Winter Wedding Reception
Before I even met Forrest, I knew exactly what I wanted to have at my reception.
Assuming I got married during the colder part of the year, I thought that soups, bread, and a hot chocolate bar would make for the perfect items for our guests to have.
When we were about to get engaged, we originally thought we would wait until May to get married.
I didn’t really think soups would go well then, so we started thinking of other ideas.
However, when one thing led to another, and we decided to get married in December instead (who needs a long engagement?!), I was excited that I could do my soup/hot chocolate ideas.
I know — it might seem silly, but I was really excited! We added a few more fun things to the menu, and it was all perfect for the cold night.
We didn’t have one specific person or place cater – we searched around for the best prices on individual items.
This ended up being a smart move, as we got a lot of variety and the best prices. We even used a few friends and family members who were willing to make some things for us.
Although it took a little bit of effort, I think we ended up spending quite a bit less than we would have, had we gone with a traditional caterer. Plus, all the food was super tasty and hearty.
We probably had about 300 people at our reception, and there was plenty of soup and cake leftover. The other amounts for the food we bought seemed like the perfect amount.
Wedding Reception Food Ideas
Soup Wedding Reception
How to Serve Soup at a Wedding
Serving Suggestions: Get enough soup to for 1.5 servings per person, and trust the serving suggestion given for the soup. My mom said that soup is something you definitely don’t want to have a lot leftover. We also used my mom’s Trio Buffet Cooker to hold the soups and keep them warm.
Soup Bar Ideas
Zuppa Toscana from Olive Garden – 26.99 (serves 12) 15.49 (serves 6). This was probably our biggest splurge, but it’s one of my favorite soups, so we were able to get a little bit of it. It’s also super simple to make — here is great recipe homemade Zuppa Toscana.
Creamy Vegetable and Turkey from Sweet Tomatoes – $20/bag
Chili from Sweet Tomatoes – $20/bag
The soups from Sweet Tomatoes came in big bags that had to be heated up, but they were super inexpensive.
We bought four bags (two of each flavor) and we would have been totally fine with just one bag.
Chicken Posole (Homemade) – My sister-in-law made this for our reception, and it was the first soup gone. Here is her amazing recipe!
You can’t have soup with delicious breads to dip in them, right?!
Garlic Knots – homemade by a friend, but here’s my garlic knot recipe that everyone always requests
Cheddar Bay Biscuits – Red Lobster (You can buy them directly from Red Lobster, or you can buy a boxed mix and make them yourself. They taste great!)
Olive Garden Breadsticks – 5.49 a dozen (copycat recipe can be found here)
Spinach Artichoke Dip from Olive Garden – $17.49, serves 6. Obviously, another splurge.
However, Spinach Artichoke dip is super easy to make — in fact, I have a great Applebee’s Copycat Spinach Artichoke Recipe that would be perfect for a wedding!
Cream Cheese Won Tons – My mom was able to get this for pretty cheap from a local Chinese restaurant…at first, I thought it was kind of random, but they were some of the first items gone!
Hot Chocolate Bar Wedding
For some reason, I always thought a hot chocolate bar would be so fun.
Sadly, so did everyone else that got married within about a year of me.
But just in case you were wondering…I thought of it first (just kidding.)
It was a really simple idea, but it turned out well, and everyone seemed to enjoy it.
Here are some of the things we did to make this successful.
How to Serve Hot Chocolate at a Wedding
- It took us forever to decided, and find, the types of hot chocolate cups we wanted. It was hard because many of the cups out there that are created for hot chocolate are cheap looking, or too “cutesy.” So I was thrilled when we found these Fineline Flair Cups with handles. They come in a variety of colors and looked pretty classy.
- One of the problems with having a hot chocolate bar is figuring out how to keep it warm! We ended up renting a large beverage dispenser from the local parks and recreation department that worked perfectly. It was silver and went well with our decor. This is pretty similar to what we used.
- We just purchased a bulk canister of Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate, which seemed to be the most sensible option.
- We had a few different flavoring options, like Torani Vanilla Syrup, Torani Caramel Syrup, Torani Hazelnut Syrup, and Torani Raspberry Syrup for people to pump into their hot chocolate.
- As far as toppings, we had Peppermint Filled Dark Chocolate Mini Cups, chocolate peppermint sticks,crushed peppermint, and whipped cream. We may have had a few other things, but I don’t remember!
- To keep things from getting too messy, my bridesmaids took turns at the station.
I don’t think any wedding is complete without a delicious punch, and I think this is the best kind there is. It’s super simple, and if you end up with a lot of extra, you can always freeze it. I would recommend just making it as you go, rather than making a bunch of batches before the wedding
Best Punch Recipe
- 2 two liter Ginger Ale
- 1 Welch's Frozen Cranberry Raspberry Juice
- Mix together in punch bowl and serve. Freeze extra in gallon Ziploc bags. If you'd like a more slushy drink, just freeze the punch in Ziploc bags immediately, and set out to defrost about 12 hours before you want to serve them.
Wedding Cake — My very talented aunt made our wedding cake, and it was exactly what I wanted.
We had four layers — all of which Forrest and I carefully thought of, and my Aunt brought to life.
Sadly, the only piece of cake I got was when we fed it to each other…so I sure hope our guests enjoyed it! Here are the flavors for every layer:
- Layer One: White cake, raspberry filling
- Layer Two: Spice cake with creamy panache (whipped, brown sugar frosting)
- Layer Three: Pound cake with white chocolate and strawberry mousse filling
- Layer Four: Oreo
We also decided against using fondant, because we think it tastes icky, and I thought my aunt did an amazing job without the fondant.
Costco Sheet Cakes — Because we didn’t cut our cake until halfway through the wedding reception, we still wanted to have dessert for those who wouldn’t be sticking around for the actual wedding cake.
So, we purchased a couple of sheet cakes from Costco. They are pretty inexpensive and serve a lot of people. We didn’t have any other desserts beyond this, but it was simple and delicious.
Personalized M&MS — I can’t be the only one who loves when people have personalized M&Ms at their wedding receptions.
I think it’s such a fun and simple touch to make a wedding so much more fun.
As far as music goes, there are a few options. Of course, you could hire a DJ. We honestly just put a bunch of songs on a CD and played it over the reception place’s stereo system, and it turned out great.
I put together a list of the best wedding songs awhile back that you can check out for inspiration.
Something that I feel would be really classy at a winter wedding reception is having a string quartet.
originally written in 2013; updated in 2019
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- The Best Tips for Planning a Wedding on a Budget
- How to Choose a Wedding Photographer You’ll Love
- Dollar Store Wedding Ideas
Katie is a Colorado-native, BYU graduated, and most importantly, wife to one and mother to three beautiful boys. She is passionate about sharing her experiences with others – especially about pregnancy, breastfeeding, cooking, and crafts. She is currently training to be a Certified Lactation Educator. She loves spending time with her family and helping others find joy in family life.
You said you served the soup in a 3 crock unit. The one I have only holds 1.5 quarts each. How many of these units did you use, and how much soup total did you have? My son is getting married in October and they are thinking of serving soups.
We attended your reception!! It’s still one of our favorites.
Awww, thanks! =)
Looks like your wedding turned out great! I am planning a baby shower and wanted to do the hot chocolate bar. Looks like your wedding was in Utah, did you really get the beverage dispenser from Parks and Rec? And if so, what county? Did you feel like your system worked out well or would you have changed anything? Thanks so much!
Sorry I’m just now responding! My wedding was actually in Colorado – we did get it from the Parks and Rec department here! The whole system worked quite well. The only thing I would have changed was that I actually got to try the hot chocolate!
I came across your article on Pinterest. I am in the middle of planning my wedding and it is Jan 2!! We have been trying to think of ideas for reception food that wont break the bank! Your article has given me some great ideas!!!!! 🙂
I’m so glad you found it help, and I hope you had a BEAUTIFUL day!
Juan Carlo @ Wedding Catering Services in Manila says
Great recipe! I love the perfect punch recipe. Will definitely try it out later with friends. I’m so excited for it.
Thanks! Let me know what you think.
Juan Carlo says
Sorry for the late response Katie, BTW It went well. My entire family and friends loved it and they enjoyed my newly discovered perfect punch. Thanks for sharing it.
Thanks for letting me know! I’m so glad they loved it. Hopefully you’ll be able to have it for many years to come 🙂
Nancy G. Casey says
Wow! These are such lovely ideas and everything looks really delicious. The soups, breads, the dessert and the drinks. I would love to grab some punch. I would really enjoy this wedding. These are really great wedding reception ideas that we can all use for our weddings.
Thank you so much! I’m glad you liked my ideas 🙂 I hope you’ll use them (or share them with someone who will!)
Brenna @ Life After Laundry says
Such great ideas. I love the punch recipe!
Thanks! It’s one of my favorites 🙂