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How To: Cocktail Hour Tips & Tricks

So, you’ve made it through a successful wedding ceremony (congrats!), and now it’s time for cocktail hour. While you take pictures, have a second alone with your partner, or are doing a pre-reception outfit change, your guests have a slight break in the day before your wedding reception begins. In order for your cocktail hour to seem less like “waiting for the reception”, here are some tips and tricks:


At this point in the day, your guests are making a beeline for the bar to get a refreshment. In order to avoid long lines that take people away from enjoying the hour, create signature drinks that bartenders can have ready-made for guests! Many couples do “His” and “Hers” drinks to celebrate their favorite refreshments.

Another suggestion would be to spread out your drink stations. Allocate one area of your cocktail arena to your bar, another to a soda/water station, and another to a serve-yourself area! Having multiple different places to get drinks will ensure that no one will be waiting too long for something to quench their thirst. One last fun idea is a champagne wall where people can walk up and take a drink from the wall.


Where you can do your cocktail hour is going to be heavily dependent on your venue. My suggestion, if possible, is to have your cocktail hour away from where your reception is going to be. Cocktail hour is a very transitional point in your wedding day and you don’t want too many guests trying to move onto the reception part of the night while they should be mingling. Make it clear where your cocktail hour will be held by setting up the bar, furniture, and any other stations in this area so that guests cannot ignore that this is where they are supposed to be. This can also be a great opportunity to incorporate unique wedding touches, such as vintage furniture, to decorate your venue. Having these special seating areas that guests will want to be around will only enhance the success of your cocktail hour.


Any cocktail hour is going to go great in the beginning while everyone is getting their drinks and saying their hellos. In order to make sure that cocktail hour lasts its appropriate time (to ensure you have enough to take photos, caterer enough time to prepare for the reception, etc.), make sure that your guests have some options for something to do during the rest of this time. Setting up a photobooth, photo wall, or polaroid cameras can be a great way for guests to occupy themselves and get some pictures. Put your guestbook near this area so that people can sign it. It can even be fun to have some yard games out for people to play. You can personalize these too by creating your own jumbo Jenga set with facts about the bride and groom or painting cornhole sets with the couple’s initials. Get creative with it! It’s a great way to keep your guests having fun and getting to know each other.


To tide your guests over until dinner, have appetizers in the cocktail area that they can snack on. This can be done in many different ways depending on what is going to go best with your wedding style. Whether you go buffet style with the appetizers set out on tables, or have someone walking around serving them, having the food in this area will make sure that your guests are in the right place, and not hungry!


Something that can be often overlooked during cocktail hour is music. This isn’t the time for your dance music that you will be playing later, but some light background noise to set the mood will be sure to liven up the time. Don’t forget, your DJ or band is going to direct the flow of your wedding so you want to make sure to include them in all parts of it.


Cocktail hour is a great time for your guests to be able to get to know each other and relax before the reception. These tips can help them take full advantage of it and make your wedding day run just that much smoother.


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