6 Alternative Wedding Receptions That'll Wow Your Guests

Photo: Courtesy of Tiny Water Photography/Lover.ly.
UPDATE: This story was originally published March 30.
If you love offbeat brides like Keira Knightley and Amber Tamblyn and you know you want to wear a short wedding dress, why not opt for a nontraditional wedding reception, too? We love real weddings that skip the formal sit-down dinner in favor of a lighter (and often cheaper!) post-ceremony meal. Read on for six of our favorite nontraditional reception ideas.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tiny Water Photography/Lover.ly.
Breakfast and brunch weddings are a great idea for early risers, waffle enthusiasts, and couples on a tight budget. Offer up a custom omelet station, a waffle bar overflowing with toppings, a pour-over coffee bar, and free-flowing mimosas. Not only will it cost you less to forgo a many-hours-long open bar, no one will question it if you skip the DJ, and you can definitely get away with having a brunch wedding on a Sunday when you're guaranteed to get a good deal on the venue of your dreams.
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Photo: Courtesy of Simply Bloom/Lover.ly.
A brunch reception may be too early for some couples to stomach — after all, if you're serving up your post-nuptial meal at 11 a.m., you'll be saying your vows with the sunrise. If you like the idea of a daytime reception but can't pull yourself out of bed before dawn, marry at noon and serve your guests lunch shortly thereafter. Consider having a picnic in your favorite local park following your "I dos." Serve up lemonade, champagne cocktails, and micro brews alongside your favorite barbecue or tasty sandwiches.
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Photo: Courtesy of MCG Photography/Lover.ly.
Cocktail receptions take place in the evening but are a bit less formal than traditional wedding receptions. Instead of a full sit-down meal, guests wind their way around your venue, sampling small bites from different food stations or roving waiters. The bar is open and can serve beer, wine and signature cocktails, or offer up any variety of beverages depending on your budget and tastes. (Note: cocktail receptions tend to be shorter than traditional ones, so you'll want to make your way around the reception more quickly to ensure you greet every guest.) And, of course, be sure your guests are aware that a formal dinner won't be served!
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Cake & punch
A cake and punch reception — also known as a champagne and cake reception, or a drinks and desserts reception — is a variation on the cocktail reception that includes only sweet treats. These types of parties tend to take place later in the evening, after guests have had a chance to eat dinner, and can be a bit friendlier on your budget. Serve up a signature cocktail or your favorite bubbly and a slew of delicious treats — and expect plenty of speeches and dancing till dawn.
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Photo: Courtesy of Pat Moyer/Lover.ly.
High tea
A high-tea reception is a lovely sort of afternoon/early evening soiree that's perfect for quieter couples and those who might want to skip the alcohol. Serve a variety of aromatic teas, tasty sandwiches and desserts, and enjoy an elegant afternoon full of conversation.
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Photo: Courtesy of Dixie Pixel/Lover.ly.
Perhaps the most unconventional reception style, the potluck fete invites guests to contribute a dish to a communal meal. Perfect for families with storied culinary traditions, or even just those craving something a little more low-key, the potluck reception is sure to provide an atmosphere of festive fun. While potluck receptions have fallen out of favor in recent years, we'd love to see them come back as a trend!

PREVIOUSLY: Don't Want A DJ? 6 Alt Wedding Entertainment Ideas