Where’s the Bride?

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Bride running late? Photoshoot in overdrive before the reception? Here’s a cocktail blueprint for keeping your guests happy.

The cocktail hour is that time, right before the reception, that guests spend mingling, sipping and munching, and an important opportunity to set the tone and style of your wedding.

The cocktail hour was originally created to give guests something to do while the wedding party and new bride and groom took pictures or were otherwise occupied before the reception.


Keep an open floor plan. Walking out of a lovely ceremony to find yourself crowded by guests en route to the party room can be a quick mood killer. The trick is to make the cocktail venue as open and spacious as possible to facilitate fun and mingling.

Eliminate food bottlenecks. Supplement your main bar or snack station with one or two smaller bars at opposite corners of the room to prevent crowding.

It’s better to rely mainly on servers to get food to guests, and serve only “finger foods” so that plates are not required. Be sure to assign at least one server to every fifty guests.

Some tables and seats are needed. Be sure to have a few cocktail tables, some high, some low, so that guests can have a place to rest their drinks and sit down. A good strategy would be to place low tables with chairs along the wall, and high-tops without chairs toward the middle of the room.

Cater to all guests. Have seating for older guests and for those who may need seating (for example, those with medical conditions).

Be sure to have kid-appropriate munchies if children are invited; and include non-alcoholic drinks and perhaps a vegetable or non-meat item to satisfy various dietary requirements.

Time it. The cocktail hour should only last one hour. Guests standing on their feet, balancing food and drinks, can get tired and bored if the cocktail hour lingers.


Minimize the décor. During cocktails, guests are busy socializing, not focusing on decor. So don’t spend a fortune on large arrangements.

Keep it simple. A cocktail hour needn’t involve fancy cocktail tables, a bar, or even alcoholic drinks. To include a cocktail hour without breaking the bank consider serving drinks that you can make in bulk.

Leave out the alcohol. Consider leaving out the alcohol and just serving cheese and crackers, veggies or fruit, with smoothies, or an assortment of teas, and/or lemonade or another array of drinks that go with your theme.

That way, you not only save cost, but also get all the formal wedding items such as toasts, speeches and special dances out of the way before bringing out the booze.


Consider a photo booth. This is a fun, breezy way to get guests involved and entertained, prior to the reception. It’s also a good way to ensure that you get additional photos of your guests.

Musical inspiration. Single musicians such as guitarists, violinists, pianists and harpists are perfect. Adding more musicians to the combination is also a nice touch and these can include violin, guitar or a small string ensemble. Better yet, have the musicians stroll amongst your guests. (Note that you don’t have to bust the bank for good talent. Musicians can include a talented kid you know. Music teachers would be happy to facilitate exposure for students.)

Caricature artists. Hire local talent to draw/paint caricatures of your guests. The art becomes a fun filled favor that your guests can take home. Take inspiration from Bohemian Paris, and have artists available even whilst guests enjoy dinner and dessert.

Change of scenery. Depending on your location, cocktail hours can allow for guests to spend some time outdoors and enjoy the wonderful weather. Think outdoor patio or verandah, a picturesque garden, or the beach.