Should You Have Sit Down Or Cocktail Food At Your Wedding?

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There's no right or wrong answer when it comes to the question on virtually every bride's lips: Is a traditional sit-down wedding better than a contemporary cocktail function?


Weddings come in a variety of styles, from formal sit-down affairs to the more laid-back cocktail party. While formal sit-down weddings tend to take on a more traditional flavour, intimate cocktail soirées are a popular choice for the modern couple. When choosing a wedding style, your budget, guest list and personal taste are essential factors to consider throughout the planning process.

Food & drink

A sit-down wedding is the most traditional and formal type of wedding. It involves plated meals served individually to guests and tends to include an entrée, main and dessert. A sit-down function is a sure-fire way to ensure your guests are well fed and engaged in conversations around the table. However, with a fixed menu comes a big drawback: not all your guests are going to like the meal due to personal tastes or eating habits. If you have guests who are vegetarians or just plain fussy with food, you’ll have to ensure they are catered for ahead of the reception date. Most function venues are, however, well-equipped to cater for a range of dietary requirements, and menus usually come with a meat, fish and vegetarian option. 

On the flip side, modern, cocktail-style weddings have recently gained popularity among couples looking for a more informal, relaxed and inexpensive reception. The highlight of a cocktail wedding is the hors d’oeuvres — small, bite-sized appetisers served in place of a sit-down meal. The hors d’oeuvres can be a combination of both hot and cold bites, and can be served by roving waiters or arranged on tables for guests to help themselves, much like a buffet without seats. Hors d’oeuvres are more flexible and diverse than a multi-course meal, enabling the bride and groom to satisfy even the fussiest of taste buds. It is, however, important to inform your guests on your invitation that no formal meal will be provided to avoid any confusion. As the name implies, a cocktail wedding must also feature spirits. Most venues will offer a variety of drink packages for you to choose from to suit your palate and budget. An open bar that provides a selection of drinks for guests to choose from is a popular option.



The size of the venue for a sit-down wedding is usually bigger than standing receptions due to the space required for tables and chairs. Both long, rectangular and round tables take up a considerable amount of space at the venue. As such, there might be limited room for guests to walk around or dance if the venue is small. A budget-friendly option for a sit-down wedding can be a highly rated local restaurant where the staff are all experienced and can deal with a variety of dietary requirements. A hotel banquet room fitted with a dance floor is a common venue option for sit-down weddings. 

On the other hand, a cocktail-style wedding usually requires smaller and less-formal venues. As cocktail weddings are morem casual, a swanky city bar, gallery or industrial-style warehouse can be the ideal choice of venue. While it is a stand-up event, some seating and tables should still be provided for guests. An increasingly popular option, particularly among the modern couple, is an industrial-style venue. Industrial venues are typically inner-city warehouses with cement floors, high ceilings and large windows. This type of venue is suitable for both sit-down and cocktail weddings, and will usually accommodate both small and large parties.


With food and drinks being one of the biggest costs of a wedding, a multiple-course, sit-down meal will make a huge dent in your budget. It is estimated that the catering cost of a sit-down wedding is about 30 per cent higher than that of a stand-up wedding. The cost includes the food itself and the catering services. As sit-down weddings feature individual table service and more meals, the staff numbers in both the kitchen and on the floor are much larger than a buffet or cocktail wedding. With a large proportion of the budget taken up by catering, the bride and groom who choose a sit-down option may have to scrimp on other areas of their wedding, such as cars and stationery, to accommodate this style of reception. 

If the hip pocket is a key factor in deciding your wedding style, a cocktail wedding will save you a substantial amount from your total bill. Firstly, no main course is provided and a smaller amount of food is required for hors d’oeuvres. Also, the number of paid serving staff is greatly reduced if the guests can help themselves. In addition, the venue fee is usually cheaper since the size is more flexible when you remove the tables and chairs. Just keep in mind the spending on spirits and a wider selection of alcohol in an open bar can drive up costs because guests are likely to drink more with less food in their stomachs.

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