The flow of a wedding day is extremely important to us, and after the wedding ceremony it is always our goal to make sure we get the guests over to cocktail hour as quickly as possible. We want to make sure that everyone, including family members and the wedding party, can relax and enjoy the celebration! Now, we all know that everyone LOVES a great cocktail hour. But what exactly is it that makes wedding guests have such a great time during that time?!? Here are our 5 tips for hosting a great cocktail hour so that your wedding guests enjoy that hour to the fullest.
1) The TOP priority for our events is to make sure that every guest has a cocktail in their hands within the first 5 minutes. There is nothing worse than a long line at the bar for any event! In order to avoid this at your wedding- talk to your caterer about having a large percent of their staff holding trays of pre-poured red wine, white wine, champagne/your specialty cocktail (optional) and water at the entrance of the cocktail hour space, so that you guests don’t all rush to the bar at once. This adds a welcoming touch to the cocktail hour and you will eliminate about 80% of your guests going to the bar. The people who do go to the bar will typically be ordering their choice of a mixed drink which should move quickly.
It is also important that you DO NOT choose a super time-consuming specialty cocktail. Sure… We all love a great craft cocktail, and don’t get me wrong- there are a few bartending services out there that have mastered the mass production of making them. But when you have to wait in line for a drink and every person before you is ordering the mojito which takes 5 minutes per cocktail, people are going to be annoyed. So make sure you choose a specialty cocktail that is either easy to make, or can be made ahead of time and poured immediately.
2) The second priority is food! The number of passed appetizers will typically be determined by the size of your group and your own personal preference. We typically suggest a nice variety of around 5 or 6 passed hors d’oeuvres along with one food station. When you are selecting your hors d’oeuvres it is important to think about what you plan on serving your guests at dinner. If you have selected steak or sea bass for your main entree, you might consider serving a few light vegetarian appetizers, one shrimp, one chicken, and perhaps a crab cake or something along those lines so that your guests have a nice variety of food that day! Often times the food station is based on the client’s taste and desires… Cheese Displays, Raw Bars, and Crudités stations are the most popular choices. The food station can also help carry the theme throughout the event- such as an action station with wood fired flatbreads, cajun food or a taco station! Most wedding guests will eat a nice breakfast and avoid lunch, so when they arrive at the cocktail hour they are hungry- the food station offers immediate satisfaction for those guests!
Photo by: Joe Buissink
3) Creating a comfortable environment is extremely important for your guests to be able relax and enjoy their time. We like to design cocktail hour spaces with a combination of tall and short cocktail tables so that the elderly guests (and women in heels) have a place to sit down and everyone else has a place to set their drinks and enjoy a few passed hors d’oeuvres. These cocktail rounds are a great place to add a pop of color or develop a theme with your linen choices! If the budget allows, try adding in some comfortable furniture for your guests to lounge on. Your furniture choices and bar design can set the tone for the space and either give the party a cool/modern flair or a home/welcoming feeling.
Cocktail Hour Photography by: Melissa Musgrove
4) Background music is key for making your guests feel at ease. Whether you choose to have live musicians such as a spanish guitarist, jazz band, or string quartet- or you choose to play original tracks through a sound system- THERE MUST BE MUSIC! Music creates an atmosphere that can either make or break a party. The music that you choose will create a feeling & should match the overall theme of your event. So choose music that you enjoy listening too and makes you feel happy.
Musician Photos by: Melissa Musgrove
5) Our final tip is making sure that your guests are comfortable. Continue to watch the weather as your wedding date approaches. If your cocktail hour is outside in the heat, be sure to provide plenty of shade with cabana’s or large umbrellas for your guests to protect them from the sun! If your wedding is taking place in the fall/winter months you should consider bringing in additional heaters or passing around pashmina’s for the women to keep cozy.
Pashmina Photo by: Stephanie Hogue