Wedding Cocktail Hour Ideas To Make Your Guests Happy - Kelly H Photo

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10 Wedding Cocktail Hour Ideas To Make Your Guests Happy

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I'm so happy you're here. This blog features my amazing couples, some wedding tips and some insight into who I am!

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We’ve all been to weddings and there is nothing worst then wanting cocktail hour to be over so you can get to the reception. So I  came up with 10 wedding cocktail hour ideas to make your guests happy and have the best time! Check them out and let me know what you think.


cocktail hour lounge

1. Make Sure you Have an Open Space for Sitting and Standing

You want your guests to feel free to walk around and mingle, so it is important to not have cocktail hour in tight quarters especially if you have a lot of guests. Have sitting areas for guests who cannot stand for long periods of time or for elderly is a must. Creating a lounge atmosphere with couches and comfy chairs is also great way to set the mood while also keeping your guests happy.

guests cheersing

2. Avoid Long Lines

Nothing is worst then getting up to grab a drink and having to wait in a 30 minute line, especially when you want to sip on a cocktail and mingle with your friends. There are a few ways to go about this. One is to have enough bar space or multiple bars set up so no one is waiting for a long time. You can even have servers pass out different drinks as your guests enter cocktail hour.

cocktail hour muic

3. Choose the Right Music

Choose your cocktail hour music carefully. You want your guests to enjoy the ambiance, but not have music blasting to where they are having a hard time mingling. You also want to be careful to not play your best music. You need to save the best for reception. So if you think a song is great for dancing make sure to save it for the reception and not cocktail hour. The cocktail hour sets the mood for the rest of the reception so it’s important to play a feel good playlist that will get the guests excited for whats to come next. Another alternative is to have a live Band or a saxophone player  perform during the cocktail hour. This can hype up your guests and also provides some entertainment while you are finishing up taking portraits.

wedding hot chocolate bar

4. Make Sure to Have Non-Alcoholic Options

Besides having fun and sipping on cocktails your guests need to be able to HYDRATE, especially if it is hot outside. Also not everyone is going to drink so it is important to provide non-alcoholic options for your guests or if you have children at your wedding. The great thing about an open bar is they have plenty of items for mixers so you will never run out choices for guests who decide not to drink. Another option is to have a water and lemonade station that your guests can access easily. Also bring something fun in for later in the night when it gets cold. You can do a coffee or hot chocolate bar!

bar trailer at cocktail hour

5. Make The Bar Fun

An open bar is always a plus! Cash bars are a big no no. If your budget is tight then do beer and wine along with signature cocktails. That way your guests have a few options to choose from. If you are doing signature cocktails be creative! Name the drinks after yourselves, what you like to do, your pets, or with the theme of your wedding. Another fun alternative to a traditional bar is a trailer bar. Which I absolutely love! Two of my favorite trailer bars are Juniper Rocks and BarZinho.  Find out more about BarZinho in this vendor spotlight post.

wedding cocktail hour ideas

6. Think About The Food

It is important to have around 3 to 4 small appetizers. You don’t want too much food that the guests won’t be hungry for dinner, but you also don’t want them starving because there is nothing worse than being hangry at a wedding. Also be mindful of food allergies. Make sure each appetizer is different so everyone can eat something. For example make sure all items aren’t breaded.

wedding photobooth

7. Entertain Your Guests

Bring some fun to your cocktail hour! Besides having a live band you could set up lawn games like corn hole or large Jenga. Setting up a Photo Booth will be a fun keepsake for your guests. You can also hire a live painter who does mini portraits of all your guests. It is something not many people see often and it makes for the best wedding favor. Two live artist companies I love are Chasing Linen and  Yellow & Lace.

wedding cocktail hour ideas

8. Incorporate Your Theme Into Decor

Make sure you incorporate your theme into your cocktail hour. This will give your guests a little taste of what the reception will be like and make the whole day feel cohesive.

signature drinks

9. Make it Personal

Bring in personal touches to make your cocktail hour feel more like you. You can set up a neon sign with your new last name on it, hand out napkins that have fun facts about you, and create signature cocktails of your favorite go to drinks! Make your drinks personal by naming them after your pets or something else you love!

wedding cocktail hour ideas

10. Do a First Look so you can Join in on the Fun

Instead of having to take pictures during the whole cocktail hour you get to join in on some of the fun. When my couples do a first look it allows us to knock out a bunch of formal photos before the ceremony. That way after your ceremony we do a few Husband & Wife portraits and then you get to enjoy the last half hour with all your friends and family. Besides getting to start the party early you also get to greet your guests instead of having to do it during the reception.

Try to incorporate some of these ideas to your cocktail hour. Trust me your guests will love it!


If you enjoyed these wedding cocktail hour ideas check out my blog on How to Ace Your Family Portraits, so you can get through those quickly and efficiently to make it to the party!

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