How to Take Your Wedding Cocktail Hour to the Next Level

A bride and groom toasting next to their friends with champagne.

The ceremony and reception of your wedding both receive so much attention during the planning process, but what about the cocktail hour? This in-between time of your big day may be short and sometimes forgotten, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important! There are a wealth of ways to take your cocktail hour to the next level and set the tone for your wedding reception and get guests in the mood to party.

Have Music or Entertainment

A mariachi band player with a trumpet.

Having some type of music or entertainment as a part of your cocktail hour will impress guests and get everyone in the mood to have fun and celebrate. You can go with something classic like a violinist or harpist or you can go with something more casual such as a steel drum player, acoustic guitar player, or even an acapella group. If you want something other than music, hire a magician to roam around the crowd and show off their skills.

Include Lawn Games

If your cocktail hour is taking place outside, incorporate lawn games to give guests an actual activity to partake in. This can include cornhole, croquet, giant Jenga, or even giant checkers.

Create an Instagrammable Moment

A bride and groom kissing in front of a tropical garden.

Guests love to take pictures at weddings, so use your cocktail hour as a time to allow your guests to indulge in a selfie. Create a photo-worthy backdrop or “photo booth,” such as a flower wall or a wall of greenery with a neon sign. You can also provide props for your guests to pose with!

Include a Specialty Bar

If you and your future spouse love craft beers, cigars, or cheese, work those into a specialty “bar” during cocktail hour. Some other fun ideas include a “bar” of delicious seafood, salsa and chips, or popcorn!

Get Creative With the Food

A hand holding a heart-shaped ice cream cone.

Who says that you have to stick to traditional appetizers during your cocktail hour? Use this time to get creative and have fun with the menu. Think: giant pretzels with dipping sauces or snow cones! Going off the beaten path with food will pleasantly surprise your guests.

Self-Service Cocktail Bar

While cocktails are pretty much a guarantee during this part of the wedding—after all, it’s in the name—why not give your guests the freedom to craft their own drinks? Have some key ingredients for a few different cocktails and an array of fun cups, straws, and cocktail napkins. Include a few small signs with recipes so your guests know exactly what they’re doing. And don’t forget lemons and limes, too!

Make it Lounge Worthy

Furniture is a special touch that allows your guests to fully relax and let loose during your cocktail hour. Consider chic loveseats, arm chairs, and couches for guests to enjoy during this special time of your event.

Make it an Artful Event

A recent wedding trend is to have a live artist at the cocktail hour paint the scene in real time, which is both fun for guests to watch and also provides you with a keepsake to enjoy long after your wedding day is over. Another fun way to incorporate art is to have a cartoonist creating caricature portraits like you would find at a carnival or fair of guests. They can double as wedding favors!

Don’t Forget the Kiddos

Two young girls playin with bubbles at a wedding reception cocktail hour.

It’s nice to do something fun for any kids attending your wedding. The cocktail hour presents the perfect time to make this happen! Have art projects, toys, and a bubble machine to keep kids entertained and feeling like they’re part of the action.

Pay Attention to the Details

While many couples may neglect to think through special touches for the cocktail hour, paying attention to them can really make a difference. Consider fun signage, festive napkins, pretty straws or swizzle sticks, or customized cups for guests to sip out of.

There are endless opportunities to make the cocktail hour at your wedding reception something special. But no matter what you do, it’s bound to be memorable and a special part of your big day.

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