Cocktail Wedding vs Sit-down Receptions: Furniture Costs!

Cocktail wedding vs Sit-down reception: Furniture Costs! / Hampton Event Hire - wedding and event hire / / Photos by The Desert Rose Co and Heart and Colour

When it comes to planning a wedding, there are a few things you’ll tick off straight away: the wedding date, the wedding venue and your guest list. But when it comes to the style of your wedding, it’s a decision that might take a little longer!

We speak to many brides and grooms-to-be who are tossing up between a sit-down wedding reception or a stand-up cocktail party. And to be honest, we’re huge fans of both! But when it comes down to budget, there can be some variables to consider and some pricing differences to keep in mind for your furniture and decor hire.

Furniture orders for a sit-down reception vs a cocktail wedding are completely different, and when it comes to which is the most expensive, our answer is… it depends!! It can really be a grey area due to all of the different variables… how many meal courses are you having, what style of furniture do you have in mind, how big of a space do you have to work with.

It’s nearly impossible to give a clear-cut answer with so many different things to consider. But we thought we’d talk you through the considerations for both, so you can think about your unique requirements and figure out which wedding style is the best suited for you!

Photo by  Heart and Colour  / Venue at  Sarabah Estate

Sit-down wedding receptions: furniture costs

Let’s start with sit-down wedding receptions. Choosing furniture and decor for a sit-down wedding is usually a pretty straightforward process once you have a rough idea of your guest numbers, because the requirements are the same across the board.

You’ll obviously need dining tables and dining chairs for your guests, along with tableware per person including plates, cutlery, glassware and napkins. Then you have your table decor to think about - vases, candles, charger plates and other styling details. 

So where does this leave you when it comes to pricing?

For a 90 pax wedding, you’ll need 90 x chairs, 9 tables at a minimum (or a few more depending on your chosen table layout), and then 90 x individual plates, cutlery, glassware and napkins. For a furniture order with these basic requirements, based on a feasting menu with just one set of catering items for each guest, you would be looking at a ballpark figure of around $2500 for a 90-pax wedding.

Photo by  Heart and Colour  / Venue at  Sarabah Estate
Photo by  Heart and Colour  / Venue at  Sarabah Estate

We say ballpark figure because there are a few variables to keep in mind. For example, if you’re hosting a 3-course meal, that means extra sets of cutlery and plates required per guest. You can see why feasting menus can potentially help save some money in this area.

You then want to think about what’s happening before the dinner - are guests spending time mingling for pre-dinner drinks? You might need to add some cocktail pieces like dry bars, stools, lounges or extra glassware.

And finally, the actual furniture items you choose will have an affect on your overall pricing. For example, we have a range of different dining chairs available at different price points, so you can choose your chair style to work within your budget. Our tip is to invest a little extra in your dining tables and chairs as these will have the biggest impact on the space - you can then save money on table decorations and smaller styling details.

Cocktail wedding receptions: furniture costs

Stand-up cocktail weddings have been increasing in popularity over the years with many couples opting for this relaxed style of wedding reception. But it can be a little trickier working out your furniture and decor requirements and getting an idea of pricing - it’s definitely not as clear-cut as a sit-down wedding, but you do also have the option of being flexible with your furniture choices.

In terms of hiring furniture and decor for a cocktail wedding, we recommend allowing enough seats for at least half of your guests at any one time. Between 50 to 70% is the sweet spot depending on the ages and habits of your guests. We also recommend a mix of both high and low seating when it comes to the furniture styles.

With this in mind, your basic furniture order might look something like this: 2 x lounge packages, 4 dry bars with 4 stools around each, and 3 x low dining tables with 30 chairs. That’s enough seating for around 55 guests at any one time.

Styling by  The Events Lounge  / Venue at  The Orchard Estate  / Photo by  The Desert Rose Co
Styling by  The Events Lounge  / Venue at  The Orchard Estate  / Photo by  The Desert Rose Co

You then need to think about service bars and glassware. While you don’t need to worry about plates or cutlery, for a 90-pax wedding you’ll want to include 2 x bars and around 90 each champagne and wine glasses (check with your caterer on recommendations for glassware numbers).

For all of the above based on a 90-pax wedding, you’d be looking at around $2500 as a ballpark figure. So for your basic requirements, it’s going to work out roughly the same as a sit-down reception.

Here’s where the additional pricing can come in from a furniture perspective: textiles like cushions and rugs for your sofa settings, market umbrellas scattered around to provide shade, extra furniture to accommodate for elderly guests or to fill empty spaces.

Just like a sit-down reception, it will all depend on the style 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? A cocktail wedding allows you to be flexible with your furniture options and mix and match until you find a combination of pieces that work best for your styling vision and your budget.

Styling by  The Events Lounge  / Venue at  The Orchard Estate  / Photo by  The Desert Rose Co


Although the furniture requirements for a sit-down vs a cocktail style reception are completely different, you can see that the costs are roughly the same from a hire point of view. Differences in pricing will all come down to your guest list, food and beverage service, the furniture styles you have in mind, and the space and capacity at the venue. 

Our tip: instead focus on the look and feel you want to create at your wedding and use this your guide to choosing either a sit-down or stand-up reception. Start by writing a list of your furniture requirements (we have a super helpful checklist to refer to) and then find a hire provider that can make recommendations to suit. Our team are experts at making suggestions to work within your budget while bringing your vision to life, so when you're ready to get started simply get in touch for more information!

Happy planning :)