We all love a great wedding: a heartfelt ceremony, refreshing cocktails, delicious food at a sit down dinner and some dancing to top it all off. Sprinkle in some traditional elements before dinner and you’re set! This is a tried and true formula but sometimes, it can get a little old. How do you break the mold for your event? Enter – the progressive reception. At this moment you might be scratching your head in confusion. Progressive parties are essentially cocktail style events, often with a club like atmosphere, that forgoes formal sit down dinners. While this idea can seem a little daunting, it’s a wonderful solution for a modern style event and is a quickly growing trend in the wedding industry, though it’s nor for everyone. Pull of the perfect progressive party with the pointers below!
Some wedding professionals will argue that progressive parties are most successful when a bride and groom provides solid seating for 50% of their guests with supplemental furniture, others will advise to provide more seating than your guest list demands. Either way you look at it, the key to seating and floor plans in this scenario is to think small with vignette style decor. Smaller tables that seat 4 or 6 encourage movement and keep large groups from posting up all night. Soft lounge seating in small groupings throughout the space softens up the look and lends to that cozy club vibe. Ottomans are a brides’s best friend and you can never have too many pillows or throw blankets! Add in some scattered cocktail tables and you’ve got a winning combination. If you space these elements throughout the room you’ll draw guests to the various areas while also providing great conversation pockets. Be sure to place some lounges around the dance floor as well to bring guests into the party.
Food service is what ultimately sets a progressive reception apart from the standard wedding. Nobody wants to attend a 5 hour cocktail party with minimal appetizers so the service of the food is imperative. These receptions are categorized by flowing food and station style service and it’s all about presentation. Stations differ from buffets in that they are smaller and feature specific food items at each, such as a taco station or sushi station. Start the evening with passed hors d’oeuvres and light far, moving to passed small plates and small action stations – keep in mind to serve items that are easy to consume (limited fork use) and dance floor approved. Since this is progressive there is no need to announce food service has begun. The guests will follow the lead of the bride and groom and the wedding party. The most important thing is to be sure there is food available throughout the night: transition from light, to heavy, to sweet as needed and don’t forget the late night snack. Not only will this keep your guests full, it will help define the evening as you go and offer tasty surprises as the party goes on.
Progressive receptions are not the time to DIY (because who has time for that?) and in all likelihood will be on the expensive end of wedding receptions. Where you’ll save in large centerpieces and expensive chairs or linens you’ll spend a chunk of change in specialty furniture and food service. This is when the right team is imperative. If you’re working with a caterer who only knows sit down dinners your event is doomed to fail. Similarly, you’ll want to work with a venue and rental company that understands the needs of this unique floor plan to help you along the way. Find the right company and trust your vendors!
Another prime factor to progressive receptions is the entertainment. Since they’re all about the relaxed club vibe you’ll need to be sure you hire the perfect DJ to carry the night. Kick off the dance party right away and keep guests shaking all evening. Spread out any “traditional” rituals you might want to include and as a bride you better get your butt on the dance floor! This is one area where you’ll really need to know your crowd and know what works to keep them mingling and moving. By opening a strong dance floor right away and encouraging guests to join in you’ll help distract the more traditional guests and eliminate the “dinner hour” feel. Don’t forget to look to your DJ for a killer lighting package to transform the reception (or perhaps lots of candlelight from a florist). This will really bring home the intimate party atmosphere.
Keep your Guests Happy
A progressive reception doesn’t work for every couple but you’ll know your friends and family best and if there are no strangers in the group – forge ahead! This style of reception is built to keep your guests up and mingling and is great for a room full of talkers, dancers and movers. Be sure to start the buzz early so everyone will know what to expect of the evening. If you’ve got a wedding website this is the perfect place to fill them in. Nobody likes to be surprised with an unexpected curveball. Consider including signage throughout the reception space to encourage mingling. Bring in some smaller details to spoil the guests as well: open bar, baskets of dancing shoes, Koozies to keep their drinks fresh. Don’t forget to provide a safe ride home for everyone with shuttle service if necessary. At the end of the day though, there will be some disgruntled guests who will miss the traditional sit down, and that’s okay – you can’t make everyone happy!
Featured image by Reichman Photography