Cocktail Hour Do’s and Do not’s

When it comes to that glorious hour between ceremony and reception, there are sometimes misconceptions about how it should be utilized. Cocktail hour is typically incorporated, so that the wedded couple has some time to take pictures together. For those who take their pictures ahead of time with a first look, they usually go to their cocktail hour in order to greet their guests. Either way, this hour is best used as a spacer or time saver depending on the couple. We wanted to fill you in on what we think is proper etiquette regarding cocktail hour.


  • Host some sort of beverage. This could be as simple as a signature cocktail to a full open bar.
  • Serve food. Stationary items, passed hors d'oeuvres, or both are fairly standard. As long as there is a little something for your guests to nibble on.
  • Have music. This could be a live guitar player, a Dj who plugged into their speakers, or simply the venue’s own sound system with soft jazz on. Set a little background music for your guests as they mingle.
  • Escort cards set up and ready to go. Cocktail hour is the perfect time for your guests to figure out where they are sitting. 
  • Sign in book and gift table. Allow your guests to take their time signing and leaving their gifts for you.


  • No food. Guests will start to drink at this point, especially if the Cocktail hour is hosted. You want to make sure they get a little something in their system when consuming alcoholic beverages.
  • Understaff the bar. If you have 2 bartenders for your reception, make sure that the bar provider puts BOTH of those bartenders on the bar that is available for cocktail hour. Better yet, have two bars, and then move them to the reception space. The bar is the most packed during this time, and you do not want guests waiting forever.
  • Allow guests to see your reception space. If possible, try to hide the reception space from guests. This applies to anything prior to the reception itself, ceremony and cocktail hour. You want your guests to walk in and be “WOWed”! 

Need help planning the big day? Want to figure out exactly what is best for your cocktail hour? Contact us for a complimentary consultation to discuss your overall vision!