It’s easy to overlook your wedding cocktail hour to focus on the more ceremonial parts of the reception, but you do so at your own risk (and worse still, the risk of your guests having a bad time.) The cocktail hour usually takes place after the ceremony, but before the first dance. You need to make sure in advance that things run smoothly, as you probably won’t be there for most of the time. You’ll either be getting your picture taken with your wedding party, or just having a moment of alone with your new wife. A little pre-planning goes a long way, so here’s five quick tips to get you started.
More Booze, More Bartenders
Anything worth doing is worth overdoing, and that certainly holds true when planning the “cocktail” aspect of cocktail hour. Have plenty of booze on hand (and non-alcoholic alternatives), plus loads of bartenders to prep and distribute the drinks. Nobody enjoys a long line, so make sure the bar traffic and booze is always flowing smoothly. One bartender for every 50-75 guests is a good rule of thumb.
Choose Your Music Wisely
It’s bound to be an eclectic crowd, especially if both extended families will be there. That’s one of many reasons to err on the side of caution when choosing your music. Even (especially?) Top 40 may be too distracting. (Save the phat beats for the reception.) This hour is all about the guests; they’re the stars, and they just need some background music — a soundtrack — to put them at ease: Think guitarists, pianists, anyone who can play pleasant, unobtrusive jazz. Take a pass on the fire-eating bucket drummer.
Give Your Guests Lots of Space
Your wedding cocktail hour is the first opportunity attendees will have to mix, mingle, and make first impressions. Alleviate as much free-floating anxiety as possible by choosing a space that breathes; a room that’s literally roomy, or a sunny outdoor area. Guests shouldn’t feel like they’re pinned between a bunch of randos in a malfunctioning elevator. (The extra elbow room will allow them to beat a hasty but graceful retreat if a conversation goes south.)
Think of Clever, Left-field Icebreakers
If you’re worried that the traditional drink-and-mingle won’t be enough to sufficiently relax your guests, you can opt for some extra activities. Miniature golf, toasted marshmallows, caricature artists, croquet— as activities go, these telegraph the idea that there’s no need to be overly formal and will get everyone loosened up. Keep in mind that everyone will be dressed up, though, so steer clear of anything that might cause staining, sweating or sprains, like potato sack races, slip ‘n slides, or a tug of war between your family and hers.
Bite-sized Bits — A Surefire Hit
Food for thought: Think nibbles and noshes for cocktail hour; teasing treats to whet appetites and keep everyone’s blood-sugar level up before the reception’s main course. We’re talking finger foods (with vegan and vegetarian options, too.) That way, guests won’t be worried about talking with their mouths full, nor will they be lapsing into food comas mid-conversation. Four or five appetizers should do the trick (and cleanup will be swift.)