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Want to Have a Wedding Cocktail Hour? What to Know

More and more couples today are adding a somewhat new tradition to their wedding: cocktail hour. Is cocktail hour right for your nuptials? What should you do with the time? How should your gathering be set up? And what should you avoid? Discover some answers to your burning questions.

What Is Cocktail Hour?

Cocktail hour, as its name suggests, is a short period of time between the wedding ceremony and the reception when guests drink some cocktails and mingle. It’s generally designed as an alternative to asking guests to simply sit at dining tables or mill about in a lobby while important work is done behind the scenes. It usually occurs at the reception site.

Why Add Cocktail Hour?

Couples generally have two primary reasons to include cocktail hour. The first is when a couple must turn over their ceremony space and transform it into a reception space. Generally, you don’t want guests in the reception area while this happens, both for logistics and to maintain the wow factor when they go back in.

The second most common reason is to allow time for the wedding party to change clothes or take wedding photos. These activities need time, but they’re usually not things that guests take any part in. So cocktail hour provides some entertainment to alleviate guest boredom.

A growing number of couples now use cocktail hour as a sort of pre-party transition. This low-key party between the more serious ceremony and the dancing and drinking that comes during the reception helps set the mood.

What Should Guests Do?

So, whether you need the time to make changes behind the scenes or you just want to get the party started early, how should you set up your cocktail hour? First, arrange it like an actual cocktail party. This means a variety of tables, including standing tables, and seating options. However, you don’t need to create enough seating or tables for everyone. The purpose, after all, is to get people mingling.

If you advertise cocktail hour, guests will expect drinks to be available. This is an excellent time to serve a signature cocktail. However, while alcohol is common, the goal should be refreshment rather than encouraging anyone to overdrink. Set limits or serve light alcoholic drinks, beer, and wines. Along with the bar service, offer light appetizers to hold people over until dinner.

Finally, include some interactive elements to give guests something to do. Put up a photo booth. Create social media–worthy selfie spots. Let them try some exotic and surprising appetizers. Add light background music. Or hire a performing artist, dancer, musician, speaker, or even a magician.

What Mistakes Should You Avoid?

If you’re new to cocktail hour design, you may worry about doing it wrong. So, what mistakes should you work to avoid?

The first is not providing enough selections for everyone to find a little something for them. This includes enough seating options, nonalcoholic drink choices, vegan appetizers, and bar space. And keep lines short so no one spends their whole hour in line for a drink.

Keep things simple as well. Serve finger foods that need no silverware. Avoid messy, saucy, or sticky foods. Keep those appetizers light and fun. And arrange enough staff or helpers to ensure the party stays mess-free.

Where Can You Start?

Ready to start planning your own cocktail hour? Start by meeting with the wedding pros at Pristine Chapel Lakeside. Our experience planning weddings for more than 40 years will combine with your vision to create a beautiful, fun, and practical wedding. Call today to make an appointment and tour all our gorgeous party locations.

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