Wedding Reception Alternatives

Reception AlternativesKenyan wedding receptions have largely revolved around the theme of a lunch time reception.

Many times I have been invited for a wedding and the Kenyan in me automatically skipped the exchange of the couple’s vows in church, and made it just in time to catch the reception food queue. I am most likely speaking on behalf of quite a number of you.
Lunchtime receptions are usually scheduled to begin at two o’clock but they often begin at three and yes, there are instances when they start at five and they end between four and six. During this period your wedding guests will be well taken care of both in meals and entertainment. A large proportion of the wedding budget caters for the wedding reception, usually about 70%.

The effects of the global economic crisis are beginning to be felt on the Kenyan wedding industry. Towards the beginning of last year a majority of Kenyan couples would spend close to Kshs 700,000 on their weddings but this figure is quickly plummeting and many engaged couples are now spending between Ksh. 350,000-500,000, on their weddings. The amount spent is decreasing but the wedding guest lists seem to be increasing.

One way of ensuring that you have a cheap yet chic wedding is by seeking cost effective reception alternatives to the traditional lunch time reception. One thing is for sure; lunchtime receptions do cost a bit and it would be advisable for the budget conscious bride & groom to seek an alternative reception.

The following are examples of reception alternatives for consideration:

  • Picnic Reception
  • Cocktail Reception/ Champagne & Cake
  • Barbeque Reception
  • Brunch Reception

Picnic Receptions
Nairobi and Kenya in general has a lot of picnic sites available, from Uhuru Park to Paradise Lost and KWS park picnic sites. Picnics are often held for family get togethers and most Kenyans love picnicking especially over the weekend and public holidays so this is no strange phenomenon.

Picnic receptions are cost effective depending on your venue of choice and wedding guest count. If your guest count is between 40-50 wedding guests, this would be a beautiful option.

A picnic reception would require the couple to scout for an affordable location (check out KWS picnic sites, make sure that your venue has picnic benches), come up with a picnic menu, it could range from sandwiches to a barbeque that can be potluck. Look for creative entertainment; you could carry a bunch of CDs & a CD player. A picnic reception is more informal as compared to a lunchtime reception.

Having a picnic reception eliminates wedding services such as tables, tents, chairs, catering service, the wedding cake, décor, hired wedding entertainment and thus reduces costs significantly.

Cocktail Receptions
This alternative is for the couple that wants to add some pizzazz to their wedding and still go smiling to the bank after saying “I DO”.

Cocktails have a formal tone and nothing would be as glamorous as tying the knot with the sun setting in the horizon and all your guests toasting and clinking away their champagne flutes as you have your first kiss as man and wife. Depending on your wedding budget you could opt to have your cocktail at a hotel, their cocktail menu prices range from Ksh. 1500 – Ksh. 2500 pp. In case your budget does not allow for this, you could get a cost effective yet elegant location such as The Nairobi National Museum.

Offer your guests an assortment of drinks. If your budget is tight make a fruit cocktail, have a family friend offer dj services, get your décor lady to supply cocktail tables and have simple floral centerpieces. After saying ‘I do’ the climax of the event would be cutting the cake and thereafter mingling with your guests.

A wedding cocktail reception can combine both the marriage ceremony and the reception. It should last three hours at most. In a typical cocktail reception in the West, the only beverage served is usually champagne and the only food offered is the wedding cake. If you decide to have a cocktail reception, etiquette dictates that you indicate this in your wedding card invitation.
This option is ideal if your guest number is between 50 and100.

Barbeque Receptions
Nyama choma is part and parcel of Kenyan culture, especially when it comes to special occasions such as Christmas. So why not extend the tradition and have a nyama choma fest for your wedding reception. Get a wedding venue and hire a caterer to do the grilling a barbecuing for you.

You menu would include meals that accompany nyama choma such as mukimo and ugali. Have a salad bar with a variety of salads that go well with the roasted meat delicacy. Give your guests a variety of meats to sample; from goat to beef and kuku choma (if your budget allows). To have a nyama choma feast, a large portion of your budget would go to your wedding menu, closely followed by the venue. You could consider hiring a nyama choma spot for such an event. Entertainment would be provided by a Dj. You would cut down on all the other wedding services and your guests would enjoy the treat.

A barbeque option would suit a guest count of 50-80 wedding guests.

Breakfast/Brunch Reception
Are you having a civil wedding ceremony or is you wedding ceremony scheduled for the early morning hours, say between 8:30-9:30 am? Then a breakfast/brunch would be most suitable for you.

Organise for your wedding guests to join you for breakfast/ brunch after you exchange your vows. You could decide to use your church grounds and have a simple breakfast setup with miniature bitings like chipolatas, smokies and mini samosas. The brunch could either be a cocktail affair where guests stand and mingle with other invited guests or it could be a sit down affair, which would require you to have setup options. A breakfast menu is more affordable in comparison to a lunch menu hence a lot of the wedding costs would be cut down.

Wedding breakfasts are inexpensive and are good choice for anyone looking to having a wedding guest count of more than 100 wedding guests.

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Wanjiku Kariuki is a certified wedding planner and coordinator and is the lead consultant of, a Kenyan wedding website.