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Inspiration Detail | Start the Celebration

Start the Celebration

It is important to keep in mind that you have sixty minutes to set the tone for your reception and kick off the party. Why not do it in style! Far too often, the cocktail hour is an afterthought in wedding planning. But actually, the cocktail hour is a lovely opportunity for your guests to seamlessly transition from the ceremony to the reception rather than floundering about trying to kill time before the reception begins. The cocktail hour should be a relaxing atmosphere where the guests can mix and mingle, sip and sample, while the wedding party makes its way to the reception. Keep in mind that this is a little sneak peek for your guests as the evening begins to unfold. The cocktail hour can be styled in many different ways. Nebraska WeddingDay has compiled a few pointers to help transform your cocktail hour into an unforgettable experience, as well as setting the stage for your reception

Take a moment to reflect on how you want your guests to feel as they move from the ceremony to the reception. View the space as a whole and consider the atmosphere you hope to create. For example, you may choose to have your guests led on a stroll through the “countryside,” encountering a local farmer’s market serving artisan cheeses with grapes, baguettes and complementary wines. Setting up the cocktail hour with satellite drink bars and food stations will create a casual feel, whereas serving drinks and appetizers via butlers or wait staff is a more formal approach.  

As you plan, consider the following: 
The space should be open and free-flowing, so guests find it easy to mingle.
Music can influence mood, so don’t forget to include appropriate background music.
Select pieces to rent (chairs, settees, love seats and benches); situate to create an open        
        seating plan.
Incorporate yard games if your space allows.  
Arrange food and drink to be easily accessible. 
Keep the area well lit to encourage guests to mix and mingle.

You have finalized the menu for your reception, so now you need to zero in on details of the cocktail service. You may want to develop a signature drink (both an alcoholic and non-alcoholic version) to coordinate with your hors d’oeuvres menu. Don’t forget to think in terms of food and drink pairings. Some of our favorite pairings include wine and cheese, beer and burger sliders or margaritas and mini-tacos. 

The cocktail hour is the perfect time for you to show off your personal style with a “his” and “her” picks menu. Infuse the cocktail hour with your favorite foods and local flavor. This is your opportunity to include personal favorites that may not be included at your reception. Be creative and present your pairings with a little style. This bit of personalization will create an unforgettable experience for your guests. 

If you are working with a caterer, you may want to ask about specialty drinks as an addition to the regular offerings. Some couples are opting for an array of micro-brew beers, signature drinks, mojitos or martini bars. If you’re looking for a festive beverage, champagne is always a special option. Additionally, it coordinates well with most celebrations and is a tradition in toasting. Plus, champagne cocktails pair nicely with hors d’oeuvres, as well as wedding cakes. Consider going for a jazzy presentation and serve the drinks in specialty glasses with customized stir sticks.

As you are working through your options, be certain to consider the weather. Guests often prefer a lighter drink, such as wine or champagne, in warmer weather and a richer drink option, such as cranberry cocktails or mint mojitos in cooler weather. You could even consider warm-drink options in cold weather such as hot apple cider spiked with apple brandy or butterscotch schnapps. We recommend that you provide a variety of seasonally-appropriate beverage choices during cocktail hour and don’t forget to include a few non-alcoholic options. We are always charmed by the nostalgia of root beer floats and old-fashioned soda pop.  

Keep your guests entertained while they pass the time waiting for your wedding party to arrive. For example, hire a string quartet to enhance the mood of your cocktail hour. If a string quartet isn’t quite your style, ask a friend to play guitar as your guests mix and mingle. Yard games, dancers, silhouette artists and photo booths are other fun options to entertain your guests during the cocktail hour. Remember to think a little outside the box. Consider adding an unexpected element to the occasion to maximize your individuality. Guests will be smiling and talking about it all night long!

Be sure to keep your cocktail hour to sixty minutes. It is called a cocktail “hour” for a reason. Sixty minutes is the perfect timeframe for your guests to relax and mingle while the bride and groom regroup and the wedding party prepares for the reception. Etiquette dictates that keeping your guests waiting any longer than sixty minutes is discourteous.  

The planned transition from the ceremony to the cocktail hour and then to the reception can be conveyed to guests in several different manners. We recommend including information about the cocktail hour on the wedding program. Verbiage on the program might read something like, “Following the ceremony, the happy couple invites you to a Mix & Mingle Cocktail Party at 6:00 p.m preceding dinner.” When it comes time to announce the wedding party, instruct the master of ceremonies (MC) or your deejay (DJ) to invite guests to grab a drink, take a seat and welcome the bride and groom as the wedding party makes their entrance. The MC or DJ, a parent, a special friend or a spiritual leader should announce dinner after the wedding party has arrived at the reception. |NWD|