8 Tips for a Killer Cocktail Hour

March 1, 2022 | kailey

Images by Inner Images and Shelby Chanté. See more of this real wedding here.

Casual drinks, hors d’oeuvres, games, music—the cocktail hour is the most underrated portion of a wedding day. This is the gap of time between your ceremony and reception. It’s typically the time when you run away with your photographer to snap couple portraits while your guests enjoy drinks and appetizers. And though it may seem like a small detail, it’s actually an important part of tying together the main events of your wedding day. 

Want to pull off an epic cocktail hour that’ll get your guests in party mode? All you need is a little creativity and these tips to create an experience everyone will love.

1. Pick A Cocktail Hour Theme 

Though there are no concrete rules while wedding planning, keeping your decor cohesive is always a good rule of thumb. Since the cocktail hour is the bridge between your ceremony and reception, playing around with the same colors and florals will help create a natural transition. 

There are so many ways to infuse your style into the cocktail hour decor. You can do this by incorporating a few extra floral arrangements on your bar and cocktail tables. But why stop there? If you’re creating beautiful custom signage for the ceremony and reception, add another for the cocktail hour. Trust us, the smallest details always make the biggest impact. 

2. Music Isn’t Just For Your Reception 

Music is the key to getting you and your guests ready for the reception. But keep in mind this hour is typically a time for guests to relax and chat, so work with your DJ—or chosen musical talent—to create a playlist that matches that vibe. Save the party mix for when the guests hit the dance floor. The music really is the cherry on top of a killer cocktail hour, so make it count.

Image by Jordan Jankun Photography. See more of this styled shoot here.

3. Include Games For Guests To Play 

There are a variety of wedding day games that make for a great time. Plus, your guests will appreciate this simple addition. Think cornhole, giant Jenga, tic-tac-toe, an inflatable bounce house… the list goes on and on. You can rent these games, DIY your own, or purchase customized games that double as a wedding keepsake. 

[Wedding Games Shoppable]

Image by Inner Images and Shelby Chanté. See more of this real wedding here.

4. Create Custom Cocktails

Wine and beer are great options, but a signature cocktail adds a little more personality to your cocktail hour. On top of serving up the classics, consider creating one, two, or ten custom cocktails. You can offer signature drinks that represent your love, honor loved-ones that have passed, or even include your pets not in attendance.

 5. Include Interactive Drink Stations 

We love a creative drink wall. But if you really want to take your bar to the next level, make your drink stations interactive—a fairly new wedding trend that we don’t see going away anytime soon. Interactive stations get guests out of their seats and give them something fun and delicious to try while they wait for the bridal party to arrive. Think champagne mysteriously coming out of a wall, whisky tasting stations, or pour your own taps. 

6. Offer Sweet And Savory Snacks 

The way to your guests’ heart is through their stomach. So when crafting your cocktail hour menu with caterers, make it count. Most of your guests will expect only savory appetizers during your cocktail hour. Mix it up and wow your guests by adding a sweet option. Consider including mini pies, donut holes, or macarons. We’ve also seen couples bring in ice cream trucks—genius for hot summer weddings.

If you’re getting married in a region that’s famous for their cuisine, treat your guests to some local favorites. Planning a New Orleans inspired celebration? Add some cajun flair with mini bowls of gumbo, bite-sized portions of muffuletta, or oysters in the shell. The options are endless. 

8. Don’t Forget The Photo Ops 

While you run away with your photographer to snap couple portraits, leave your guests with a photo spot to take some fun pictures of their own. You can rent a photo booth, create a DIY backdrop, or even offer Polaroid cameras for guests to use. 

Image by Aurelia Baca. See more of this real wedding here.

9. Include Lounge Areas For Guests To Relax

A comfortable hang out spot that doubles as cocktail decor—we’re sold. We’re talking about lounge areas. You can make a lounge area as simple or as elaborate as you want, but don’t forget to infuse your own style. All you need is comfy seating, tables for guests to set down their drinks or plates, and a rug to tie it all together. You can use things from your home or find a rental company to help bring your vision to life.

With these epic tips you’re ready to throw a killer cocktail hour. But now let’s talk about your reception. Whether you’re planning a large, black-tie reception or an intimate micro wedding reception, here are the top tips for decorating your reception space on a budget. Let them serve as a  reminder that you don’t need to drain your bank account in order to have the wedding of your dreams!

Image by Jordan Jankun Photography. See more of this styled shoot here.

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