Everyone knows how the ceremony and reception go. Not everyone sees the purpose of a cocktail hour. Why have one and what does it entail?
The cocktail hour has several functions. The most important one is to have a place to put the guests while the reception area is being prepared. This is particularly important with backyard weddings, or when the reception will be in the same place as the ceremony and the seats and chairs have to be moved around. Another reason to have a cocktail hour is to give the bride and groom and possibly the wedding party a chance for some formal pictures. Your guests will not feel comfortable eating without you, but food will be one of the top things on their minds while you’re absent. The cocktail hour is a good way to stave off the hunger.
A less significant, though fun, reason for a cocktail hour is to add another aspect of your personalities to the wedding. By serving just the groom’s favorite beer and the bride’s favorite martini tells your guests about you. Another fun thing to do is to have a signature drink. Whether it’s a custom cocktail or a cosmo given a name that represents you as a couple, your guests will appreciate the creativity. Of course, the cocktail hour is also a great time to have an open bar, too. However, if you don’t drink, don’t be scared off by the word “cocktail”. It is just fine to serve sparkling cider, soda and hors devours.
So, when you are trying to decide whether to have a cocktail hour, ask yourself these questions.
Do we need a little extra time for staff to set up the reception?
Do we need a little extra time to take pictures away from our guests?
Can we smoothly move our guests from the ceremony to the cocktail hour in a way that does not require much of them and does not disrupt the magic of the wedding?
Whatever you do, don’t stress about the cocktail hour. It is not the focus of the event and it’s not the first thing your guests will talk about when they describe the wedding to friends. Have one if you need it, keep it simple, and don’t have one if you don’t need the time or don’t want to.