What’s A Cocktail Hour At A Wedding?

August 26, 2022
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What’s A Cocktail Hour At A Wedding, And Why Do You Have It?

Several aspects make up a traditional wedding – including the Cocktail Hour. 

Ah yes, the cocktail hour at a wedding — that joyous occasion where almost nothing is happening. It’s the one time of day when you can go to the bar and order whatever you want without any judgment. 

I know what you’re thinking; this is great, but what does cocktail hour mean? Well, I’ve got your back! I’ll tell you everything you need to know about this part of the wedding day. Let’s take a closer look at this vital part of the day and learn more about it.


What Is The Cocktail Hour At A Wedding?

Definition: A cocktail hour is a time held before the reception and after the ceremony. It allows guests to mingle, take pictures, and enjoy appetizers and drinks before the formal introductions at the reception began.

Depending on your timeline for your wedding, you may be able to attend cocktail hour with your guests. In many instances, the cocktail hour is an hour of mingling and entertainment for your guests as you take professional photos with your wedding photographer. 

What Do Guests Wear To The Cocktail Hour?

The dress code for cocktail hour varies depending on the dress code for your wedding. If you’re having a formal wedding, your guests might be expected to wear cocktail attire. This can be anything from a long evening gown to an elegant, dressy jumpsuit or pantsuit.

If your wedding is more casual and less formal, guests can wear any dressy clothing they like. This could include a suit or blazer with slacks or jeans with a nice top and jacket.

For men, tuxedos are becoming more common at weddings, as well as suits, blazers, and slacks.

If you want to ensure that everyone knows what’s expected at your cocktail hour event, it’s best to send out a clear invitation that lists any special dress requirements ahead of time so that no one buys an outfit that doesn’t work for your day’s festivities!

Where Does The Cocktail Hour Take Place?

Cocktail hours are generally held in a separate location from the ceremony, where guests can enjoy a selection of finger foods and various drinks. If you’re having a minimal wedding, you might prefer to have your cocktail hour outside or in a garden.

Some couples choose to have their ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception at the same location, while others like to separate them into two different events (perhaps because their venue is too small to host all three events).

In any case, you need to consider where you’d like your cocktail hour to take place before booking a venue or making any other significant decisions.

How Long Does A Cocktail Hour Last?

The standard cocktail hour lasts 60 minutes, but you can adjust that time frame to suit your needs. For example, if you want to extend your cocktail hour to ensure you have enough time for solo photos of yourself and your partner, you can do so. (I mean, Hey, it’s YOUR wedding day!)

It also depends on the venue. If you’re hosting your wedding at a hotel or other large venue, you may have a strict time for your cocktail hour because your venue may have strict hours of operation, ending your wedding day at a specific time. 

If you’re hosting your wedding at home, there’s no need to rush through cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. You can keep your guests around for as long as you want!


What Happens At A Cocktail Hour?

There are a lot of things going on at cocktail hour. The following is a list of the most common events during this time.

Cocktail Hours Are Informal

Cocktail hour is one of the least formal parts of a wedding day. Friends and family mingle, having great conversations over drinks and finger foods. No lines or tickets are required; anyone who wants a drink can show up at the bar or grab one from a server passing by with an ice bucket full of champagne flutes. 

If you’re planning on serving alcohol at your cocktail hour, check with your venue about any restrictions on what kind of drinks can be present, how much alcohol can be distributed, and when drinking can begin (if not immediately).

A Fondue Fountain

Some couples like to have a beautiful display of a fondue fountain. A fondue fountain is a tall glass container filled with oil and chocolate. It’s heated to a boil, and as the chocolate melts, it flows down into the bowl below, where guests can dip their food. This is usually served with strawberries, marshmallows, pretzels, and other sweet treats.

Champagne and Other Alcoholic Beverages

Champagne is one of the most popular drinks at cocktail hours because it’s festive and fun. You can also serve other types of alcohol like beer or wine if you and your guests have different preferences. Of course, there will be plenty of non-alcoholic options available as well!

Appetizers and Hors D’oeuvres

You’ll want to have some appetizers or hors d’oeuvre ready for your guests so they can eat while waiting for everyone else to arrive before dinner begins in earnest. This could be anything from finger sandwiches to mini quiches – anything goes!

It Provides a Peaceful Environment

Cocktail hours also give you and your partner time alone with friends and family members who may be traveling from far away. You can use this time to say Hello before the reception begins or use it as an opportunity for quiet conversation with close family members or friends.

What Do I Serve At A Wedding Cocktail Hour?

Cocktails are usually served in small glasses with appropriate garnishes, but they don’t all have to be alcoholic. You may also consider having a non-alcoholic punch or beer and wine available for guests.

Here are some popular choices:

  1. Champagne or Sparkling Wine 

A traditional choice for weddings, Champagne is always a good idea if you’re hosting an outdoor event where people will be outside for long periods. It’s also affordable if you’re trying to save money on your wedding budget.

  1. Prosecco 

Another sparkling wine option that’s becoming more popular each year is Prosecco from Italy, which has been compared to Champagne but at a lower price point. Prosecco can also be served as an alternative if people don’t like Champagne because of its bubbles!

  1. Hors D’oeuvres 

This is the most common type of wedding cocktail hour food. It’s easy to make and allows guests to try several different things simultaneously. Make sure you have enough variety so that everyone can find something they like!

  1. Chips, Crackers, and Nuts

 These classic wedding choices fit well with the event’s theme. They also don’t take much space or preparation time, so you can put together an impressive spread without much effort.

  1. Appetizers 

Appetizers are usually smaller versions of full meals, so they’re perfect for cocktail hour! Think mini burgers, mini pizzas, sliders, etc. 

There are many ways to serve appetizers as small bites rather than full-sized meals; remember that people might not want too much food before their main courses are served!

  1. Vegetable Crudités 

With all the options available these days, it’s easy to find vegetable cutters that will create beautiful garnishes for your dishes. Use radishes, carrots, cucumbers, or even spinach leaves as edible decorations on your appetizers. They add color and texture at little or no cost!

How Do You Make A Cocktail Hour Fun For Your Wedding?

The cocktail hour should be fun as well as relaxing, so here are 5 ways to make sure that it is:

  • Have multiple bars with different types of drinks available.
  • Make sure there are enough bartenders on staff.
  • Ensure there are enough servers to take care of food orders so they don’t take away from making drinks.
  • Ensure enough tables/chairs for everyone at the event so people don’t have to stand around.
  • Have fun activities planned for people that aren’t drinking (or don’t want to).

What Should Guests Do During Cocktail Hour?

During cocktail hour, guests can enjoy drinks and appetizers while mingling with other guests. This is also a good time for them to take pictures with each other, so make sure there’s enough space for everyone.

If your wedding venue has multiple rooms or areas that can be used as separate cocktail spaces, consider having different themes for each one. For example, if there’s a large outdoor area with lots of greenery and trees, why not make it an outdoor garden party scene? 

Or, if there’s an indoor ballroom with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, turn it into a glamorous nightclub theme! You can even have each room decorated according to different styles like rustic chic or modern glamour.

What Do The Bride And The Groom Do During Cocktail Hour?

Depending on your timeline for your wedding, you may be able to attend cocktail hour with your guests. In many instances, the cocktail hour is an hour of mingling and entertainment for your guests as you take professional photos with your wedding photographer. If you have chosen to have a First Look with your partner earlier in the day, chances are you will have time to attend cocktail hour. 

If you attend your cocktail hour, generally, you’ll receive guests and thank them for coming, typically before the reception begins. This allows you to mingle with your guests while they eat appetizers, cocktails, and hors d’oeuvres. 

You’ll also have a chance to freshen up, if necessary, so make sure you have time set aside for that before your introduction to your reception!

Who doesn’t love a good cocktail hour?

A cocktail hour at a wedding is just an easy way to let your guests get loose and chat without interrupting the flow of the wedding day. 

You want guests to be able to walk around and interact with each other before the reception begins. In many instances, this could be the first time your guests meet each other in person. Think about it, many of your guests will be traveling from out of town to be a part of your special day, and there will be a lot of new faces for them to get to know, and a cocktail hour is a perfect place to start!