Full-Service Dinner Receptions

Serving a Traditional Meal

Wedding receptions with full-service dinners, or sit down dinners as they are sometimes called, customarily take place between 6 pm and 9 pm in the evening hours.

Traditionally a cocktail hour proceeds the sit-down dinner, during which time waitstaff circulate the room with champagne and hors d'oeuvres, while guests mingle and await the bridal party's return from taking wedding pictures. The cocktail hour typically lasts between 1-hour and 1 hours.

Full-service receptions are considered more of a formal affair, compared to buffet receptions. At most full-service receptions waitstaff serve each table for the duration of the meal and guests are not expected to leave their seats to help themselves to food. Even though sit-down dinners can cost a great deal more than buffet dinners guests are often served more quickly and more efficiently at full-service receptions.

Full-service wedding receptions can also take more organization then buffet receptions. The majority of sit-down wedding receptions will have a well-thought out seating plan, and seated wedding receptions with 100 or more guests will find their seats thanks to printed table plans and table place cards, predetermined by the bride and groom.

Planning also comes into play with the dinner menu, which can consist of many courses. The proper order of dinner courses is typically as follows:

  • Appetizer with first bottle of wine (one white, one red).
  • Baskets of dinner rolls or breads
  • Salad
  • Soup
  • Entree with second bottle of wine
  • Dessert with after-dinner coffee or tea

Please keep in mind that in many cultures the order of dinner courses can differ slightly.

The timing for the cutting of the wedding cake can also differ according to custom. At many sit down dinner receptions the cake is cut and served as the desert after the meal. However, it's not uncommon for newlyweds to cut the cake 1 to 2-hours before the end of the wedding reception.

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