Don’t Let Your Cocktail Hour Be the Weak Link in Your Wedding

Cocktail hour is too often relegated to an afterthought at a wedding. A couple figures it’s enough to set out a single table with a plate of cheese, crackers, fruit, veggies and dip, and set up a single bar to serve 150 people, and voila! Cocktail hour! But memorable weddings also have memorable cocktail hours. Here’s how to make yours great.

Pass appetizers. It’s okay to set up several serving stations for specific hot or cold treats. But too often, long lines form at those tables, and people grab their appetizers and then stand there and start conversations, blocking anyone else from getting to the table. Having servers pass appetizers throughout the room ensures that everyone gets an equal chance to munch on something along with their cocktails. 

Spread out. Your cocktail hour can’t just be an excuse to warehouse all of your guests in a cramped closet while the ceremony room is turned into a dining room. Ask your venue for sufficient space for people to move and mingle. Some high-boy cocktail tables would be nice. So would a few seats, for people who want to gather and chat in comfort. 

Keep the appetizers coming. Remember, your guests are going to be consuming alcohol, so they’ll need sufficient food to soak it up, to ensure their civil behavior for the rest of the evening. Three cocktails and a single cracker with cheese is a recipe for unwanted drunken outbursts that can ruin your entire reception. 

Offer a good selection of alcohol. Beer, wine, whiskey, gin, vodka, mixers and a selection of sodas are a good start. It’s also good to set out a large container of lemonade, punch or other non-alcoholic option.

Don’t make it a cash bar – at least not during cocktail hour. If your party is extended at the end of the night, and your pre-paid bar time is used up, you’ll have the option to go all-cash at that point. By then, the casual drinkers will have already gone home, and no one will feel short-changed.

What if you’re having a “dry” reception? Some couples choose to serve only non-alcoholic drinks at their receptions. Many like to create a signature non-alcoholic cocktail. But if you choose that route, please note it on your invitations, so people don’t arrive expecting a good stiff cocktail and end up disappointed. 

Don’t let your photographer hog all your time. The happy couple should have a few moments to make an appearance during cocktails, especially if you don’t plan to visit your guests’ dinner tables. While it’s fine to use the cocktail hour to shoot some standard wedding poses, it’s unfair to your guests to make them all wait for dinner while your photographer tries to shoehorn in another 10 or 15 poses.

Follow these guidelines, and your guests will remember every minute of your wedding and reception fondly – including your cocktail hour.

Fourth Estate Audio, 2017 – Jay Congdon is president of Fourth Estate Audio, a professional Chicago DJ and Chicago Wedding DJ company. 

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