The hour between the ceremony and reception allows your guests to transition from a beautiful ceremony to the celebration portion of your big day. It’s also when the whole wedding party disappears to capture those great after wedding photos. While most cocktail hours follow simple guidelines, the amount of food, drinks, and games can vary depending on the couple. To help plan the perfect cocktail hour, we’ve gathered some of our favorite tips to ensure guests mingle, feel refreshed, and are ready to receive the happy couple into the reception.
The Hors d’Oeuvres
Cocktail hour is the perfect time to feel inspired by your favorite foods. While your favorite dish may not make for an elegant sit down dinner menu, using creative ways to serve your top foods during your cocktail hour is a wonderful idea your guests will love. Embrace the opportunity to be creative and fun by serving a variety of cuisines. Bite sized treats served on trays or at a food station, offering food trucks or fun stands are great ways to incorporate beloved foods and make your cocktail hour entertaining for guests. Hosting your cocktail hour outside or in an open area is a good idea to allow guests to get some fresh air and not feel cramped. Just make sure you have seating set up and/or high bistro tables. When planning your hors d’oeuvres, it’s also a good idea to offer lighter snacks like fresh fruit, shrimp cocktail, and veggies as alternatives for healthy options that aren’t heavy and can please a crowd.
Drinks are one of the most important parts of a cocktail hour and signature cocktails are becoming more and more popular. While there are plenty of signature cocktail ideas to choose from, you can also take a classic mixed drink and give it a twist of flavor and a new fun name, or you can create a custom cocktail just for your wedding. Having a signature cocktail and highlighting it with a creative name to reflect your personality or wedding theme is a great way to add personal touches to your cocktail hour. You should also have a bar set up for guests to be able to get beer and wine choices to sip on while awaiting the happy couple’s return. Make sure you also have a few drink selections for non-drinkers, especially if it’s an outdoor summer wedding. For warmer seasons, offer specialty teas and lemonades or infused water. For cooler seasons, you can offer mugs of hot cocoa or cider.
Give your guests something extra to do during the cocktail hour. If you are able to have an outdoor cocktail hour, setting up lawn games for guests is a great way for everyone to mingle and relax. Offering wedding activities like signing your guestbook early or interactive favors like photo booths are great activities for guests to do while you and your wedding crew are off taking photos. Music is a must during cocktail hour but it shouldn’t be the focal point so whether you have a live band or music playing though speakers, make sure it’s not too loud for guests to converse. If you’re in a large area, displaying themed signs can help point guests in the direction of the reception, bar, or activities.
As the hour comes to a close be sure to guide guests to their seats with a creative seating chart and/or ushers to guide the way. Your guests will appreciate the time and effort you put into making them happy even during event transitions and will be more than ready for the reception festivities.