sprite & potato chips. Lydia asks a great question:

      Are traveling guests owed a meal or a “big” event?

      Speaking for myself as a guest, I’m not traveling for the food. I’m traveling to support a couple I love. But that’s going to depend on the guest, and I think it’s fine to trust guests to make their own decisions about that. I suppose an exception might be if you have international family? But in that case, your priority might be on having a very small intimate wedding, and really treating-out your international guests. Again: totally different situation and set of priorities, which doesn’t change the fact that Cake & Punch can be a great option for folks in different situations.

      That said, like all advice on Offbeat Bride, whether it’s relevant for you is going to depend on both your situation and your priorities.

    • i get this. i’m working with a large guest lists, guests with large appetites, and a small budget. my solution was to have a sandwich bar. people can put together big hearty meals, every diet is covered, and it doesn’t cost too much.

      • You should only invite the ppl who wile be there for you through out the marriage and who u are very close to I only have 5 ppl on my side comming to my wedding and 19 on his they are family oriantated but close no uncle or aunts just brothers and sisters mothers and fathers children

    • We had all traveling guests but kept everything low budget (had it in the backyard, etc.). In my mind, a wedding is about people coming to support your union, not attend a party. Of course I still wanted us to have a great party–and turns out that is totally possible on a small budget! 🙂 With mindful planning, you can have all the ingredients you need for a fun and meaningful time while skimping on any and all of the “must haves.” And just to raise point that I haven’t seen yet, which was part of my rationale for a simple, old-school wedding: The wedding is kind of a fundraiser. By this, I mean that in many traditions, people give you wedding gifts to help you start your married life/new household. It seems messed up for the wedding to cost so much that each guest that gives a gift is kind of just paying for their plate, or worst case scenario, you start off your married life in debt. I think if people thought about it, they certainly wouldn’t want you to spend just for their sake. You catering 100 people dinner, vs them buying their own pizza that night (like every night)? The cost difference is so vast. We ended up being able to serve a meal for a good price (especially since friends gifted dessert AND the beer), but I totally support cake and punch even for traveling guests.

    • My compromise for this is to have a small lunch or dinner before the ceremony with my out-of-town guests. We’re having a late ceremony, 7:30 0r so, followed by a booze n dessert reception. Most of our folks are local, but some are traveling from quite a ways, so this is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to a dozen or so people, instead of trying to find money in the budget to cater a meal for 100.

  11. i love the timeline in this entry. FH and i are doing a sandwich bar for our reception. It’s lunch, so people aren’t expecting a huge elaborate meal, laying out all the different breads and sandwich ingredients means accommodating special diets is a cinch, and it’s still nice and filling so people won’t go hungry. my only concern was making the day flow smoothly since we aren’t following a typical evening timeline.

    • SANDWICH BAR. YES!!! I find at most guests really get into things like food bars. They like to make their own & be creative. I know as a vegetarian, I totally appreciate being able to pick & choose what I want to nosh on. I would LOVE to see how it all goes down in photos! FUN!!!!!

  12. I laughed at the first paragraph in this article because food was one of the top three priorities for us and we ended up spending about half of our (very small!) budget to feed our guests a fancyish three-course meal. We cut out a lot of supposedly mandatory things but the food was worth it. That being said, the cake and punch concept sounds awesome!

    • Actually, a lot of my couples have food on their priority list! I think only if it’s really bad & you only have pretzels, it might be something your guests remember not so positively. But it all comes down to what YOU want & seeing at it was worth it makes it all the more wonderful!!!
      ; )

  13. I may just send this over to my mom – it’ll make her super happy. She’s always been a little bemused by modern wedding standards. My parents go married in a tiny church with a cake and punch reception at my mother’s parents’ house afterwards. My mother and her sisters all wore dresses made by my grandmother. My dad wore an awesome light blue suit. And quite frankly, if I ever decide to get hitched, I think something low key is the way I’ll go too. Maybe without the light blue suit though.

  14. We got married last Friday (WOOP WOOP!!) and did exactly this. We had the ceremony at 2-2:30pm, photos from 2:30-3, afternoon tea from 3-4 then dancing from 4-5. We then spent the night in a lighthouse and got pizza delivered! Our invites said “ceremony followed by cupcakes and Foxton Fizz” (locally made soda pop). Several people commented on how nice it was to do something ‘different’ and no one seemed to miss the booze…

    • You’re in Wellington goldfish?? I so want Foxton Fizz at our wedding!!

      Where did you get married? (Sorry for all the questions, rare to see a Kiwi wedding).

      We’re getting married in Wellington in April, and tossing up an afternoon tea wedding. Just worried about what to do afterwards, as 99% of people are travelling to Wellington for the wedding. Tricky.

      • Hi Sarina! Yup I’m in Wellington – we got married in the Breaker Bay Community Hall. Please feel free to get hold of via the tribe if you have any vendor/local advice questions 🙂

        If it’s any help, we had an informal BBQ the day after the wedding at our house – it gave us more of a chance to hang out with guests from out of town.

        • This is weird, but I too am from Wellington! Clearly there is a cake and punch revolution going on in the antipodes 🙂

      • Another Wellington/just moved to the Wairarapa couple here. =) We were meant to spend a night at ‘The Keep’ as an engagement present from my future inlaws, but due to a change in circumstances ended up having the money that would have gone towards that go to a moving truck.
        We have decided on a afternoon wedding with a country fair theme and will have snacks all afternoon to accompany the games/activities (think a ‘bake sale’ table with mismatched plates) and we will have a bbq dinner at around 5pm, then those that don’t want to drive the hill at night can head back to town early (My almost inlaws have a Wairarapa lifestyle block with a lake, perfect for the summer backyard wedding) and those that want to stay late with us can.

    • YAY Goldfish! I think it’s also fun to incorporate something local or something that your guests are introduced to. Love it!

  15. I would love to go to a cake and punch wedding! There’s something about it that sounds so fabulously retro, and it’s simple, sweet, and just…awesome. Also, the idea of having some guests bake pies is kind of fabulous!

  16. I went to a bunch of cake & punch wedding receptions as a kid in the Southern U.S. Literally served cake & punch, usually in the church social hall. This was just in the ’70 & ’80s, so it’s not like it was *that* retro 🙂

    • Gird your loins: the majority of Offbeat Bride’s readers were born in the mid-’80s, so it’s totally retro to them. 😉

      *gets out cane and waves it around*

      • I would certainly ‘gird’ if I didn’t need to google the meaning (just how old are you Ariel?)! As it is, I fell off my office chair whilst throwing up my hands in horror that the 80s are retro, and I am apparently an antique 🙂

      • I was born in ’85 but am from the rural southeast, so all the weddings I went to growing up were cake and punch church weddings. That’s the 90’s~not retro at all to me! The first time I had a dinner at a wedding was in 2000 or 2001, and I remember being very pleasantly surprised at my prime rib. My mother explained it by saying the bride had some restaurant connection and could get food cheap! So I still thought it was a total (delicious) fluke until probably college haha.

  17. A word to the wise: if you are having a 2pm wedding with cake/punch and maybe some nuts and mints afterwards, MAKE SURE THE WEDDING PARTY EATS BEFORE THE PREPARATION MADNESS BEGINS! I thought I would die at my best friend’s wedding when I had pancakes at 8am and then nothing until 3pm when I had cake and then 8:00pm when the church was undecorated and cleaned up, and one of the wedding guests and I went to Denny’s.

    Planned properly, I think an event like this could be budget friendly and super fun!

    • Very good point! Ordering boxed lunches to be delivered is also wise. Those things usually come with a sammich, chips, salad, cookie & fruit & water, so there’s plenty to graze on if need be! ; )

  18. i just think it’s important, ESPECIALLY if your wedding is in the evening, to let guests know if there isn’t going to be a full meal. “light refreshments” is totally a good way to clue people in.

    i drove 5 hours for a wedding, when i was a broke college student crashing at a friend’s house that night, and was sad and hungry that there was only cake and punch and mints and nuts.

    • COMPLETELY agree with you. I encourage all of my couples to always give a phrase about what food is going to be served so expectations are totally set!

  19. We had a wedding breakfast for the select few who came to our actual ceremony, but for our open house style reception in the evening, we had a hot chocolate bar (flavor syrups, mints, etc.) and cookies. It was just right for us and really cheap because we found $3/dozen cookies at Costco, and since our wedding was a week before Christmas they were even decorated in our colors – red and green!

  20. I know this is the perfect thing to do in the afternoon, but what about an after-dinnertime wedding? Our venue is a museum so we aren’t allowed to start until after they’re closed (6pm). If we wait until 7:30 for the (extremely brief) ceremony, we would be starting the reception around 8… would that be a reasonable time for “cake and punch”?

    • I think if your wedding is at 7:30 you could call that after dinner. So as long as it is clear that you are only doing dessert you should be fine.

  21. I’m planning for August and like the idea of this. I’d like to have it at a campground in the mountains about 20 miles from the nearest town. I am planning on about 4o guests, about half of them drink. I worry about people drunk driving. If the ceremony is at 2 and we go till about 6, is it rude to not serve a real meal and then send everyone packing. Some will have to drive a couple hours home. I have no problem serving tons of snacks. My guy and I will stay in a cabin and there are cabins, RV spaces, and tents spots available and I’d like to encourage people to camp, and I will include info for rooms in the nearest town. For those that stay we can BBQ, but I don’t want to feed everyone. Does this sound feasible?

  22. We’re doing cake and ice cream, because those are two of my favorite foods EVAR and it sorta allows the guests to do have what they want. I mean, who doesn’t love a sundae bar??

  23. We did this and it was awesome. It was the perfect choice for our big church afternoon wedding; we didn’t want to leave out our church family but couldn’t afford dinner & dancing for 200!

  24. We are having just this kind of wedding! Our ceremony is at 2:30, then we’re having light refreshments (fruit, cheeses, little biscuit sandwiches) followed by cake and sparkling wine. A little iPod DJ music, and we’ll call it a party. I’m from a small town, where the cake and punch reception is still the norm, so I felt very little pressure to do a full meal.

  25. We’re doing a casual app thing with punch (alcohol) and pie 🙂 a tiny cake for us- it’s very similar to the wedding style my mom had in 1962 and since we’re marrying on their 50th anniversary it’s only fitting~

  26. This is how my folks did it back in the 50’s, and so did my three older sisters at their weddings…and so did I, over 20 yrs ago. Now that I’m planning a wedding for my second marriage, when I suggest the concept of a dessert only reception to people, they look at me as though I’m from another planet. I have had people say to me, ” Wouldn’t you feel bad if someone had to drive an hour to your wedding only to find that there’s no food ? ” Uhm, no not at all. Why am I obligated to feed them? Are they coming to my wedding just for a meal? I personally think that if people believe that they need to be feed an expensive meal at a reception, the true meaning of the day has been lost. But that’s just me. I think as long as your reception isn’t right around a meal time, it can be a good idea. I also think it might be a good idea to alert your guests of this on the RSVP card, or even the invitation. Something along the lines of, “Join us for a dessert reception.” Some people still might be surprised once they get to the reception site, but I think most people would understand what that means.

  27. THANK YOU! Thank you so much for this post! My FH told his mom and sister that we wanted to have a “cupcake and champagne” reception after our private vows for our immediate family, and they were horrified! “Oh, no! You can’t do that, you have to feed people a meal!” I thought it was a sweet, simple idea, and they dumped all over it. I feel vindicated now, yes, it is really a THING. I was doing it vintage-style all along!

    • This was me and my mom, who did not like the idea of having a ‘cake & champagne’ reception for my wedding officiant and maid of honor’s family. She said that it was ‘inappropriate’ and it made me feel like crap to not go along with her suggestion, and she still made me feel bad about it afterward when she said (very bitterly and in a pouty way) that she won’t be bringing food. I felt like I was almost being guilt-tripped.

      What annoyed me the most was how she had to go around and tell everyone that ‘no, there will be no reception after the wedding; just cake and champagne’ when the cake and champagne IS the reception (or think that it’s inappropriate to not feed guests after the wedding). My husband and his family were right all along that we really had a reception, and these things do exist and have existed for a while (I didn’t believe them, sadly enough and also told people that we didn’t have a reception).

      *sigh* if I only found out about this article sooner! I wish I could go back in time to correct everyone and educate them about this.

  28. This is what I want to do!!!!!!!!! I can’t seem to talk anybody else into it though. I’m a second-time bride and this is his first time. We are definitely paying for everything ourselves. I want to focus more on the honeymoon and the marriage…not the wedding. I’d be happy with a JP type of thing!!! Gah!!!!

  29. We are having a cake and punch wedding this weekend! 2 pm ceremony in the back yard, immediately followed by brownies, bars, cupcakes and merriment!

  30. I got all tickled reading this. For our wedding I wanted to go simple. We got married at a church, my husband knew the pastor, so he didn’t charge us a fee for his services or the church, after the ceremony he said we could have a quickie reception in the foyer adjoining the sanctuary. I think we had determined it was at 1 or 2pm just after church was over and everyone else was already gone. I had decided to do cake and punch. At the time my husband worked at a restaurant and they decided to provide us with food and drinks, so the bonus was even though Chick fil a is closed on Sundays, we had Chick fil a for our wedding, it was a perfect fit to go with our simple idea. We were only there for about 1 hr past the ceremony. Later in the day all of the family that came in from out of town gathered at a restaurant for a meal together. My big splurge was on our honeymoon to Cancun. Only regret was not having a photographer, there are photos from the day…. but not up to my standards. I did however film our wedding ceremony and reception. 🙂

  31. I am desperate for this type of reception!! I’m from a large ‘invite one cousin you have to invite them all..’ type family . Luckily my OH lives at the other end of the country so I’m sneakily using a ‘cake and canapés’ reception as a way for my extended family to opt themselves out but still have the aunts/cousins/neighbours there I absolutely can’t bear not to be there.

    My question is this though, how do you stop the party? What did folks say on invites?

    Dancing isn’t a big priority for us, but merriment will be. Plus we’re a traditional Scottish family*/friends. how do I stop the party and what do my guest do afterwards?

    *big on booze and banter

  32. The article suggests returning unused alcohol, but that can’t always be the solution. It is best to know the ABC liquor laws in your area. I know where I live in CA, returning alcohol is not an option because it is considered “resale” since cash is being given back for the alcohol (even as a refund). Since the customer does not have a liquor license to sell alcohol, this is considered illegal. In our ABC laws, it specifically states that leftover product from events can not be returned, it can only be exchanged for the exact same item if the first product was defective.

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