Receptions: Beyond the Sit-down Dinner

If nighttime isn't the right time for your reception, think creatively! Here, some top wedding planners provide inspiration and tips.

Take the Cake

“The flavors of brunch foods should generally be mild, and that’s also true for the wedding cake. Flavors like strawberry and cream or amaretto-almond with raspberry filling are delicious and just right for the time of day.” Also consider a sweets station offering a selection of desserts like fruit cobblers or pies, éclairs, petit fours and cookies. Another ever-popular brunch treat: a playful make-your-own-sundae bar.

Beverage Bonanza

“A Bloody Mary station is always a good choice. The bartender mixes up the basic drink, and guests personalize their own by adding items like blue-cheese-stuffed olives or skewers of grilled shrimp and scallops. It’s delicious, and the skewers make a great display. Mimosas—a blend of champagne and orange juice—are also great at brunch. For those who aren’t up for alcohol, offer fruit juices, iced tea and lemonade in sugar-rimmed glasses. Finish off with a coffee station, where guests can customize their cup by adding extras like chocolate shavings, whipped cream and cinnamon.”

Hot Hues

“For linens, combining a vivid, Caribbean blue with bright white creates an amazing look, whether your celebration is indoors or out. (I find that for brunches fresh, crisp white usually works better than ivory.) You can spice it up by mixing in a vibrant orange for a really neat contrast. Airy, ethereal colors are perfect for outdoors. One pretty pairing is all white with accents of green. For example, you can do all of the linens in white and add giant green sun umbrellas over the tables. If your event is inside, go for what’s hot at the moment. Right now, color combos of brown with orange, gold or sage offer terrific color palettes.”

Dressed to Impress

“Have fun with your tables—choose oval, square or serpentine shapes instead of the traditional round shape that you’d probably use for a sit-down ballroom dinner. In place of one gigantic centerpiece on each table, try less-formal groupings of smaller vases filled with flowers. I also like to use big, freestanding arrangements—either of roses, gladiolas or mums, or cherry blossom or dogwood branches—around the perimeter of the space. If your reception is outdoors, use large potted plants with flowers. If you’re having an indoor event in a windowless room, break out the votive candles—they look great even for a daytime event.”

Morning Music

“Anything from a single musician to a full band is fine for a brunch celebration. Often, couples will choose to have relaxed, background-type music; in that case, hire a harpist, a string quartet or several violinists. But don’t think you have to do it this way: If you have a dancing crowd, then by all means go for it and get a band or DJ.”