When you’re planning a wedding, you’re planning an experience. For you. For your guests. A wedding is after all an event! As you organize and envision your day, you’ll want to keep the guest experience in mind. That brings us to cocktail hour, and planning a cocktail hour guests will love! Cocktail hour is the part of the wedding day after your ceremony but before dinner is served. So often we hear couples worry that guests will be bored during cocktail hour, often because they’ve been to weddings where that part of the day drags on. You and your family are likely away having photos done, so your guests are left alone for 20-60 minutes! So how do you keep guests entertained and get people to love your cocktail hour? Let’s dive in:
Consider the Season
Different seasons offer different built-in cocktail hour options for your wedding! Getting married in a chillier month? You could offer heated cider, mulled wine, or hot toddies. Summer weddings could have a Build-Your-Own margarita or bloody Mary bar, local craft brew bar, or a wine wall! By considering the season you’ll be getting married in, you can start to brainstorm what you want the vibe of your cocktail hour to be.
Speaking of envisioning the cocktail hour, be sure to get inspired by the latest trends! We’re seeing mobile bars like Tipsy Trailer or prosecco trucks from Go West Rentals at more and more events, and they make a great option for planning a cocktail hour guests will love. When the bar itself is Instagram-worthy, it will keep guests talking!
Offer Signature Cocktails and Non-Alcoholic Drinks
Many of these mobile bars as well as traditional bartenders can help you get creative in coming up with signature cocktails, which we know firsthand your guests will love. Be sure to keep the kids happy (and pregnant mommas) with some special non-alcoholic drinks available too. Offering a build-your-own style of bar can be a fun way to give your guests a feeling of being involved in the cocktail hour, as well as something to do during this part of the day.
Have Plenty of Seating
The number one mistake we see couples make when planning a cocktail hour guests will love is not having plenty of seating. Especially if your cocktail hour will be a full hour, your guests will want to be comfortable for this time. If you can, have seating other than just the dinner tables! Whether you plan cocktail tables around the space, a couple of cozy couches, or an entire lounge area for the cocktail hour, your guests will have a much better time if they can mingle comfortably and feel at home at your celebration. If it’s a chilly month, be sure to have heaters, a bonfire, or lap blankets around for guests to be cozy too.
Ultimately what your guests want from cocktail hour and the reception alike is entertainment. You could plan a live band, a wedding bouncy castle, or yard games to give your guests something to do during this time of the day. There are so many options for entertainment these days! Hiring a great DJ can significantly help the mood during cocktail hour too – ask them if they have any go-to suggestions for cocktail hour as you’re interviewing DJs to hire.
Choose the Right Music
Speaking of DJs, make sure your playlist for the cocktail hour is just the right vibe for this part of the day. You will want to avoid the classics and today’s hits for now – save them for the dancefloor of your reception! Come back to the theme of your celebration for inspiration, and don’t forget to rely on your DJ for help selecting background music too.
Feed Your Guests
By this part of the day, your guests will probably be getting hungry. Add a little alcohol to the mix, and we highly recommend offering some food for the cocktail hour! Chat with your caterer for hors d’oeuvres ideas. We’ve seen great cocktail food, from sliders to charcuterie. Your guests will feel content and comfortable with a little appetizer before dinner, we promise.
Overall, the most important part of planning a cocktail hour guests will love is to focus on what you want your guests to feel and do during this part of the day, and create a list of what it will take to make that vision come to life! Consult your vendors, or at least your planner, about these ideas. We have tons of tricks and ideas up our sleeves that you might not have consider too. If you build your event with comfort, welcoming, and fun in mind, your guests are bound to love your event!