The Standing Dinner Reception

Where to have a cocktail-and-hors d'oeuvre party? The Harold Pratt House. Photo: Courtesy of Harold Pratt House

What exactly is a standing dinner reception?
Actually we call this party a “bouchées and passing-plate reception.” It should not exceed two hours. Servers pass tasting dishes (two or three bites each) on little plates, with six to eight of them on a tray at a time; and then two minutes later, another server comes out with more dishes, and so on.

Is it becoming a popular alternative to the sit-down?
Yes. You mingle better, and no one is stuck at a table with the same people. That said, the sit-down dinner is still the standard—and for good reason. A wedding reception is an event comprised of so many mini-events (such as toasts and dances) for which you need a captive audience. When people are standing, it becomes much more difficult to initiate those things—which is why we get the request for this type of reception more often for second weddings.

Is it more affordable?
The cost of food is about the same. You spend more in rentals. Party Rental, Ltd. and Classic Party Rentals have nice equipment.

What would you serve?
First, I would serve what we call les bouchées. This could be a vegetable vermicelli roll with a ginger soy dipping sauce. Then, les petites assiettes dégustation, which could be spring mushroom risotto, sautéed frog legs, etcetera. And lastly, les douceurs—mini éclairs and raspberry macaroons.

Does one need to provide a larger variety of cocktails?
No. We do a wine bar. We present different kinds of wines; six whites and six reds and people switch from one to the other, depending on what they’re eating.

What’s the ideal party size?
Around 125 guests.

And the perfect venue?
A space that is furnished, like a townhouse, so guests can go from room to room. I recommend the Pratt House, which is the home of the Council on Foreign Relations on Park Avenue and 68th Street. 632 on Hudson is another good place. Also, the Glass Houses, on 25th Street near Eleventh Avenue, would also be appropriate—it’s very modern and just opened.

The Standing Dinner Reception