Tips & Tricks for the Perfect Cocktail Hour


Typically a cocktail hour is held in order to transition from ceremony to reception.  This sixty to ninety minute portion helps to give your guests some time to refresh and get the party started, approved while providing your caterers and staff time to set up your reception area.

This space should be separate from your reception area, unhealthy whether it is a completely different room all together, erectile or just screened or sectioned off from the reception itself.  We wanted to share some helpful tips and tricks with you on creating your perfect cocktail hour and providing your guests with a relaxing and accommodating place for them to unwind.

In reality, you will probably miss most of the cocktail hour because you’ll be off taking pictures, but in the meantime you want to charm your guests and make them feel refreshed.  Setting the vibe is the most important part, offering cocktails, food, music, and a lounge area with easy activities for guests to take part in, such as a photo booth or lawn games.

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When your guests leave your ceremony and arrive at your cocktail hour, their first thought is “cocktail”!  Be sure that the bar isn’t hidden in the furthest corner of your space.  It should be a focal point in the room, and it should be staffed enough to prevent long lines that guests are forced to wait in to get a drink.  A good way to avoid a hidden bar is placing four tables in the center of the room formed into a square with the center open for bartenders to serve inside.  This way, it is the first thing that guests see when they enter the room, but also bartenders are able to serve from all sides and avoid lines forming.   Your guests will appreciate the accommodation, as well as the speedy-quick drink in their hand!

An open bar is the most gracious way to serve guests, but if this option is out of your budget, there are alternatives.  Offer your guests beer, wine, champagne, soft drinks, and offer a signature cocktail that will match your personality as well as your wedding theme.  Non-alcoholic beverages are also a must during a cocktail hour.  Aside from soft drinks, concoct a signature non-alcoholic drink to appeal to those guests.  In hotter months, you could offer water infused with cucumber, melon, mint and lots of crushed ice for a refresher.  During colder months, you could offer guests hot apple cider infused with cinnamon and garnished with a cinnamon stick.  This will show your non-drinker guests that you thought of just about everything to help them enjoy your day as much as you do!

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Food is also an important factor at the cocktail hour.  Food and appetizers be served station style, or passed by servers.  Choose foods that are filling and starchy, such as pasta and potatoes.  They fill you up quickly, but aren’t that pricey even in mass quantities.  A station with a few different types of each will entertain AND satisfy your guests.

Also, choose foods that reflect and compliment your own personality and wedding theme.  If your wedding is more elegant and formal, Ahi Tuna Tartar or Oyster Escabeche with California avocado would be appropriate!

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If your wedding is culturally blended or diverse, offer guests treats that match this theme.  An example of this would be an American-Asian wedding, offering American Chop Suey in an Asian take-out container with chopsticks.  Your guests will appreciate the creativity and effort, as well as your attention to detail and diversity.

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Our final tip that is most important when planning your wedding’s cocktail hour is providing enough seating and surface area for your guests to relax.  There is nothing worse than watching guests juggle their cocktail and appetizer plate while trying to get the actual food into their mouths.  By providing lounge-like seating as well as tables like high top bar tables, your guests will have a place to free their hands of clutter and actually enjoy what you’ve provided for them, as well as good conversation and a stain-free dress for the reception!


So, while planning your cocktail hour, these are our tips and tricks to guide you to success:

  • Stay staffed up to keep your guests happy (one bartender per about fifty guests).
  • Keep your bar visible and a focal point for your party.
  • Try to hit up all the bases while choosing your menu to please every palate.
  • If you are serving a signature cocktail, have servers pass this drink as well as display it on the bar and identify what it includes.  More often than not, guests will not know there is a signature drink unless it is spelled out for them.
  • Offer starchy foods to keep your guests full.  No one wants to leave a restaurant hungry!
  • Make sure virgin cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks are present.  Getting rid of alcoholic drinks all together might be ill advised, but a signature virgin drink can be just as appealing as one filled with booze!
  • Keep your guests in mind through the entire planning process! This is their time to get in the mood to party, mingle, refresh and unwind before the big celebration begins!
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