You’re sure to raise a glass to these wedding cocktail hour ideas! This fun time just might be our favorite part of a wedding. Everyone is reeling with happiness after the ceremony, ready to have a good time, and it’s an informal part of the evening where the most mingling, carrying on, laughing, and catching up happens. To make sure your guests’ time is a memorable one, here are our 11 tips for a wedding cocktail hour that will kick major butt.
Don’t leave too much time between the ceremony and the cocktail hour.
If you can help it! We know some ceremony spots are crazy popular and if you want in, you have to take an early time slot. BUT if you have the option of scheduling your events back-to-back, do it. After the ceremony, people are ready to party and you don’t want them to have to entertain themselves in the interim. Get the fun started as soon as you can!
Keep it to an hour.
It’s called a cocktail HOUR for a reason. Schedule 60 minutes for yours…75 minutes max! Any longer than that and you’ll wind up with some very antsy, very hungry, and likely very drunk guests. People are all about celebrating but they get a little impatient if there aren’t enough seats and hors d’oeuvres to go around.
Offer some substantial snacks.
Whether hot or cold, butler passed or stationed, hors d’oeuvres should be served. Crudité (or a fancy word for veggies) and a cheese display are great but be sure to give your guests something more to nibble on than just that. Remember…this will be near dinner time and guests will be hungry.
Display a bar menu.
Create a visible list of drink options so guests know what is available. For them, this means less time in the bar line, asking questions or determining what they want and more time partying. This will also make your bartenders’ lives easier as people should already know their drink order by the time they get to the front of the line.
Speaking of the bar…have an open one.
We know this is still up for debate in some circle but this is a topic we feel pretty strong about – you can’t have a cash bar. Asking guests to pay for drinks is a major faux pas! Guests should NEVER be asked to open their wallets at a wedding. If you’re on a tight budget, skip the liquor and signature drink and offer beer and wine only.
Tip your bartenders ahead of time.
Nothing makes us cringe more than seeing a tip jar at the bar at a wedding. Your bartenders absolutely deserve tips, but there’s something about openly display a tip jar that just doesn’t sit well with us. Instead, pay them in advance and ask them not to display a tip jar. Guests will likely slip them some cash anyway, and that’s ok, but at least you avoid the tackiness of having a tip jar out.
Be sure to set up some chairs for elderly guests or those that just prefer to sit. Plan for a healthy mix of high cocktail tables, perfect for standing and leaning, and low cocktail tables with chairs. For a more unique vibe, set up a lounge area or two with couches, arm chairs, and end tables. Your grandparents and guests rocking stilettos will thank you later.
Have some form of entertainment.
This can be something as simple as a display of old family wedding photos guests can browse through or something more participatory such as a caricature artist creating sketches (which can also double as favors!). Give your guests something to SEE or DO and the hour will pass by quickly!
Opt for a live musician.
Speaking of entertainment, one of our favorite ways to liven things up is with a live musician. Sure, your wedding DJ can provide a playlist for the cocktail hour. But why not up the ante with a pianist, guitarist, violinist, jazz group, or other musical talent? It’ll be like your guests’ own little private concert and will elevate the sophistication level x 10!
Don’t forget about décor.
You’ve spent so much time and money to make sure your reception space looks killer; make sure the cocktail hour looks just as good. Centerpieces and a few candles on the tables can make this space just as special as the rest of your reception. Even a few personalized touches, like custom cocktail napkins or drink coasters can go a long way!
Attend if you can!
Your day will FLY by and be over before you know it. We say squeeze in as much time partying and visiting with your guests as you can. If your schedule allows it, attend your own cocktail hour, even if it’s just for the last 10 minutes! Your friends and family will be so excited to see you. And trust us, after taking all of those photos, you’ll be ready for a drink and some food anyways!