Cocktail vs Sit-down Wedding Receptions: Costs Involved and Things to Consider

Planning a wedding involves endless decision making. Spring or summer? Big or small? Beachfront celebration or hinterland escape? No matter where or when you’ve decided to host your special day, one of the trickiest decisions can actually be choosing between a cocktail or sit-down wedding reception.

Personally, we love both options equally, but there are definitely some differences and considerations to keep in mind for each one. So, we thought we’d talk you through each style to help you make your final decision!

If you’re currently torn between a cocktail or sit-down wedding reception, keep the below tips in mind to choose the best fit for your celebration.

Think about the vibe you want to create

The first thing you’ll want to consider is the overall atmosphere you want to create for your day. What does your dream wedding reception look and feel like? What elements are the most important to you, and how do you want the day to “flow” from start to finish? This should be your biggest influencing factor when it comes to deciding between a cocktail or sit-down reception.

A cocktail wedding can be a more relaxed, informal and social option, with guests having the opportunity to mix and mingle throughout the evening. While you can still include traditional elements like speeches and cake cutting, this kind of wedding is generally more laid-back and less structured. This is also the kind of reception style that lends itself best to elements like food trucks or cocktail stations.

Image by  Jason Corroto Photo , Styled by  The Make Haus

A sit-down reception is generally seen as the more traditional and formal option, and offers some more structure when it comes to the actual “flow” of your evening. Seated wedding receptions can also provide a more intimate feel, by creating a dinner-party style ambience for your celebration. This kind of reception is all about the dining experience - so if you guys are serious foodies, this could be a great pick for you.

In saying all of this - your furniture, decor and overall styling can help to create a relaxed OR formal feel for either option, so don’t feel restricted. For example, you can completely dress up a cocktail reception with luxe gold accents, velvets and marble details, or create a low-key vibe for your reception with earthy timbers and natural textures.

Image by  Figtree Pictures , Styled by  The Events Co

Image by Figtree Pictures, Styled by The Events Co

Cocktail vs sit down wedding reception costs3.jpeg
Image by  Katie Grant Photo , Styled by VC Weddings

Image by Katie Grant Photo, Styled by VC Weddings

Consider the space at your venue

Another factor that can influence your decision to host a cocktail or sit-down reception is your chosen wedding venue. While a blank canvas wedding venue or marquee wedding gives you complete free rein, other spaces (due to the size, shape, flooring or design) might simply work better with a cocktail set-up, or vice versa. Your guest numbers will also come into play here, as you can generally fit more guests into a space by hosting a stand-up celebration. Our tip is to ask your wedding venue for photos that show both options from previous weddings, so you can compare the two.

Image by  Figtree Pictures , Styled by  The Events Lounge
Image by  Figtree Pictures

Consider Costs and equipment

One of the final things you’ll want to think about is the costs involved with both options. Many people assume cocktail weddings are cheaper than sit-down weddings, but this isn’t always the case. Although the furniture requirements for a sit-down vs a cocktail style reception are completely different, you might find the costs to be roughly the same once everything adds up.

While it might seem like there’s a lot of equipment required for a sit-down wedding (like chairs, tables, plates, cutlery, napkins and glassware), you’ll still have your own set of requirements for a cocktail wedding (like lounges, dry bars and stools, service bars and textiles, along with glassware and other catering equipment). You might want to map out some rough costs for both options depending on your requirements - you can find our complete hire checklists on the blog right here to get started.

With both options, costs will vary based on the style and quantities of your furniture too. Do you really want to make a statement with some beautiful high-end pieces or are you going for a more casual look? Either way, you have complete freedom to be flexible with your furniture options and find a combination of pieces that work best for your styling vision and your budget.

Image by Figtree Pictures, Styled by The Events Lounge

Image by Figtree Pictures, Styled by The Events Lounge

Whether you choose a cocktail or sit-down wedding reception, we have total faith your celebration will be everything you hoped for and more! Get in touch with our team for a copy of our latest hire catalogue, or to chat through your wedding plans. For more wedding planning tips and styling inspiration, you can also browse our latest blogs below.