When it comes to the cocktail hour, you’ll want to avoid restless guests, especially as the evening celebrations won’t even really have kicked in yet. Planning a cocktail hour isn’t an easy task as there are plenty of logistical details to consider; from coordinating a number of vendors and guests and deciding which beverages and canapés to serve, along with ensuring you are able to incorporate a particular theme or style into your event. With a little pre-planning and seamless execution from your wedding planner, you can be rest assured that your cocktail hour will be one to remember (for all the right reasons!).
Here are my top 7 tips to host a successful cocktail hour:
It’s so important to ensure the room assigned for the cocktail hour is spacious but also confined to an area. More often than not, this hour is used to complete any final touches in the main room, and a chance for family and friends to mingle and enjoy some delicious food and drink before the evening begins. When looking at venues for your special day, ensure there is a sufficient holding space for the cocktail hour with enough room for individual guests, as well as space for scattered poseur tables, seating and lounge furniture.
As well as standing space, you will need to provide both tables and seating for your cocktail hour. It is important to ensure there is comfortable seating for those who are unable to stand for long periods of time and to create a welcoming and relaxed space for guests to mingle. Providing a range of table heights with lounge furniture is a perfect way to add something a little different to the cocktail hour.
To add a great atmosphere to the cocktail hour, arrange for a bit of mood music to be played softly in the background. Whether it’s pre-recorded or live, ensure it is in keeping with the style and theme of the evening reception.
Bad bar planning means guaranteed unhappy guests. The cocktail hour is about your guests enjoying a few beverages so it’s important you provide plenty of options and hire enough bartenders to ensure your guests get their drinks quickly without the hassle of waiting in queues. I cannot stress how important it is to ensure you hire the right number of professional bartenders (usually a ratio of 1 to 75 guests) who are experienced in serving all types of beverages.
Other ways to cut down service time is to spread out bar stations. Placing ice buckets of bottled beer and soft drinks with openers will make it easy for your guests to help themselves throughout the hour. Why not offer a range of signature cocktails (along with non-alcoholic options) on arrival. What’s great about this is that they can be ready beforehand for guests to simply pick up. Again, opt to serve cocktails (and mocktails) in keeping with your overall theme to impress your guests.
If you’re planning to stock the bar yourself, ensure you buy plenty of beverages with extras just in case. There’s nothing worse than running out of drink to serve to your guests. I always recommend hiring a professional bar company to avoid this disaster (or setting up a tab with your venue).
Your cocktail hour isn’t just about the tasty drinks, it’s also about delicious food. Provide three to four simple yet delicious canapés to keep your guests happy until they sit down for the main dinner. Ensure your canapés are bite sized and easy to pick up with a cocktail napkin without guests having to put down their drink. Hire professional service staff to float the canapés around and make sure inconspicuous bins is placed for guests to easily dispose of napkins. Remember to provide options for any special dietary requirements, such as vegetarians or anyone who may have allergies.
It’s always a nice touch to add a bit of entertainment during the cocktail hour to make it fun and interactive. If you’ve opted for an outdoor arrival, provide garden games for instance. Be creative and enhance your chosen style and theme.
There’s no need for your cocktail hour to last longer than 60 minutes, as your guests will start to feel restless. Although you’ll be using this time to take some last minute wedding portraits with your photographer, it’s essential you do not run over on the schedule, as this then will delay your entire evening reception.